If you’re trying to succeed in a performance field advice from people who have made it is invaluable. We’ve collected together tips from some of the world’s most renowned hip-hop stars so that you’ve got a series of helpful hints in one handy place. Whether its business advice from Ludacris to strategy suggestions from Nikki Minaj we’ve got you covered.
Nas recommends that you become a student of hip-hop; study the style of other rappers and develop your own distinctive sound. By the same token you should listen to as many different flows as possible to find out what works for you.
Eminem found creating his alter ego Slim Shady helped him develop as an artist. Shady acted like a shield allowing him to say what he perhaps wouldn’t under his own name. He treats rhyme schemes like puzzles taking great pleasure in wordplay and learns from the great rappers of history such as KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and N.W.A.
Rakim suggests drawing inspiration from genres outside of hip-hop. He feels that his background as a Saxophonist and Jazz fan played an important role in the development of his flow. He also recommends increasing your vocabulary to make for more interesting metaphors and rhymes.
Jay wants to remind you to train your memory. As a teenager he’d buy something small from the shop if he was out whilst an idea popped into his head just to get a paper bag to write them down on. ‘I’d write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook. As I got further and further away from home and my notebook, I had to memorize these rhymes – longer and longer and longer… By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn’t need pen or paper – my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape.’
Missy gave XXL Mag her thoughts on the challenges of being a woman in hip-hop: ‘It’s always been harder for female MCs. It’s not so different from when I started, because, as a female, back then, most of the girls had a male camp they were affiliated with, and that got people talking. It’s still somewhat like that. Now you have to be even more creative than before to get the regular consumer’s attention.’
For Ludacris, team is key. “If you are a smart business person you have a smart team. You’re only as strong as your weakest link so that includes your accountant or your business manager or your manager’s manager (…) all these things take a part in who you’re going to be and how long you’re going to last.”
Struggling for inspiration? Write about what you know. Drake says ‘I don’t write about stories. A lot of classic rap is storytelling, but it’s storytelling about someone else. Fictional stories sometimes. I can’t do that. I have to write about my life. So, sometimes in order to complete a verse the way I want to or to finish a second verse on a song when I’ve already done the first one, I have to allow myself to either live a portion of life I haven’t lived yet or something has to set in.’
Nikki reminds us to stay focused and dedicated: ‘It’s important that at some point in your life you really focus on your career, almost to the point of insanity. You’ll never get this time back. You have to want it so bad that you wake up in he morning and you think about it, live it, breathe it, eat it, and see it all day. After you’ve accomplished a couple of things, then take a moment. Work and work for those first years, and then come out of the matrix a little bit and take a freaking vacation.’