Is it your dream to become a successful rapper, but you find yourself a little short on cash and don’t know where to start? No sweat. This article will be your coach on how to use your talent, determination, and hustle to bust into the rap scene.
It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to break into the music industry. If you want to become a rapper and have little to no money, there are plenty of things you can do to get started including, using social media to promote yourself, performing at local shows, and interning at a studio.
Don’t worry if you don’t know how to get any of those things done, we’ll walk you through it in this article. On top of that, we’ll throw out a few tips and tricks on how to get your personal rap style up to snuff; the music industry is a place you want to stand out! Finally, remember this: there is no right way to break into rap music. You just do. Let’s jump in!
First, Hone Your Rap Skills
This should go without saying, but if you want to be a successful rapper, whether you’re starting out broke or not, you have to get damn good at it.
What does that mean?
It means practice. It means educating yourself on rap music, rap culture, and the rap business. It means listening to a variety of music. It means more practice. It means performing to family and friends. It means finding your style. It means even more practice.
Let’s talk about the details.
Practice Builds Confidence, Command, and Control
There’s no way around this one, sorry. Even those rappers you look up to — Lil Wayne, Eminem, Jay-Z, whoever — had to put in the hours to get to where they are today, and it’s what keeps them at the top.
Making a commitment to practice is essential to being successful. After all, practice is the only way to master a new skill. As an aspiring rapper, you need to embrace the discomfort of being a beginner in order to continue to grow and improve.
Remember that natural ability can only take you so far, and you don’t want to limit yourself at any point in your music career, so consider “practicing your craft” a way of life.
If you’ve already been writing lyrics, sampling, and creating beats — great, keep doing that! Do more. And then do more on top of more.
Get into the habit of writing every day. You will come up with a lot (and we mean a lot) of cringe, unrelatable, WTF type songs before you find one you vibe with. That’s the reality. So it’s best to find a routine that works for you.
As Lil Wayne put it: “Repetition is the father of learning.” So get that rap done. Then repeat. That’s how you’ll learn the craft.
If you haven’t been writing lyrics, sampling, and creating beats — now’s the time to get on it! And we’ve got a few key (and FREE) resources to help you out, so you won’t have any excuses not to start practicing those rhymes.
Resources on How to Write a Rap Song
- Drew Morisey from How to Rap walks you through his clear and concise method of getting your idea into a rap song. There really is no better starting point for a beginner.
- Another great, step-by-step video on how to write a rap song comes from Rob Level of Smart Rapper. He keeps it simple. Doesn’t get too technical. And he gives some great personal advice.
Watch Here: How To Write A Rap Song (The Super Tutorial)
Resources on Where to Find Samples and Beats
- Chris Punsalan of ChrisPunsalanTV shows you how to find samples for your beats in this comprehensive list video. He gives you some of his personal favorite artists, which is extremely helpful if you’re new to the scene. And bonus: he makes some sick beats using the samples he’s found for you!
Watch Here: The Best 5 Places to Find Samples for Your Beats
- In this video, Sharpe tests out some FREE online beat makers and gives you his honest feedback on them. If you’re just starting out, this video will not only provide you with some useful information but also some fun, laidback humor.
Watch Here: Making Beats with Free Online Beat Makers!
Yes, we know this first step was more like a long hike. But, we truly believe that having the patience and drive to hone your craft is what’ll set you up for success in the music industry, whether you’re starting out with money or not.
The secret sauce of becoming a solid rapper is practice. And that doesn’t cost you $$. It only costs time.
Educate Yourself on All Things Rap Related
This includes the music, the artists, the culture, and the business. You gotta stay hungry for knowledge (even if you’re also hungry for food). You’ll be ahead of the game if you’re on top of the books — and it doesn’t have to cost you a cent!
The successful rappers study the game. They know the history. They know what’s stirring on the streets. They know how to avoid other people’s mistakes. They know who’s who. They know who was hot then and who is hot now. They’re in the know.
You need to get in the know too. And you can do this in a number of ways without opening your wallet.
- Google it up! Next time you hear a rap song you vibe with — Google it. Find out who the rapper is, what other beats they’ve got out, who s/he has been influenced by, and so on. Get into the habit of going that extra mile. Your days of being a passive listener are over.
- Join Facebook groups in your area. You aren’t the only aspiring rapper in your community. If you think you are, you aren’t on Facebook. Rap battles, open mic nights, rappers for hire, local producers looking for talent, collab potentials — you name it, it’s on there. AND it’s free. Sign up. No excuses.
- Hit the books. Yup, that’s right. Books are still a thing. And they’re a more powerful thing in the hands of someone who’s hungry for knowledge. Whether it’s autobiographies, how-to guides, or songbooks, it’ll fill your head with what you need to know.
Speaking of books. Below we’ve rounded up some of our top picks to get you going. Most of these books you can find used on Amazon for less than five bucks! But, if you absolutely can’t spare a dime — no worries! You can write the titles down, and check for them at your local library.
Paul Edwards examines the dynamics of rap from every region and in every form, from mainstream and underground to current and classic. He also covers content and flow, rhythm, and delivery. If you need inspiration or even some guidance on how to structure a song, this one’s a must-read for you.
If you have questions, this book has answers. Seriously, if you’ve ever wondered about certain labels or players in the industry, this one’s got the inside scoop. You’ll appreciate the roots of the genre, and won’t be able to put it down.
