Many new and aspiring rappers and hip-hop artists today believe they do not need to study or do well in school if they can rap. However, what little success they have experienced to date is nothing compared to how far they could go with their music if they were more educated.
This means graduating high school or getting a GED, and possibly even enrolling in a few courses at a local community college. As of now, college and university are very expensive and may be financially out-of-reach to many musical artists. Community college is a therefore a great cheap alternative that can educate you instead of university. Online learning is also useful, whether you expand your mind with MOOCs on Coursera or Edx, or you simply want to watch documentaries on YouTube, for instance.
Rappers like Shiest City are well-educated. Shiest, for instance, enjoys watching the Military and History channels when he has a free moment. He is also keen on Egyptology, and plans to visit the Great Pyramids one day. You do not have to follow his lead exactly, but you should invest in yourself intellectually if you want to improve your rap game.
Consider the following verse on being better than your competition:
“You all staring up at me, so far below.
You think you got it all but you don’t know.
I stand on the shoulders of giants unlike you whose
Reaching for scraps, prob call yourself Cool Hand Fluke.”
Now, consider a more sophisticated, more implicit version of this verse:
“You think you’re Methuselah, man of the spear,
Well son, you got more than a handful to fear,
Should have called yourself Onan, that much is clear,
Cause I’m going Biblical on your ass, you’re ain’t no Amir.”
If we analyze the latter verse, we can see all the Bible references in it, as well as one reference to Arabic history and the Arabic language. Firstly, this verse is much more memorable than the first version since, unlike it, this verse is not generic. It is unique and therefore much more memorable.
Methuselah was featured in the parable of Noah’s Ark. His name, translated from Hebrew, means “Man of the Spear,” as is alluded to in the verse. The second and third lines reference Onan and “a handful.” Onan, found in the Book of Genesis, was smote by God, for being evil and disrespecting his commands. This verse calls out a rival rapper as “Onan,” which is important due to the immense emphasis rappers place on their gaining and maintaining their reputation.
A rapper without respect is looked down upon in the hip-hop and rap community. “Going Biblical” obviously refers to an intense rivalry that will end in bloodshed. Finally, Amir is an Arabic word for an independent chieftain or ruler in Africa and/or the Middle East. Independence is a valued virtue in the rap game. These educated references create a memorable and effective dis track as a result.
Contrast the depth of the second version with the first version. There are only two references worth mentioning in the first version. First, “the shoulders of giants” is a reference to Sir Isaac Newton and his reasoning for his accomplishments. Second, Cool Hand Fluke is a pun on the movie title “Cool Hand Luke,” starring deceased American movie star and philanthropist Paul Newman. Luke is a prisoner who retains his independence and individuality in a corrupt, archaic prison system. The first version of this verse states that the intended rapper whom the verse is about, is delusional for thinking they are like Luke for fighting against the system, and that they are in no way independent or unique.
As a rapper, you need to educate yourself if you want to create original and thoughtful prose, which will help you stay miles ahead of your competition. Anyone can lay out a dis track. Anyone can mention the usually rap tropes in their songs, like money or cars. Few expand beyond these subjects and become known for a niche. If you want to stand out as a rapper, and become signed to a label, like Shiest City was to Boyz Records earlier this year, you need to improve your game. Picking up the books and learning is your first step.