Ed Words On Creating A Track

If you have an idea about who I am, you’re probably dead wrong. If you don’t know who I am, perfect. But if you do know who I am, I really hope you’re one of the few who gets it and understands where I came from and where I am now. The proverbial gloves are off.

I debuted on the scene as part of a small roster for the ‘Number One Independent Comedy Label in the World’, with the flagship artist being “Rucka Rucka Ali” (if you know who that is, then you understand). Being that this label was comedy based with a very established fan base in that lane, I had to appeal to that group to get the offer I was wanting. I was already on some shock value/comedy shit anyway (in my rhymes), but with less microphone presence and an even less tongue in cheek within my delivery so turning it up wasn’t really an issue for me. I also was never in this with the thought that I’d be a big deal; this was a dream and a hobby I was seeing through because I don’t ever want to say “What if?” when I’m a dying old fuck.

I garnered a lot of fans traveling down that road so some of that style has stayed with me, but since the label has closed doors and I’m back out on my own, I felt I should give you my current process when it comes to writing lyrics rather than what I used to do. Don’t get me wrong- a lot of what I did is the foundation of what I do now, but my content has matured since my last project(s) released while with them. What I’m really getting at here is that I don’t want someone reading this who didn’t fuck with my old albums skipping over these tips strictly based on an old catalog of mine. I’ve always tried to keep a healthy dose of ‘hard shit’ mixed into all that vulgar ‘comedy’ shit. But in the end, if you don’t fuck with me, that’s cool. I don’t give a mother fuck either way, I wont lose any sleep over it.

Beat Selection

For me, everything starts with the beat. The beat is the heart of the track, the single thing that drives me to even begin writing. I have roughly anywhere between 4gb and 8gb of beats from a large variety of producers I work with on deck at my disposal anytime I want, so it can be quite a process when trying to find the “perfect” beat to use. 85% of the time I have no idea what I’m trying to write about or what direction I want to go; I simply sift through my beat library until I come across something that I feel I could use as a foundation to build around and craft something tailored specifically to that beat.

To me, the beat drives the song. The beat tells me the emotion, the direction, the subject matter, and the cadence of the track. I’ve never been the person to write a track then try to find a beat that fits what I wrote. Its always been beat – bars – perfect the cadence and delivery – perfect the bars – record. That’s my starting point, a dope beat I know people will feel and I won’t get sick of during the crafting process.

After I’ve selected an instrumental I like I put it on a loop from the beginning through the first verse and chorus for about 30minutes to an hour. During this time what I’m trying to accomplish is a variety of things:

1. Figure out what the beat is telling me to create. Is this an anthem track? A slow jam? Is this some braggadocio shit? Basically what I’m trying to do is figure out which direction should I be thinking.

2. Vocal patterns – I’ll usually mumble or hum different patterns over the beat. Like, I’ll use sounds rather than words to figure out how the lyrics should sound atop the beat… almost like I’m creating another instrument for the track. I do this for both the verse and hook (chorus) portion as many times as I need until I get something I’m happy with. Sometimes, but not always, I’ll pull out my phone and record my mumbles with the beat so I have it as a reference later when I’m actually crafting the lyrics.

3. The First 4 Bars – The first four bars of the verse are always the hardest for me. I’ve always felt that the first four (or at least first two) bars have such a huge impact on someone listening to the whole song or skipping after the first 30 seconds. That’s what I do when I listen to a song; if the first four bars doesn’t catch my attention on the first listen, I’m skipping the whole thing. Sorry but not sorry. I’ll often over-think it on these lyrics, so don’t be like me in that department. I’ve tossed a lot of good lines because of this. If I can get the first few lines down quickly then I know I can breeze through that verse, BUT if I struggle with it…. I’m in for a long session of writing. Something I’m working on developing and training myself to contentiously do instead (but haven’t perfected so I cant speak much on it at this time as far as its effectiveness) is to just write. Don’t think about what you’re saying, just write it. Whatever comes to mind right off the bat is what you write for the first few lines, just to get the ball rolling. You can always go back and perfect it later on if you need to.

4. The Hook – The most important part of your song, and the part I’m the worst at, is the chorus aka the “hook”. This is so important because it’s the part that your fans get stuck in their heads and cannot stop repeating. This is meant to “hook” the listener in and keep them listening. You want to make this something simple and catchy. For all you “underground hardcore lyrical” people out there who only listen to shit like Jedi Mind Tricks or whoever else in that vein of music: Dumb it down here. I know, I know, you only wanna spit that hard shit. You still can, just make this part easier to retain and repeat.