A great overview of some of the greatest rap songs of all time. Complete with infographics, lyric maps (highly useful!), informative and punchy footnotes, and short essays by prominent music writers. Get this one on your shelf!
Listen to a Variety of Music
Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a critical component to being a successful rapper.
You don’t want to be a one-trick pony with predictable rhymes and flows. If you only listen to artists you know, you’ll get stuck in a rut pretty quickly. You’ll put a fence around your creativity and you don’t want that — it’s an artist’s kryptonite.
Part of developing your own unique style is by exposing yourself to all sorts of new sounds and people. Think of music as an infinite galaxy of sounds, and you are the brave astronaut who must go out into the vastness and bring them down to Earth in a new and exciting way.
So get exploring!
Listen to old-school rap like Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, Run-D.M.C., and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Then move to the new stuff like Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Tecca, Jack Harlow, and Cardi B.
You’ll want to switch it up and listen to old rock and roll—bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Guns N’ Roses, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd. And then do the same with other genres like electronic, jazz, country, classical — heck, even Swedish pop music with bands like Abba and Ace of Base!
Get the idea?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. You have to spread yourself out as far and wide as you can. And it doesn’t cost a penny to do so!
Cold Perform to Family and Friends
If they love you, they’ll listen to your bad rhymes.
The fact is, you have to get up and perform to build confidence and stage presence. At the start of your music journey, you most likely won’t have a following to hear you out, so you’ll have to use the one you’ve got.
While it might be intimidating to freestyle in front of your relatives at a birthday party or a family reunion picnic — it’s a gig, right? And a gig’s a gig.
Besides the thrill of performing, you’ll practice how to interact with an audience, how your rhymes hit the ears of others, and maybe if you’re lucky (and willing), you’ll get some useful feedback in a gentle way.
Find Your Own Style
You have to bring something special to the table to get noticed in the music industry. Whether that’s a signature lyric, flow switch, vocal intonation, or storytelling technique — whatever it is, it’s gotta be something fresh, and it’s gotta be something authentic.
As we mentioned above, a great way to find your style is to explore the galaxy of sounds that’s out there and see what catches you. Experimenting with samples, pulling from your own life experiences, your culture and language, even your hobbies and interests, can help you find your own distinct musical footprint.
In future articles, we’ll go through this in more detail. But for now, let’s dive into how to do that with social media.
Get on Social Media and Start Promoting Yourself
It’s never been easier to get yourself out there with little to no money upfront. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube are all great tools to use to find an audience for your music, and they are all FREE to join.
Personal branding is an absolute necessity in this day and age. You can’t become a successful rapper without a fanbase.
Luckily we have some resources to help you find your footing in the social media world. We’ve also included some information on the popular stream-service, SoundCloud.
It’s a great place to get discovered (just ask Post Malone, Lil Yachty, and Lil Uzi!). And it’s — drumroll please — FREE! You can join and share your own music on the world’s largest open audio platform, just like that. With a free subscription, you can easily upload your first tracks, build your profile, and grow your audience!
Resources on How to Use Social Media for Marketing
- Adam Ivy, founder of SellMusic.com, shares with you an effective formula on how to grow your following on Instagram (it also works for Twitter and Facebook) that is specifically tailored for musicians. A must watch for beginners.
- The King of Marketing, Gary Vee, gives you a seat in his meeting with rap artist, Gunna. No joke — you will take so much away from this video. You’ll get solid advice from a seasoned pro, and an inside look on industry marketing expectations.
Watch Here: The Key to Music Distribution for Rappers
Resources on How to Get Noticed on SoundCloud
- Jordan shows you first hand how he makes his songs on SoundCloud. It is easy and foolproof. If you’re completely new to SoundCloud, you’ll want to start here with his video.
Watch Here: How to Make a Song on SoundCloud
- Rob Level of Smart Rapper, provides you with a great SoundCloud hack that will increase your following at hyperspeed. His tutorial is straight-forward and no-nonsense. You’ll want to add this one to your playlist.
Perform at Local Festivals and Shows
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet performing to your friends and family, you’ll need to get in front of crowds that don’t know you. And who will (hopefully) pay you. This will also help to get your name out there.
As we mentioned above, joining a local Facebook group can help you find potential gigs at festivals and shows in your community.
However, don’t be surprised if not all local events are able to pay you for your time. When you’re starting out, you have to view these unpaid gigs as opportunities to network and gain exposure. Not to mention, a great way to get practice, practice, practice!
Intern (or Just Hang Out) at a Music Studio
Another thing a lot of people overlook is interning. Or simply just hanging around a music studio. You can pick up so many second-hand tips and tricks from music producers and artists. On top of that, you’ll get some contacts in the industry… who knows. Maybe they’ll even let you into the recording booth if you ask nicely.
It can also be helpful to try and learn as much as you can on a technical level about making music, as it will help you in the long run.
So there you have it — our complete guide to how to become a rapper with little to no money in the bank. We hope it was easy to follow and packed with lots of practical tips on how to start your journey in the music industry.
Money or no money, the key is to create a unique sound, to hone your craft, and to practice like crazy. Once those integral things are taken care of, you can focus on marketing yourself on social media and SoundCloud.
Finally, you gotta get out there and perform! Take the gigs you can get and master your own style, so you can constantly deliver to your fans.