Understanding Hip Hop Song Structure (6 EASY Steps!)

Hip Hop Song Strucutre

The classic hip-hop song structure in 20 seconds

Every song you're thinking of has a certain structure to it.


Something that carries the rhythm of the voice to that of the instrumental.


Here are the 6 essential parts of a rap song:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Outro


Rap Hip Hop Song Structure


You're probably thinking "okay, thanks for the info I'll be going now" but WAIT!


We're going to teach you how to maximize the potential of all these steps and take your songwriting to the next level.


So, here are the 6 steps to structuring the PERFECT hip hop song.


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the 6 main parts of a rap song?

Above, I mentioned the 6 main parts - but that's not everything.


Since rap music changes over time you should also expect the common rap song structure to improve as well.


It's important to define exactly what each phase is for:


Song Component Purpose
Intro Setting the rap song's tone
Verse Bars that hook and engage listeners
Pre-chorus Prepares the listener for the chorus
Chorus The main aspect of rap songs
Bridge Transitions from chorus to another verse
Outro final verse or melody to finish off the track


Rap music evolves with time, just like how there are always new rap artists coming out every year.


A great tip to build a nice song structure is to experiment with your hip-hop songs.


There is no need to stick with a basic rap song structure, considering you have your flair.


Fans don't care how you structure the beginning or end of the songโ€ฆ


As long as the rap music is good, and follows the hip-hop ethos then they'll be happy.


6 steps to a radio-ready song

Get Your Song Radio Ready


Want to get your music on the Radio?


If that is the case then you'll need to make sure you follow the right steps to get your song radio-ready.


6 easy steps to getting your song radio-ready:

  1. Remove boring parts in the song
  2. Make sure you fully master your song
  3. Keep the song short (2-3 minutes)
  4. Submit to a list of radio stations
  5. Find a music sync agent
  6. Hire Rap Ville 

With these steps, you're increasing your odds of landing on the radio!


It's not 100% assured, but it's worth the shot.


The better your song is, the more radio-ready it is. 


It all comes down to music quality and mass appeal.


If your song is too niche, then radio stations won't play it... It's that simple.


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#1. The Rap Song's Intro

Like the beginning of any piece of literature, hooking your audience is extremely important to keep them around until the end.


That's why music production emphasizes the first 15 seconds of the song!


The way most beats are structured provides some form of build-up, and if it doesn't build to a drop, then it will gradually evolve as the song progresses.


Just listen to this rap song build-up:



Think of the melody provided by the producer as a foundation to write over.


Listen closely to how it begins, this will give you an understanding of the structure to build your flow.


(In the song above, the artist started with ad-libs to set the tone, then started rapping at the beat drop!)


The ONLY time a producer will create a beat he couldn't see someone rapping on is if he's either:

  1. A Movie Composer.
  2. Inexperienced
  3. Radiohead

(The last part about Radiohead is a joke haha.)


Moving forward!


The elements in the intro of a song should give a rapper and his listeners an idea of how the whole song will be structured.


#2. Rap songs hook (The First Verse)

Never undermine the importance of your first verse.


If the anatomy of rap song structure was like that of a human body, then the first verses would be the lungs. (Or something else important)


The verse hook sets the foundation for everything else.

Verse Hook importance in song structure


See, your first verses can vary in what you're trying to achieve.


If you know you have a hit, turning your introductory verse into a chorus verse should serve you well.


Your options for the rap verse hook are pretty open - as long as you know the main idea when writing rap.


For example: let's say your song's vibe is more along the lines of rappers like Kendrick Lamar.


You could use this first verse to WOW your audience and give them a deeper understanding of your subject matter!


Look at the track below! ๐Ÿ‘‡



Kendrick starts by storytelling about a woman in the hook verse - shaping the experience for the rest of the song.


Another good example of this would be the song "Lucid Dreams" by Juice WRLD.


He begins this song with the chorus, a catchy melody that works (as choruses do) in appeasing the little man listening for a crescendo in your audience's head.


A common question in terms of song structure is: how many bars should each section be?


Why The Hook matters in Rap song structure

So far we've spoken in theory - let's see some rap hooks in action!


For a clear picture of what exactly makes a good hook verse, just search famous rap artists and their rap songs on Genius.


The platform breaks down the song structure and shows you the rap music components.


Just find a verse hook, then analyze it down to its main components.


Study Song Hooks on Genius


After a while, you'll start to notice common song structures with the pre-hook, versus hook and rap lyrics.


You will develop a deeper understanding of how to make a great rap song structure.


You're probably thinking: "When do we get to the good part?"


Right now (jeez.)


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How many bars should each song section have?

Some will say it can be as many bars as you'd like (they're wrong).


Modern-day listeners (me) have expectations that a song will follow a certain time signature and thus; a long verse can be unappealing.


The perfect length of a verse should be 16 bars. Whether it be the intro, verse, chorus, or making seal noises into a microphone. 


This can wrap your song up at the 3-minute mark!


See, back in the day, Songs originally were 3 minutes to fit the radio programming schedule.

Why are songs 3 minutes short duration


Even though we're long past radio days, NOBODY wants to hear a 10-minute song. Even if Drake made it.


Most producers follow this time signature as well, and you'll find that any beat you use will start its chorus line after the 16th count of four (a count of four means counting to four if you didn't get that).



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what is a 16 bar in rap?

What Is A 16 Bar In Rap


Most rap songs have 16 bars.
Most rap songs are in 4/4 time, which means that each bar has either four or two beats.
There are only 4/4 beats in a bar because the first and last beats are emphasized to make the words stand out.
Most of the time, these "strong beats" are stressed.
The "weak beats" fill the other beats in each bar.
This makes it easy for the ear of the listener to follow the music.



