Arts & Entertainment, Music

In the Studio: Writing an Original Rap Song


Lesson time 08:55 min

Get a firsthand, real-time view of Nas’s writing process, with takeaway tips on how to formulate ideas to a beat.

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Topics include: Nas’s Writing Process · Experiment With Words · Writing Spontaneously · Finding Rhythm in the Words · Collaborating With a Producer


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Each year, beach chair, bum wear, looking like I don't care. Somewhere-- Cayman Islands maybe-- write a book. NAS: I'm excited every time I'm about to create a song. It's like this world that I step into. I start to think about what should the topic be today. So what happens is I hear the beat, and the beat kind of tells me which way to go, or it pulls me in a whole different direction. And I'm excited all through it-- This is crazy, bro. [MUSIC PLAYING] My writing process-- hmm. I take bits and pieces from different stages of my life. I take that and I work with it today. I guess I was a young kid, trying to write, and I would have notebooks of rhymes, stories. I had note pads full of raps-- chapters, like this chapter is about girls. So there'll be a certain amount of paper, and a divider there-- girls. The next one would be about the next subject and so on, and so forth. And so if I had to spit something for you, I had categories to go to. It went from that to-- changing it up to just off the top of the head. And I would go between off the top of head and writing. Probably, everybody feels that way, because once you do it for so long, you don't need to write it anymore. I like to just say stuff, and say stuff that feels good, say stuff that matters to me. When you write it down, you know, you might lose some of that. You might lose it-- at least for me. So if I say it, it's right there on the spot. It's spontaneous. It's raw. It's straight out the heart or the mind. We're gonna need the pen and pad. - You be writing in the phone, right? - Yeah. - You have keep that shit natural. - Yeah. - Writing on phone-- - Hey guys, can you take this-- this is not how we record it. CREW: No problem. - And now, my writing process is notes in my phone. Using my phone, opposed the paper-- I've done it on paper so long. A phone is easier to handle. It's like, I'm not sticking to a book. I'm making it up as I go, and the phone could easily be in my pocket. I could pull it out to remember something, and put it back in. It's way easier to me. You, as a student, should do what works for you. What's the best way you like to read your words? What keeps you on time with the track? How do you like to see words look, because you could type them, or your handwriting might spark something in your imagination that might bring something else to the song. [MUSIC PLAYING] The journey of the song is conversation. It's like you got this blank canvas, and we just throw on paint. Me and my soul, that's divine... You need words, and you need to rehearse how they sound to you. You know, say them to yourself, say them in a sentence. Mix a word up that people are not-- most people in your circle are not familiar with, and put it in a sentence that's cool, so that it's easier on the listener. [MUSIC PLAYING] How will I know? Pitch like a pitc...

About the Instructor

From the landmark album "Illmatic" in 1994 to the Grammy-winning "King’s Disease," Nas has been exposing truth through rhymes and vivid street poetry for more than 25 years. Now he’s sharing his journey, the evolution of Hip-Hop, and a brand-new song with you. Hip-Hop, lyricism, flow—learn how to tap into the power of your own voice and turn your experiences into music with one of rap’s all-time greatest artists.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


Grammy-winning rapper Nas shares his journey through the evolution of Hip-Hop, breaks down some of his biggest hits, and writes a brand-new song.

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