Kool G Rap Teaches Rapping

One of the true masters of lyricism did an unpublished interview for the book "How To Rap" on how his method, mind and various vocal techniques. Get a rare glimpse inside the mind of a true emcee expert.

Kool G Rap was interviewed extensively about his rapping techniques for the book How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC. The following are previously unreleased highlights from that interview, covering his story-rap writing methods, writing to the beat, writing on a phone, recording, and his thoughts on today’s emcees.

As the conversation did not appear in the book, author Paul Edwards exclusively provided HipHopDX with insights to the mind, method and techniques for a true master. Those interested should note: Kool G Rap also penned the Foreward to the increasingly popular book.

Interview by Paul Edwards

How to Rap: Do you have a set process when you’re writing lyrics?

Kool G Rap: I wouldn’t really say there is a set process, it’s me just trying to go in that zone. I just try to zone out and let the beat tell me exactly what should be placed on it and let the beat give me the lyrics.

Each track calls for something different, whether it’s a flow, whether it’s a subject matter, whatever it is. Some tracks call for you to be a little more hyper, some tracks call for you to fall back a little more and to just talk to them.

How to Rap:
Do you write everything down on paper?
Kool G Rap: Now I don’t use paper, I type now. It took a long time to do that transformation, but I finally got the transformation to typing now.

I just type in my phone, I don’t really type on the laptop or nothing like that because who’s gonna lug a big laptop around with them everywhere, so I just type in my [Sharp] Sidekick. I can go to the studio or wherever, do a feature with somebody else and my phone is always gonna be there.

Typing it [helps you play around with it more], because instead of crossing out, you’re going back and deleting words and replacing them. And it’s not sloppy, as opposed to writing—with typing it’s easy and simple and it’s not a bunch of cross-outs and scratches on the paper.

How to Rap: Some people say they write in their head, do you think that’s a good way of writing?
Kool G Rap: To me—I could do that, but it’d take time. I don’t even play like that because sometimes you don’t wanna forget one simple word. Sometimes it could be a three letter word, and if you use another word instead of that word it can make the whole line sound a lot more harder.

Simple little words make a difference on how the line hits. So when you’re trying to write [in your] head, sometimes you might forget those little things like that, and that shit might not hit as hard. When you’re writing [on your phone or paper], you've got time to sit down and think about it and play with the words and replace one word for that word and be like, “Oh yeah, it hits better if I say this instead of that.”

You’re not going to remember little small details like that when you’re just trying to store all that shit in your memory and do it real quick.

I mean, a lot of times it can work too. A lot of times you can rhyme off the top of your head and get lucky and that shit just hit crazy. But when you’re a professional and you’re making records for masses of people to listen to, or masses of people to get into—your creativity, that’s something I wouldn’t play with.

It’s hard enough writing it sometimes and getting as complex and as intricate as you wanna get. So trying to just do it in your head like that, I mean that’s crazy, unless you got a "Beautiful Mind" like my man Russell Crowe did in that movie. Or you some Rainman type dude or something where you can just remember all that shit like it’s nothing, but I don’t have that gift right there, so I don’t even play with it.

How to Rap: When you write a story, do you figure out the whole plot on paper first, or do you come up with it as you’re going along?
Kool G Rap: I do it as I’m going along. For my story rhymes I never really had like – “Okay, this is how I’ma start, this is what I’ll say in the middle to make it juicy,” or “I’ma end it with this.”

I start from the first line, and I just go from there and the story just comes out. I think that’s the best way to do it, because if you sit there and study too much on how you gonna end it and all that it might not come out as dope.

I don’t usually have the ending and how the story is going to go, I just do it as I go along. That way it keeps me hyped about it, because I’m seeing it form in front of my own eyes, I’m not knowing how it’s going to turn out, so it’s like I’m presenting myself with a movie too.

How to Rap: When you do that, are there ever times when words that rhyme together will influence where the story is going to go?
Kool G Rap: Nah, it’s gotta make sense, you can’t just put whatever comes next that rhymes, the story gotta be right too. You can’t just go from: “went to see Papi and picked up a key /… and now I’m by the tree,” nah, that shit gotta be put together beautifully. If it’s not, you’re not going to be credited as a good story rapper.

