BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL RAPPER (in Nigeria).

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You made your way to this article because you probably have dreams of being a famous rapper in Nigeria (or your country), Africa, and the World. You’ve seen the fun rap stars of your time are having to do what they love—making rap/hip-hop music.

Hip-hop music has cemented its place in the world’s music industry as a popular and mainstream genre. It is present in almost every music industry and has influenced new genres. It is only typical for early discoverers of the hip-hop culture, like you, to want to become emcees.

M.I Abaga Source: Google Images

This article will provide information on things, habits, and actions to take to have a successful rap career. This excludes the factor of luck and/or privilege. It is about entering as a novice with nothing but a dollar and a dream and climbing to the rap game’s top in your peak years.

What Is A Professional Rapper?

For you to have come across this article means you know what a professional rapper is and wish to be one.

A Professional Rapper is an individual or group that makes a living by creating rap music or rap battle/freestyle contests.

What Do You Need To Be A Rapper?

What then do you need to become a rapper? Well, a set of skills and knowledge are the minimum requirement to become a rapper. Don’t fret. Some of these skills you already know of and possess. Here’s a list of things to consider having, getting, and/or developing to become a professional rapper.

  • The Talent: This is an essential requirement for becoming a rapper. Do you have a knack for writing and spitting rhymes? No one is born the greatest rapper. You only become one by developing and honing your skills; through online courses, music, battles, etc.
  • Branding and Marketing: Creating your persona, either by stage name or unique identity that is memorable to people who come across any of your work(s) to remember. You do have to put in the work to cultivate all your marketing channels, online and offline.
  • Understand the music industry: This stage is a bit tricky. Even stakeholders don’t seem to grasp the workings of the Nigerian hip-hop industry. I can’t blame them; many things don’t perform their original functions. Knowing this, ensure that you read up on the (ideal) music industry and make clean versions of your music available for streaming (non-explicit fans and radio) and download.
  • From Free (Amateur) to Paid (Professional): From performing at family and friends’ functions to the local club or bar to participating in rap contests down to being discovered on streaming platforms are all forms of jobs for a rising rapper.
Battle Rap Nigeria Source: Google Images

BECOMING A BETTER RAPPER

Becoming a rap GOAT requires a lot of practice and skill development over your entire career. Here are some tips to take note of:

Taste For Variety of Music

It would help if you listened to artists and music outside of your regularly preferred artists and genre. You never know which could influence your writing, delivery, or musical sound in the long run. Hip-hop music has a bit of jazz, blues, and soul. From M.I to Modenine, down to Fuji, Apala, High-life, etc. This will help you create your unique sound.

Poetry & Knowledge

Reading and writing poetry is the best way to hone your rap writing skills. It might be boring, but it works. Reading also provides you as a rapper with knowledge and exposure. This makes it easier for you to stay on top of any topic, concept, or subject matter you are rapping about. You have gained knowledge from different writers with different perspectives on the topic and can conclude.

Poetry and rap lyrics are similar and as an added advantage, making art references or expressions in your lyrics endears you to both critics and fans. The best punchline arrangements are well thought out and edited, not just freestyled.

Rap Competitions

These places are a goldmine for young emcees to learn, network, have fun with like-minded creatives like them, and collaborate with in the future. In an ideal hip-hop industry, these are events one can be discovered by A&Rs, DJs, OAPs, and core hip-hop heads. Going for these battles allows you to dive deep into the hip-hop culture, and after watching and listening for a while, you also take to the stage and give it a go. Remember, pressure makes diamonds.

Get A Dictionary

Get yourself a thesaurus or rhyming dictionary. It expands your vocabulary as you are conversant with words, their meaning, synonyms, and antonyms. It will reduce the repetition of lines, words, or phrases. This way, every new verse seems fresh and vibrant even though the message remains the same. Meaning fans may never tire of listening to you.

It worked for Slim Shady; it should also work for you.

Start Without Cash

Like every other profession in art, the more you practice rapping, the better you get. To start a career, you can begin from ground zero with no money and build until becoming multiple award-winning rappers. Keep practising and remain confident in the growth that comes with practising and putting yourself out there.

Perform in front of friends and family to build up the confidence to perform in front of an audience. Next, go to Open Mic events and freestyle/battle competitions to watch, learn, and participate. At these events, network with other rappers you can collaborate with. Collaborating with many rappers increases your chances of being easily discovered by professional rappers or label execs/A&Rs.

When you finally gain the confidence to make your songs, make clean versions (changed wordings or censored out). It improves your chances of getting airplay time on radio stations. NBC censor rules are now stiffer. Thus, making it known that cleaner versions of your song exist means it will enjoy playtime on the radio.

Naira Marley Source: Google Images

Epilogue (in Nigeria)

You are now equipped with information to kickstart your rap career. The grind from amateur rapper to professional rap superstar usually takes years. This may vary per individual, but the rap game is one of perseverance and patience.

The industry could be frustrating naturally, but it is double that in the Nigerian space. The easiest way to get through is to be open to collaboration with rappers in and outside of your community. It slowly introduces your music to a new circle of fans as you collaborate with more rappers.

Stay professional. Don’t take work home. Because you lost a battle to a rapper doesn’t make him an enemy the moment you both get off the stage. One thing I do know about the music business is never to look down on anyone in the industry. Today’s office assistant is tomorrow’s label or media house boss. As a professional, learn about sportsmanship. The rapper you’re angry at because you lost to them could be your ticket out of your current level of fame.

Kill the belief that you should only work with rappers you are better than. 2 or 3 rappers make the rap songs you enjoy; you don’t want them because you believe one rapper is better than the other. Instead, you enjoy it because it is a smooth blend of the unique sound and styles of these rappers in that one song. Don’t slow your growth over ego and pride. No one is an island.

Winning rap competitions in Nigeria has never really led to mainstream success. I believe this is partly the organisers’ fault—gist for another day. When going to competitions, you’re going there to network with rappers from different parts of the country. Form a circle that makes and promotes music together. You stand to make more promoting each other’s works than by promoting your work on your own.

Again, make clean versions of your song and the lyrics available. Every human being has enunciation issues while rhyming or talking fast; it is only fair to carry your fans along when that happens. These two tips should help you include some not-so-die-hard hip-hop fans into your fanbase.

Lastly, remember to keep practising and writing. The more you write, the better you become. A great rapper is a dope lyricist with a likeable delivery style.

Good luck!

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