What is Wordplay in Rap?
Wordplay is very simple. The main idea is to play with literal and figurative meaning. The magic comes from the context.
So, you first think of a common saying, such as “a penny for your thoughts“.
What we mean by that is “Tell me what you’re thinking“. However, wordplay comes when you use the literal meaning. In our case, it could be:
I shot you in the head, then I left you a coin. Now that’s a penny for your thoughts.
This is the easiest way you could utilize wordplay. I have talked about that technique in depth in the manual, so be my guest to check it out.
The steps are simple to follow.
1 – You find a common saying
2 – Think of context that could work with the literal meaning
3 – Combine the two in a regular form
4 – Then you switch words around so you make the sentences rhyme and flow together.
common saying: keep something at bay
context: have a yacht
combination: Cars are not enough I keep something at bay.
Times have been good my riches here to stay
Cars are not enough I keep something at bay
Wordplay is not reserved just for common sayings. You can use wordplay on any figure of speech, as long as you can convey an unorthodox meaning to it via creative context. For example, the word “goal-keeper“.
The literal word is a sports term, used to describe the football player assigned to guard the goal post. However, using creative context, you could use the other meaning of the word. For example:
My friend keeps my vision in check, he’s my goal keeper.
How to Practice Wordplay?
This technique is only hard in the beginning. Once you know how to imagine creative context, then it’s a piece of cake. The best way to practice it, is to:
1 – Google “common sayings”,
2 – Choose one and write it down
3 – Uncover the literal meaning of the saying
4 – Think of a situation, where that literal meaning could be used. Imagine if the common saying didn’t have a figurative meaning. In which situation would you use it? For example, a piece of cake means easy, but what if it really meant a piece of cake.
5 – Combine the context with the common saying. In our case, it could be “I took what I wanted. It was a piece of cake,”
6 – Repeat the process until you feel you could do it automatically.
Now this is the basic form of wordplay. If you are an advanced user, you could try thinking of phrases, that have 2-3 meanings at the same time. For example, Rick Ross had a bar that went: “Go to Hell, Any nigga wanna buy my soul“. So it could mean you can fuck off if you want to buy his soul, or you gotta go to hell if you want to buy it off, because he already sold it.
Don’t rush it though, just focus on learning how to use literal meanings and build creative context to support it and over time, your lyrics can go cryptic as well. Good luck.