It’ll still be as I go along, but once I start going in a certain direction, once I start writing the first few lines and it’s going in a certain direction, I’ma keep it that direction until it’s the right time to do a switch up and I’ll make it like scenes of a movie.

How to Rap: How do you come up with the flow?
Kool G Rap: When I first start listening to the track and I start zoning out, the track is basically telling me how to flow on it. Especially when I write the first maybe four lines or whatever, I know where I’m going with it as far as the flow.

The flow is nothing but G Rap just staying with a flow that’s not dated, but is still G Rap at the same time. Because I could never flow with somebody else’s flow like that.

And if I did, it might sound like somebody else’s flow, but these dudes was inspired by G Rap and so they took pieces of G Rap with them and became what they became.

So what might sound like somebody else’s flow—nah, not really, that’s a part of G Rap and if we could go back and listen to each and every record I made you’ll probably hear those flows and shit that I did before.

Somebody might have took a certain flow of mine and just based their whole style around that and just ran with it. I never just did one flow, I mean you hear a flow I did on "Men at Work" and you heard a different flow on "Road to the Riches," so it’s like I never just did only one flow.

How to Rap: Does it take a long time to write raps with lots of complex multisyllable rhymes?
Kool G Rap: It depends, sometimes if you’re really zoning and your wheels is turning, once you start with the first few, they just come to you. And not just shit that just rhyme, but shit that hit hard too, like oh my God, like you can’t even believe you thought of some ill shit like that.

How to Rap: Do you ever practice just coming up with rhymes… not for a song, but just to practice rhyming?
Kool G Rap: What I might do sometimes, if I’m not writing but my mind is still zoning, like sometimes once you open your mind it’s hard to stop it from fucking going... like once you put yourself in that zone you can sit down and try to watch a movie, you can try to do anything else, but your wheels is gonna keep turning.

So, you’ll be looking at a movie with your eyes but your mind is totally, totally different and sometimes shit will keep coming in your head. So sometimes when shit like that happen to me and I think of something crazy, I might write down that rhyme so I don’t forget that shit because that shit is crazy. And maybe I’ll put it in something, like one day when you’re writing something and it fits in then, you just throw it in.

How to Rap: Do you usually write to the beat that you’re going to be using?
Kool G Rap: In the early part of my career I would just write the rhymes with no tracks, no nothing and just place them on beats later. "Road to the Riches" I did like that, I did a lot of records like that, "Kool is Back" …all my early records I didn’t write to the tracks.

I didn’t start really writing to tracks maybe until [Live and Let Die], some of the [Wanted Dead Or Alive] as well.

"Talk Like Sex"—I wrote the first two verses with no track and then my man, Large Professor played that track for "Talk Like Sex" and I just started thinking what could go with this shit. I remembered I wrote that "Talk Like Sex" shit and it went with it perfect, so then I wrote the third verse to the track because now I know the direction. He gave me the track and the track was crazy so I wrote the third verse to the track.

But by [Live and Let Die] I was writing everything to the tracks.

How to Rap: Do you find it comes out better if you write to the track?
Kool G Rap: No, because "Talk Like Sex" is a classic! It’s about what works with what. I love to write to the track now because I feel like I can tailor make the rhyme to the track a little more.

How to Rap: When you record lyrics, do you have them memorized?
Kool G Rap: No, a lot of times I read them, because when you first finish writing something you’re still excited over it. Even though you don’t have the memory of it down pat yet, you don’t have the flow all the way down pat, you still got that energy of it being fresh and new because it’s still new to you, you’re entertaining yourself when you hear how good you sound on the track, because it’s new to you. You don’t exactly know what’s coming next.

So I like to record reading off the paper, it’s more fun if I read it. Even if I make some mistakes, I just do the punch-ins because I’m so charged up over this shit because it’s brand new, I’m amped up over it, I might have surprised myself with this particular verse or whatever.

