There’s a lot of factors that come into play when making a good hip-hop song. It’s greater than solely focusing on the face value of production and lyrics. Today, we’ll be focusing on the components of rap. The same components which separate mediocre from good MCs.
For example, you have to be able to flow. Flow is usually what helps set the tempo of the song. It’s mostly about the timing of your rhymes over the production. Rappers try to complement the production’s tempo by riding the beat (matching the beat’s tempo), double-time flows, intentionally syncopated rhymes (mostly “offbeat”) and other techniques.
However, flow isn’t always a good measure. They were once less unique with the popularisation of the triplet flow, primarily due to the Migos’ mainstream popularity.
Somewhat similarly, repetitively used and less remarkable as when Twista and Busta Rhymes were at the forefront of it, the speed rap flow. Popularized by Eminem and associated with plenty of white rappers, it’s become a widely used flow within mainstream realms.
Aside from this, even offbeat flows aren’t a particular indication of cunning ability. Using syncopated flows don’t always work as fluid as Andre 3000 on “Sixteen” or Hov on “22 Two’s”. Sometimes, rappers are scared of actually flowing rhythmically – like Blueface… There are other key points. Most notably yet possibly the most overlooked, delivery.
Delivery includes the flow. It’s hard to derive a consistent definition but it’s mostly the way a rapper says something. It’s the tone of their voice, the energy and charisma which they possess. It’s the minor details which play an integral part in maintaining the quality of a song and the interest of the listener. Delivery is the defining factor, capable of separating a rapper from being good or great. It’s a skill which melodic rappers and less lyrically dependent rappers use exceptionally. It’s a craft. The likes of Young Thug, Playboi Carti, Rico Nasty, and Lil Uzi Vert have perfected it.
Or, more lyrically or technically inclined rappers like Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Westside Gunn. They manage to fit this category because of the way they manage to immerse you into their music with their delivery. Using their high energy, spontaneous adlibs and quirky tonal voices to make up for the lack of lyrical content and inaudible noises at times. Often managing to keep you entertained because of how unique their vocal tonality is. It’s something which many others have tried to replicate but have failed to do. I mean… there's a
reason why a linguistic actually studied Playboi Carti's delivery.
Even more lyrical rappers use their deliveries to enhance their song presence. Some may use it as a way to further express the emotion in their music (rappers like Kendrick Lamar, 2Pac, Blu, Phonte, Noname, Saba, etc.). It’s a way to make the listener feel emotionally connected to their words. Clinging onto every verb and noun, trying to derive meaning in their lyricism and its correlation to changing vocal tonality.
Whereas others use their delivery to create their rap personas appear strong. Delivery allows rappers to sound luxurious, hard-hitting or just simply, a “bad bitch”. With every bar, these rappers exude confidence and toughness. It’s the manner in which Pusha T, Benny the Butcher, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nas, Freddie Gibbs and Roc Marciano rhyme that makes everything they say plausible. Similarly, it’s in the assertive cadences and aggressive delivery styles, which make Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Megan Thee Stallion sound like bosses.
If there’s someone who effectively illustrates the importance of possessing a great delivery, it’s the biggest rapper in the world. Drake. Lyrically, Drake is clearly skilled and able, but he isn’t the most gifted rapper. He’s not Lupe Fiasco or Black Thought. However, he’s shown through his many spurts of ability, he’s capable of competing with some of the world’s best rappers. He’s a balanced rapper although being more recently, inconsistent.
It’s Drake's delivery which manages to surpass his skill further than it actually is. He has this uncanny trait to make every line sound more thoughtful than it actually is because of the charisma and his cadence choices. It’s why a lot of people seem to find "quotables" in his music. Irrespective of whether the song is good or mediocre, due to his convincing deliveries, his lyrics seem to resonate more with his listeners.
There are a lot of aspects of making good music. However, one that shouldn't be undermined in importance, is the power of the delivery.