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‘No Pen, No Pad’: The Unlikely Way Rap Is Written Today

‘No Pen, No Pad’: The Unlikely Way Rap Is Written Today
  • PublishedSeptember 20, 2023

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“I think a lot of people picture, like, modern rappers who really just, like, pen and paper in the studio, writing down their raps, figuring it out, scratching it out, changing it.” “Yeah, no, we stopped writing a long time ago. Not many people write.” “Back in the day, when people were just using tape, you just had one take. So everybody had to be on point.” “There used to be a time before the 24 track, for instance. If a singer went in, you had to sing that [expletive], top to bottom, baby. You had to have it figured out.” “Most music up until about 20 years ago was always recorded on tape. It’s more of a process. It’s a lot more laborious, a little bit more tedious.” Rapping: “Three strikes and we might just blast —” “I’ve watched Tupac giving a speech — ‘Hey, we have two hours of studio time. Come here prepared.’” “We don’t have time or the luxury to spend all of this time doing one song. We don’t have it.” “Fast forward a little bit. Word starts to spread mid-to-late 90s that Jay doesn’t actually write any of his rhymes down.” “So you literally come in the studio and then formulate sentences in your head?” “Yeah.” “And then spit it to that beat?” “Yeah.” “And you never write down the lyrics?” “Never.” “Which leads to other rappers wanting to do the same thing.” “I found out that Jay wasn’t writing. I didn’t want to ever see a pen or paper, again, in my life.” “He has class, first in the lunch line. My lunch ticket let me eat rappers at lunch time.” “What I know is, when you see your hero can jump seven feet, it makes you want to jump eight.” “If it depends on me, 10 out of 10.” “You’re telling me, you’re falling out of love with me.” “I came up at the trenches.” “The problem is that not all of them are as great or as capable of doing it.” “Yeah, turn me up in my ear.” [rapping] “That’s no pen, no pad. They’re just going in and punching in.” “Punch in.” “Punch method.” “Punch and recording.” “Punching three more bars.” “I ain’t never wrote raps. I just be ready.” “Do you write, or do you punch in?” “I punch in. I don’t write.” “Today, ProTools is essentially, like, the pen and paper, and that’s where it becomes this different type of art form.” “It’s improvisational versus writing the stand-up piece. You know what I mean?” “It’s like freehand versus tracing.” “Oh OK.” “Keep that part for me, just punch me in.” “The artist might not really have the song written, but they’re not necessarily freestyling in the traditional sense, where they’re just going in and saying the first thing that comes to mind, and they’re doing that for four minutes straight.” “Punching in, like saying one bar at a time.” “I’ve got these racks that can’t fold in the wallet. I’m making deposits. “Definitely one line at a time.” “That bar, and you said the bar out there, and you play it all together. It sounds like a whole sentence. “They’re using punching in as a way to create their rhymes as opposed to a way to correct their rhymes. Yeah, I feel it’s really just a generational thing.” “But you don’t think you could end up with something better if you sometimes wrote some stuff?” “No.” “It’s just not for you?” “No, [expletive] that.” “Rap has grown. Rap has evolved, and there’s always good and bad when it comes to evolution. What we’re seeing is a lot of the same lane being explored over and over again.” “People think, oh, they just rap about this, or they’re just rapping about, like, the easy rhyme scheme or the easy — but to be in a studio and write five songs a day, seven days a week about new topics and make it sound different, it’s very, very impressive.” “It is a sport. It is a sport to it.” “Instead of one song for a week, it’s five songs a night, and you keep it pushing.” “Not that our artistry isn’t appreciated, but it’s more so like, all right, how fast are we getting this done?” “And I’m just saying that the unprofessional rap culture is what I’m a kid of. Guys were like, I’m just a street cat, and I’ll rap.” [rapping] “I jumped off the porch and bought me a gun.” “I just want people to know that, like, you’re not Jay-Z, you’re not a failure.” “It’s about you, whether you’re writing on a phone, a piece of paper, punching in, off the dome. It doesn’t matter.” “Rapping to me, coming from, like, how I feel right then and there. Like me writing down ain’t going to be the same energy of me saying it.” “You can’t really hold your technique over a younger generation’s head, right? Ultimately, it is about just getting the best end result.” [rapping] “I respect it all because it all takes work, and it all takes thought. Whether you’re sitting over a pad or you got to spend four hours figuring it out, piecing it together, punching in, if the end, result moves people, and mostly, the art is worth it.”

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