All that energy is still there, so you want to get that shit out while that energy is at peak level like that. Once you start to know something by heart it’s not at peak level no more, it might go down to an eight. So you might lose something… even though it’s still up there, it still sounds good, it’s still hitting hard, but you still lose a little something. They call it that ‘umph’, you lose that little ‘umph’ and I don’t want to lose that.

How to Rap: Do you ever have something that looks great on paper but doesn’t work when you go to record it?
Kool G Rap: Yeah, I’ve been through that, I’ve got something in my head and I think it’s going to come out sounding a certain way and then you go to lay it down and it don’t come out exactly how you imagined, I scratch those shits, back to the drawing board, that’s how I do it, shit gotta come out perfect.

If it don’t move me, then I don’t like to put it out there because it’s not even moving me. The first person I gotta entertain is me.

How to Rap: Does everything you write get recorded?
Kool G Rap: Some things I just keep in the bag like for freestyles, competition. If anyone ever call G Rap out in the streets, I got something – I got clips I’ma blaze at niggas. Those be the clips, like don’t get it fucked up, I got something that’s gonna stop a fucking horse so don’t play. If niggas come, man, they better come with some fucking elephant guns because I’ma knock a fucking horse on its side – real talk.

How to Rap: Do you prefer recording or performing live?
Kool G Rap: I’m more of a studio person, like that’s really my comfort zone because I love being in the studio, I love hearing the shit I’ve been keeping in my head materialize, like it fascinates me. I love just sitting there and being creative and shooting ideas back and forth with the engineer or producer or whatever to make something come out amazing.

How to Rap: What do you think about today’s emcees compared to older emcees?
Kool G Rap: The era I’m from, everybody strived to stand out and be their own person and to have their own character and have their own image. It’s like you didn’t wanna come out and be another Chuck D, you didn’t wanna come out and be another KRS-One. You wanted to be as good as those rappers but you wanted to be you though.

But nowadays so many people are like trying to be the same. Somebody gonna want to be T.I., somebody gonna want to be Jay-Z, or somebody gonna want to be 50 Cent, but you can’t knock people [trying to be like other people] sometimes, because these are very credible, influential rappers.

But when it’s on a mass scale, when everybody’s sounding the same then that’s when the music gets fucked up, because it’s like you’re buying the same shit over and over again, just different pitch tones and voices and shit like that.

It’s not only the rappers trying to be another rapper, he got the same producers, so it’s like you hear the same music and you hear the same song over and over again.

As opposed to [in the past when] the same people that love Rakim also love G Rap and vice versa, but G Rap and Rakim was totally different. Same people that love G Rap, love Big Daddy Kane, love KRS-One, love Chuck D, love EPMD… but nobody can say, yo, their shit sound all the same.

So that’s how the rappers today differ from the rappers in the golden era of Hip Hop – there’s less variety, it’s [mostly] the same type of shit over and over again, just different groups.

Purchase How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC by Paul Edwards

Purchase Music by Kool G Rap

53 Comments

  • Justin

    I wanna know about the writing.. how does work? Is it like English glass with clauses and phrases Or is it poetry.. no one ever takes about this aspect they beat around the bush Talking about everything but what they do to write I know Jay z said it's basically 3 words or 4 words rhyme excreta is this true or is a combination noun phrase verb phrase excreta or are like person who writs books I'm so confused It's crazy I just wanna know how it works I don't want to hear someone talk about everything but What it real is I see so many books but they go on and on about nothing it's Like they don't want you to know how it works I know you need a quatrain with couplet to complete a verse what I'm Wondering is what's the structure of there sentences and or phrases paragraphs

  • Sean Juan

    Good interview. I love to hear about the process MCs use when they write.

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  • stigly

    kool g is definately a legend ^ sick book

  • insanemacbeth

    "WHEN I DIE/ SCIENTISTS WILL PRESERVE MY BRAIN/ DONATED TO SCIENCE TO ANSWER THE UNEXPLAINED!". - KOOL G. RAP, 'MEN AT WORK'.