Rap Time Signatures (expanded)

Rap Time Signature


Sometimes though, you can rap in different time signatures.


Many artists such as MF DOOM (Madvillain) rhyme in odd signatures, but it gives a very raw feeling.


Jay Z for example rhymes AFTER the beat, compared to on the beat.


You can choose to use any rap time signatures you like!


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Do I have to use 16 bars?

You don't NEED 16 bars.


A rap hook is generally eight bars and repeated between 5 to 6 times in the rap song.


As mentioned above, this is not a ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL thing. This is just what common rappers do.


To make a hook you just create rap lyrics that are designed to be repeated multiple times. 


When you write a rap verse it's not rare for there to be a verse hook, this is where you have a hook embedded in your verse.


You can have more than one verse hook but it's not recommended since it makes your rap songs less memorable.


Since fans listen to so much rap music they only end up taking one main verse hook - and using that as the identity for your song.


Don't forget that your son has an identity as well!




The verse hook is repeated a bunch of times, to make the song more catchy!


#3. A hip-hop song's best friend: the pre-chorus.

(Pretentious metaphor incoming.)


Think of songwriting as paving the road your listening is using to climb a mountain.


A quick way to build your way to the peak of that mountain is through a strong pre-chorus.


Song structure typically states that the first verse should have 16 bars, and the pre-hook (pre-chorus) should have only 4.


A pre-chorus could have fewer instruments, more instruments, or take a break from any instruments at all; it doesn't matter because the purpose of a pre-chorus is to bridge into the busiest part of the song.


Your audience should be able to anticipate a flow switch that incorporates elements of the melody.


Maintain the rhythm of the song, and build towards your hook in four sweet bars.


#4. How to write an epic rap song chorus.

Don't tell Peter Pan but we're obsessed with some good hooks.


What is a rap chorus?


The chorus is the heart of all-rap instrumentals, something all rappers aim to master.

  • The butter to the bread of a track
  • The high overlord of pop structure
  • The pinnacle of pop songs in the 21st century
  • The big papa of all rap songs
  • The crescendo to the base structure.

(You get the point. ๐Ÿ˜‚)


When writing rap music, think of your chorus verse as a beast - ready to sink its symbolic hooks into the listener.


It should be catchy, write something that will make your audience start levitating when they first hear it (or crying).


A good example of this would be the chorus of "Runaway" by Kanye West.


A timeless ballad - full of meaning, and soul, and the greatest piano instrumental of all time (sorry Drake).


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How to write a good rap chorus

When writing a chorus, if you don't have any key elements planned for the initial flow, then don't include any elements at all. A chorus's best trick is its ability to reel the audience in upon first listening.


Swapping to a different melody allows rappers the ability to make their chorus feel fresh, and show off their writing chops at the same time.


Typical song structure states that all song lyrics should peak during the chorus, whatever story you're telling should be summarized in this verse hook.


The bane of a rap verse is that it will always reside in the shadow of a chorus.


Any hit song is only as good as its song structure's ability to build up to the chorus.


Okay, you get it.


Chorus = very important in song structure.


#5. Best practices for making a rap song outro

The next few steps in rap song structure go as follows.

  • Second Verse.
  • Second Chorus. (repeated three or two more choruses.)
  • Outro.

Find any song, and you'll see a similar structure.


The next verse should continue the story told in the chorus - and the second chorus will AMPLIFY that continuation.


Your outro should be the busiest part of your song.


It should be a grand crescendo that leaves your audience in awe.


At this point you've already captured attention, so your audience will be more open to it.


The instrumental structure of an outro should complement your voice. It should either finish off the story you were telling or show off the peak of technical ability any rapper possesses.


An incredible example of a song outro would be "Devil in a New Dress" by Kanye West.


This outro incorporates insane technical prowess within the beat, successfully polarizing the audience and leaving a lasting impression of the song as a whole.


How to arrange  Your rap songs

Here are the most common rap song structures:

  • Verse โ€“ Chorus โ€“ Verse โ€“ Chorus.
  • Verse โ€“ Verse โ€“ Bridge โ€“ Verse
  • Verse โ€“ Chorus โ€“ Verse โ€“ Chorus โ€“ Verse โ€“ Chorus.
  • Verse โ€“ Chorus โ€“ Verse โ€“ Chorus โ€“ Bridge โ€“ Chorus.
  • Verse - Chorus - Verse - Verse - Chorus - Verse

The truth is when you're making a rap song structure you don't have to follow it 100%.


A good song structure allows the rap lyrics to shine.


Never neglect these aspects for your rap song:

  • Dope verses and rap instrumentals 
  • How many bars you'll have 
  • Amazing chorus 
  • Create a decent Melody 
  • Epic beats

How to make good raps become better rapper


Sometimes when you're making a rap song you over-focus on the rap song structure and neglect some other aspects of the music.


the 3 phases of hip-hop music?

The song structure of hip-hop songs has changed a lot over the years.


There are three main phases and hip-hop:

  • Old school
  • New school
  • 21st century

As the name suggests - rap music from the 70s and beginning is what you consider old school.


Many rap artists from the old school influenced how the rap song structure came to be.


Now as for old-school rap songs, there was more emphasis on the rap lyrics and the song structure was built around it.


Hip-hop has changed a lot. Artists such as Jay Z and Notorious BIG came from this new-school era.


21st-century hip-hop has a flipped rap song structure.


Rap music is almost indistinguishable from pop songs nowadays because rap artists take inspiration and flow from pop music.


With artists such as Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd, it's not rare to see artists start writing their rap song structure based on the melody rather than rap lyrics.


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