5. Concept/Theme – This can come sooner in the process (which, if you followed this list as an actual order of completion, makes this part seem pointless and something that should have been done earlier). In fact, this usually comes to me during the whole “what’s the beat telling me to create” sequence. If not there then I usually figure this out while creating the “hook”. At some point you have to create a concept or theme to the song. Otherwise you’re just rapping lines for no reason, on some written freestyle shit.

Weapons of choice

I always have the following items at my disposal anytime I’m crafting a song or if I anticipate doing so in the future (It’s a good idea to keep a pen and small note pad or a phone with an app like “Songwriter’s Pad” on you at all times because you never know when inspiration might strike):

*Dictionary – I like to be sure that the words I use are in proper context. Its also helpful to have for spelling purposes.

*Thesaurus – Another thing I like to have on deck at all times is a Thesaurus to ensure that I have multiple words with the same meaning in my arsenal. This way you’re not repeating descriptive words. You can have a broader range of wordplay this way. A Thesaurus can be the difference that makes a song whack into a worthy track. USE THAT SHIT!

*Rhyming Dictionary – Pretty self explanatory here, BUT in case you’re still curious as to why I list this: I keep a rhyming dictionary both on my person and in my phone simply to help me when I get stuck in a writers block. This is a tool that can REALLY help you out when you need to get back in the game or stay on task. It’s also a good idea to skim through it every now and then to get some inspiration to write or to simply help build your vocabulary and have more rhyming words retained in your memory to use when this isn’t available to you (Freestyles/Battles for instance).

*Pen and Pad – Obviously, This is a no-brainer. I prefer pens to pencils and I’m a big fan of using gel pens (Pilot G2 1.0). I just like the way it feels writing with them, the smoothness, the ease of readability later on in the recording process. The pencil would be a better idea when it comes to making corrections or mistakes, but fuck that, pens are where it’s at, in my opinion…

*iPad – Now, this clearly isn’t a necessary tool, and I’ve gotten away from using it (due to verses not saving or being lost or malfunctioning and batteries dying), but it was always handy having everything in one location (songs on “Songwriter’s Pad” app, Rhyming Dictionary App, Dictionary App, Thesaurus App, and the internet for reference/look up) compared to multiple books and notepads. This is just an optional tool. If you have it or have something similar, cool. A laptop is a very easy alternative as well.

*Headphones – If I’m in a studio, this isn’t something I’ll use, but if I’m home in my personal studio, I’ll switch back and forth between headphones and studio monitors (speakers) while I work. The headphones are there to help keep me focused, as I use closed back KRK brand headphones that help block out the background noise (having ADD, 2 dogs, somewhat busy neighborhood etc. tends to distract me from the job at hand). It’s also helpful having the headphones there to help hear little things in the instrumental that you didn’t notice while listening with the monitors. Sometimes those small things help add to the writing or you might here a faint instrument in the background and really like the percussive cadence is has and choose to use that as a foundation for your vocals.

Now comes the real work.

Once I have everything ready (the beat playing and a general idea of where I want this song to go), I start jotting down lines. I’ll typically keep a sheet dedicated to one liners and/or freestyle lines I liked (I’ll freestyle the lyrics in my head until I come up with something I  like) and another sheet for the actual lyric arrangement. I used to put 16 dots on the left side of the paper and write my lines that way, until I got around to creating more intricate and heavy syllable rhymes that required an extra line at times. Now I write everything and close each bar with a “//” at the end to let me know where the line ends then I’ll move down a line and begin the next line.

**Attached is an example of the arrangement sheet and how my bars are setup and closed**

“MILITANT MICHIGAN MENACE”

