I am not a proffessional producer. I have done some recording and working with some rappers (mostly close friends or friends of friends), but it was always on an hobby base.
Do most rappers start with a drum track and add lyrics on top?
As from my (little) experience... Yes. Most rappers I have worked with so far are picking beats they like and then write their lyrics down while listening to that beat. This has the advantage, that you already have a rythmical structure to which you have to align your words and you have a arragenement (intro, verse, chorus etc.) which gives the songs structure. The beat will also most likly dictate what kind of song this will be. (Like an aggressive, in your face beat will most likly not end up to be used for a love song).
Of course the other way around is also a possibility. But I think its harder do find a matching beat to your lyrics than writing lyrics to an already existing beat. If the text comes first you also may have to take some compromises on the lyrics to make them fit. Also the beat needs to fit to the overall "feeling" of the song (rythmically and timbre wise).
Another possibility would be to create the beat yourself. This way you can make it fit perfectly for your desire.
If I try rapping alongside anything I compose, it always feels like
one syllable falls between beats, or that the important words don't
fall on the important beats.
I don't think there should be one syllable per beat. This would most likeley sound strange (which does not have to be something bad). It's way more common to have more syllables per beat. You just have to align the syllables in a rythmical way to fit the overall rythmical feeling of your beat.
It's nice to have important parts of your lyrics (like in your example this could be a good punch line) to be emphasized by the instrumental. But when your lyrics are already finnished, its hard to find an instrumental to fit everything. Here are some ideas to deal with such situations:
- Sometimes you can try to break with some common convention to gain the
- You could try to contact the producer of the song and ask him to rearrange the instrumental for you
- You can try to cut the instrumental with some audio software and rearrange the parts to be more likly to fit your lyrics yourself
- Rearrange your lyrics (you maybe have to make some compromises)
- Choose a beat before writing the lyrics
- Produce the beat yourself or ask a producer to produce the beat with you together.
I guess the most common way would be to just choose an instrumental first.