  • HUNGRY BLAK

    THIS IS MY FAVORITE EMCCE, I THINK HE IS THE GREATEST EMCEE EVER!!!!!! Yall can say whuteva u want but listening to hip hop MUSIC for 30 years, nobody ever made me keep rewinding shit over and over again. I got hooked on "POISON" when i was 17. I specifically remember being in awe of this dudes rhymes becuz before i heard that, i was saying RAKIM was the best to ever do it. When I heard POISON, it was a wrap!!!!!!!!! JUST LISTEN TO "THE SYMPHONY", "ROAD TO THE RICHES", "TRULY YOURS", "ILL STREET BLUES" the list goes on mainly with his earlier classics. He is truly your favorite rapper's favorite rapper.

  • I.M.O

    Learn how to rap?...just listen to G Rap's verse off mudra muzik on the song "the realest". thats like one of the greatest verses of all time....OF ALL TIME!!!

  • kush nap

    g rap is part of the holy trinity. krs one rakim kool giacana all three been wrecking mics damn near 30 years, and could still body almost anything spittin in 2010 without breakin a sweat. g raps throwaway verses he gives to no names crush most emcees best shit. hell give you a throwaway verse, e-mail it, and you still wont be able to top it. went against nas when nas was untouchable on fast life, and got him. went against mobb deep and bodied both a prime prodigy and prime havoc aswell as prime m.o.p. went against scarface and cube, and fuckin wrecked it. never been bested on a record, ever. im waitin patiently for the next g rap album, cuz he gonna be spittin the same hard rock shit at 60. time is nothin to him. rap immortal. this is a great book, g rap givin all kinds of notes. it also has input from the best female emcee of all time, lady of rage. classy book, go out and support it.

    • realniss22

      Nas looks nice on paper, but G Rap merked him sonically

    • Daniel Kinfu

      Idk if g rap got nas on fast life. Poppin Cristal like it's my first child, lickin shots, holiday style Rockin Steele sweaters, Wallaby down Twenty-four carats, countin cabbage, like the arabs The marriage of me and the mic is just like magic Elegant performance, bubble Lex full insurance Guzzlin Guinness shootin catchin cases concurrent It's Nas, seven hundred wives, King Solomon size We on the rise, me and G, ghetto wise guys The luciano Frankie Aiel, Bugsy Seagal Green papers with eagles from a tray that's illegal

    • FreddyFred

      Co-sign on Lady of Rage too, she tears up everything she's on. Book is a good look, def gonna support, we need more Hip-Hop to be thoroughly documented like this

    • FreddyFred

      Real talk... co-sign on Lady of Rage too, she tears up everything she's on. Book is a good look, def gonna support, we need more Hip-Hop to be thoroughly documented like this

    • realniss22

      Real talk... co-sign on Lady of Rage too, she tears up everything she's on. Book is a good look, def gonna support, we need more Hip-Hop to be thoroughly documented like this

    • insanemacbeth

      100% fukken COSIGN. l.o.l.

  • Soulful Beats

    What G Rap says in this interview will only appeal to real emcees. Niggas trying to be like these pop artists on the radio rapping about hoes, poppin bubbles in the club, I'm richer than whoever listening metaphors and all that other bullshit will never be respected as a lyrical rapper following that. Those are just pop stars tryna make the charts. The other part of rapping good is learning to be a good poet period, not just putting rhymes 2gether because they rhyme. But G rap is on point and dropped some jewels for serious cats looking for some good pointers.

  • BRRRR

    maaaan this asshole cant rap yall niggas want somethin lyrical cop day gucci joint he teach yall bitch ass niggas how to rap AND how to get rich

    • Mikeola

      Hahahaha, oh man, you have a bright future ahead of you as a stand-up comedian... this can be your opening joke, I just hope you have the material to follow it up

  • box

    knot shit right here, g rap is a true legend and influenced me no doubt, but it's crazy how we came up influenced by our favorite mc's but we still wanted to do our own thang,not these artist of today tho hahaha yell www.myspace.com/panhandoelrcorp

  • Twinblades

    Need to send this book to OJ the juice fag and waka floca fuck cuz they suckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

  • M.C. K~Swift

    I'm glad to learn that this book isn't attempting to be a guide on how to rap and is dealing with the history. The title is a bit misleading. Hip Hop Education is growing and I love it.