This is a song…verse…skit…track… well, its all of those things really, but its most noted as one of the best pieces of work I’ve recently released strictly for the mere fact that it catches just about everyone’s attention when they hear it or see it live. It’s also the quickest verse I’ve ever penned that became something. The track encompasses everything we just talked about. I used every tool I listed earlier to mold this composition. Its also the only thing I’ve written and recorded without using a beat to drive and create the song. For a half hour, I sat, plotted and sculpted bar after bar faster than I ever have. It started from a simple game I was playing with myself of rhyming words, “how many words can I rhyme with ____” to be exact. The word was “requisition” (I wanted a large word I wasn’t completely sure the meaning of to be my base word). I pulled out my dictionary and flipped through the pages until I stopped and whatever my thumb landed on was what I was going to use – assessed the word and definition and began building from there. This is where things like Dictionary, Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus really come in handy. If you listen to the track there are a lot of words I wouldn’t use in my everyday vocabulary, but I used here to add to the dynamic of the song. After just thirty minutes I came out of my blackout (or what felt like a black out because I was so focused on the writing and the sculpting and word digging that I didn’t realize what was going on around me, for those thirty minutes I was 100% immersed in these lyrics) with a track that to this day is still my favorite piece of work. I even have the wav form framed and hanging in my studio. I think from here its easier to give you a more in depth look at the song and what im actually saying to understand my writing process and to give further light to the song and the sprinkled messages in it. So, lets break it down.

My requisition nestled in one significant sentence//

The Definition of a militant Michigan menace//

Ed Words the villain has risen and been reconditioned//

His repetition and revision birthed precision among-st the competition//

These are the first few lines to the track, you can virtually hear the cadence just by reading them.

Breaking these down line by line by these few lines actually say a lot, and that’s one of the things I really like about poetry and rap.

1.      Requisition by definition means “the act of formally requiring or calling upon someone to perform an action” so what im basically saying here is “This is what I’m supposed to be/doing in one very important sentence” which, if said that way…is super boring and whack.

2.      Militant means “a desire or willingness to use strong, extreme, and sometimes forceful methods to achieve something” and Menace being referred to as “a dangerous or threatening quality” so this breaks down to “I’m willing to use extreme methods to be a threat to and from Michigan” This sets me up for the tone of the track. After developing these two lines, I figured out I was going to make a sort of aggressive braggadocio style track.

3.      The third line I address my moniker so the listener knows who they are hearing/whose being talked about I label myself a Villain (This is also what I call my fans. “Villains”) further playing on the “threatening” and “menace” theme from the previous line. From here I state that I have “Risen” and been “Reconditioned” and what im trying to convey here is almost like vampire-Esq and what I mean by that is that I had been out of the limelight for awhile -it was about 3 years since my last project – so I was emerging back on the scene ‘Reconditioned’ with a new style, a new presentation of my capabilities as an artist. Again, you see how this looks/sounds a lot better the way it was recorded compared to how it sounds descriptively?

4.      My Repetition or consistent efforts of trying to write and make this music work in my favor with endless Revision after revision of lyrics and perfecting each line, had given me a new look at how I do things, how far I’ve come as a writer, it had given my brand a new start or fresh beginning among all my competitors out there, at this time I felt like the Precision to the current lyrics I was writing had meant that I could actually stand next to my peers whom I thought for so long were so much better than I at this whole writing thing. I could always carry a flow and delivery was not an issue, but when it came to my pen game, I felt I was terrible. To this day I don’t think I have really sharpened that sword enough, but I’m trying.

I’ll now give you the rest of the track bar for bar before I break it down further,

My requisition nestled in one significant sentence//

The Definition of a militant Michigan menace//

Ed Words the villain has risen and been reconditioned//

His repetition and revision birthed precision among-st the competition//

Out of my jurisdiction for my skin color er pigment//

Here I’m saying that, because of the color of my skin, it’s evident that this world (the rap game) is not exactly somewhere I “belong” or am welcome – this is also something I had written in wake of the whole “white people are guests in the house of hip hop” comment that Lord Jamar had made.

so I covered it in crimson liquid giving the business a crucifixion//

The follow up line I used to denounce anyone who doesn’t believe that music has no color. Basically saying that “ok, if I cant be white, then ill bathe in the crimson colored blood of hiphop and resurrect it.

**||DJ break | Rewind | Replay||**

Here, I felt like I could add some small comic relief to what id just said in the previous bars and I also felt that they were so impact full and powerful that they needed to be repeated again for anyone who didn’t quite catch it as I knew id be delivering this in double time when it came to transforming the words into an audio performance.

