Hip Hop Songwriting: Writing to Avoid Clichés

Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, MC • Producer • Educator

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8 Videos (14m)
    • Class Trailer

    • Overview: Class Project

    • Structure of a Rap Song

    • Picking a Topic

    • Rhyming in a Rap Song

    • Selecting "Good" Reference

    • Writing for Impact

    • Conclusion - Bringing it All Together


About This Class

Since its inception in 1973, hip hop has become an indispensable creative platform for artists from every walk of life. Now you can try your hand at writing a topic-driven hip hop verse while avoiding the clichés that often appear in beginners’ rhymes. In this class, students will learn writing techniques for drafting a hip hop verse around a particular theme, while utilizing a variety of rhyme schemes. Students will walk away understanding the following:

  • How to select “good” references (and what is meant by “good”)
  • How to structure a verse to maximize its impact
  • How to avoid clichéd writing

For the class project, students will be provided with an original beat from upstate NY rapper and producer Sammus (NOISEY, Afropunk, Vice, Impose Magazine) and asked to write an 8-bar verse on a topic of the student’s choosing. This class is geared towards those with little-to-no songwriting experience but it may be helpful even to those who consider themselves to be proficient.The class will require recording a performance of the track (a rough version), which will require either access to a microphone,

21 of 22 students recommendSee All

I did not know where to start in writing a rap. I'm feeling optimistic now.
Sammus is very responsive and very talented. This class is a great introduciton to writing for the hip hop genre or just getting more creative with poetry in general.





Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo

MC • Producer • Educator

SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is an Ithaca, NY based rap artist, producer, and PhD student in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Labeled the “rap Aisha Tyler” by MTV Iggy for her intelligent lyrics, Sammus has built a following within the underground hip hop scene and has become one of the faces of black female geeks within the growing nerdcore hip hop movement. Since joining NuBlack Music Group in early 2012, she has opened for such artists as Downtown Boys, Busdriver, MC Chris, Ceschi Ramos, Open Mike Eagle and Awkwafina. Her high-energy politically-charged performance has led to official shows at SxSW, PAX East, and New York Comic-Con among other notable events. Over the past three years she has released three Bandcamp best-selling albums (including a Kickstarter funded Metroid tribute EP), as well a collaborative EP with nerdcore MC Random aka Mega Ran, two remastered video game instrumental EPs with DJ Cutman, and a critically acclaimed beat tape. Finally, her unique story has led to coverage in such well-known publications as Noisey, Afropunk, Impose, Okayplayer, Okayafrica, Bitch, The Mary Sue, and The Austin Chronicle among others. As her Metroid-inspired name reflects, it is her hope that listeners and future fans will be pleasantly surprised by the contrast between the person society says she should be as an artist and who she actually is.

In addition to managing a full-time music career, Enongo has spent the past seven years as a public-school and college level educator. After graduating from Cornell University in 2008 with a double BA in Sociology and Science & Technology Studies, she was accepted into the national teaching program Teach for America and placed in Houston Texas, where she taught elementary math and science between 2008 to 2010. In the fall semester of 2011 she returned to Cornell as a PhD candidate to pursue an interest a wide array of sound studies topics, including sound and gaming as well as the identity politics of community studios. As an academic in training and very-vocal feminist, Enongo has produced articles for publications such as Bitch, For Harriet, Sounding Out!, and The Mary Sue related to issues of race, hip-hop, gaming, and feminism.