  • gutter man

    HE'S DOPE , BUT ALWAYS RAPS THE SAME.

  • WL101

    Great questions because theyre actually about what he does, which is rap... too many rapper interviews just ask about the videos or what shoes the guy wears or what basketball team he follows etc

  • Tom_Frezza

    The questions are awful, there is no set way on how to rap. If you know how to rap you do, you cant teach heat to be hot, it just is.

    • Tom_Frezza

      Yo Tysong bc it was Kool G rap and i dont fux with soulja boy style. Main atrraction very well put. Im just being opinionated.

    • biggee79

      LOL, guys like Tom are the reason we have so many souljah boys and gucci manes... because rappers have been brainwashed into thinking they dont have to study the craft, they're somehow just born with hot rhymes and thats that SMH

    • Main Attraction

      the author of the book said earlier that the book isnt about how to rap. its more a history of hiphop and tells about different mc's styles. He said the title was just to get people who know very little about hip hop, but are still interested, to open the book.

    • tysong

      Hey Tom if you really believe you cant learn rapping....why did you even bother to read the interview? Assuming you can read - you probably didn't learn this skill either.

  • wtflameassyoungmoney

    lol fuck young money

  • allyfe

    NAS JAYZ BIG 2PAC KOOL G RAP....... I COULD PUT RAKIM IN THERE... WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SKILL THESE BROTHERS AT THE TOP OF THE LIST.

  • hip hop 86

    Thats whats up son, One of the games greatest KGR all day!!! Why he so nice??? He from Queens, thats why!!!

  • insanemacbeth

    yeah, THE DON GIANCANA is defo the closest to THE GOD EMCEE RAKIM, in THE 18th LETTER's peak. defo, the best emcee when it comes to cadences. only EMINEM can touch G. RAP, cadence-wise. LONG LIVE G. RAP!

  • Anton Chigurh

    Giancana! G Rap the legend spits it ridic. A Doctor on the mic. Listen to "The Streets".

  • YoJimBo

    Hip Hop 101 Required Reading

  • ASEE

    More people need to READ, period. Reading a great novel or work of philosophy sparks creativity and inspiration. I love how Fashawn, Nas, KRS-One and others claim that much of their inspiration comes from books in addition to their own experiences.

  • nastynas4life

    lol Birdman and Young Money need to buy this book. The ending of the interview was great..."same type of shit over and over and over again..."

  • Wasim

    this shit is fucking great

  • thizzle dance

    "show em where it go, floatin on the float gettin mo dough, ground hard, go! black diamond show, watch the flame blow and how you stay grounded, cash no go and how you stay mounded, cash no flow and how you stay shinin, Bentley off the floor and how you stay high, purple pine dro diamond minks furs, February snow" -Birdman

  • c/gaddic

    G.O.D OF COMPLEX MULTISYLLABIC RHYMES!

  • ThatK

    Kool G Rap - maybe the greatest of all time, definitely top 5 at least, i'm picking up that book

  • How to Rap

    People who need to read this book: Gucci Mane 50 Cent Drake (should probably just send a copy to every member of young money) who else?

    • lankaistai

      who else? Oj da juiceman Souljahboy tell em wacka flocka flame

    • nastynas4life

      lol i agree. Young Money needs to read this book.

    • thizzle dance

      I'd say send a copy to Birdman, but I know damn well he doesn't read. "The boss of the ghetto with the round shaped cookies" -Birdman

    • Hrmm

      LOL. Every rapper talkin' 'bout, "Yo, this one's digital, I'ma get you on the next with CD." Every "blog rapper" Every rapper who got a CD but ain't done more than 50 shows. Every rapper that reads THIS.

  • big braveheart

    G Rap is a legend full stop, gotta cop the book! Respect!