I’m not UN-christian, don’t mean to cause no further friction//

Im not a man of god, as in Im not 100% sure I fully believe in what the church preaches, but I’m also not someone who doesn’t want to believe in a higher power so here im appoligizing for what im about to say to all those who regularly attend services and those who thought I was some atheist or devil worshipper (its happened, trust me. I talked about necrophilia on my first album and some people got pissed – remember what I said earlier – SHOCK VALUE rapper)

BUT that shit is non existent so I keeps it out my writtens//

I said it was non existent as in I don’t believe what the church preaches is something completely true, maybe im wrong, maybe im right, either way, I keep the church out of my lyrics because I have a hard time believing in something I cant physically see.

I’m a deceased beast on these mid-west streets//

This just sounded dope in my head and kept the same momentum and flow of the song

a diseased artiest who eat up beats like kids eat sweets//

same as the line before, this just has that braggadocio feel to it

So while I pass these trees to my creeps sittin in the backseat//

my man Dietz stacks heaps of bodies up under a black sheet//

an while the 5-0 rolls passed me, I blast beats//

Beating up the concrete with these three 15s//

at this point im just rapping for the sake of rap, throwing in a little weed reference, shouting out my friend Dietz whos super into horror movies and, also keeping up the braggadocio sound

So if you hesitant don’t even bother stepping in my cipher//

Here I am again, keeping the braggadocio alive. Saying that im better than you and if you even question yourself a little bit, don’t bother stepping to me in a rhyme cipher, because ill body you.

my techniques evident, rhymes so sick they sponsored by Pfizer//

as I said earlier, ive worked at my craft, ive sharpened my blade there and you can see that. Also a little metaphor action to boot.

Turn the equalizer up high while I dig through my binder//

Used to be on that Richard Prior til I grew tired//

At this point im saying to turn up the track while I dig through all the lyrics ive written – what im trying to convey here is that ive been writing so much that I literally have to dig through paper after paper because there is so much content. The follow up line refers back to me being apart of that Comedy label and how my old style was on a comedic tip where now ive grown tired of that and am reassessing my brand and career as an artist which leads into the following line:

Threw my book in a grinder and turned out a new writer//

I threw all my old notebooks out (I really did, and I regret it still, don’t ever toss out your writings, no matter how old, whack, used, or played out they might be) and became a different writer than before

Now I’m a mic exciter who strikes like a viper//

Not a tournament fighter but deliver fatalities like Stryker//

Back to the braggadocio shit, an added Mortal Kombat punchline for an additional dramatic boost

So now you know who Ed Words is//

Just a kid kick’n consistent vigilant verses//

with precision on purpose//

‘Cause without persistence//

Everything I’ve ever written is worthless//

These last few lines were something id been sitting on for awhile and never got around to using, I felt that this was the perfect place to incorporate them though. They circle back to previous lines about sharpening my skills and addressing who I am NOW as an artist after spending so much time reworking my lyrics and developing new techniques in the writing process. This also serves as an additional tip to anyone honing their own skills because, im saying that if you consistently work at your writing and stay vigilant with not only your persistence of writing but also correcting them, making them precision perfect with multiple fixes and reworking and rewording, you too can become a great writer.

To close this out I think rather than hearing from me, It would be better suited for me to give you little quotes from established emcees that I found really helped me out when I was trying to bounce back into writing from a 3 year hiatus.

“The subject matter, the content, is gonna be how it is that people are able to relate to what it is that you’re saying” – Lateef

“I always just take notes and stuff during the day, and then when its comes time to make a song, I look at all the little notes and fragments that I’ve taken throughout the day, couple of days, or a week” – Aesop Rock

“I’ll often go from track to track. Having multiple projects going at once. Sometimes you have five or six different thoughts because you’re holding on to five or six different beats, and then there are times when you’re like, you know what I’m bored, I don’t really wanna keep working  on this joint, let me switch up to this other track here” – MC Serch

“I write to the beat, because the beat pretty much leads you to where you wanna go with it” – Phife Dawg

“In all honesty, I think that writing to the beat is something very important to do” – Big Daddy Kane

“Some people can have the greatest lyrics in the world but don’t know how to make a real song” – E 40

“Its easy, as an MC, to write verses and get stuck on the choruses” – Pharoahe Monch

“I sit next to a dictionary to make sure im using everything in the right context, because you don’t want to sound like an idiot” – Tech N9ne

A good understanding of the English language, Poetry and how to assemble a poem are also key elements and invaluable when it comes to lyric writing as well (for rap atleast) so, get your studies up!

And remember, Anything you can think of can become the subject of a rap song.

-Ed Words

Be sure to visit Ed Words’ website!

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