First let me tell that I don't have any kind of prior knowledge of music. What I have done upto now is, I have listened every album of Eminem and Linkin Park. Nowadays I'm listening 50cent and Yellawolf. I tried to listen old rap of NAS, 2-pac etc but I didn't find it as good as Eminem's music is. In this question I will only ask about hip-hop music(Rap). The basic question is, how should I start learning rap music. But I'll make the question a little branched. I have already searched online for how to learn rap but could not find something satisfactory. The problem is that internet suggest that I do not need any musical knowledge for learning rap. It says just listen to some rappers, take a beat, try your own rap! E.g. this website suggest something along these lines. So the questions,

  1. Is Rap music?

The question may sound strange, but this question pops up everyday in my mind. Most of the online sources suggest something like, rap is not music or at least not conventional music. Whenever I watch some youtube video people would comment, oh this is not music, they are just talking or looping which is cheating, they stolen a beat and a chorus and made a song. At least wikipedea says that rap is a specific genre of music. So I think rap is music.

  1. Do I need to learn conventional music for learning hip-hop music(rap)?

I searched on internet, how the popular rappers learned rap. What I found is that most of the artists learned it by directly listening the rap music, they understand what the rapper does in the song, recognize their techniques, and finally developed their own techniques, flow and style. I wonder how they make melodic rap then. Do I need to learn conventional music for making melodic rap e.g. just like Eminem's songs are, like 50 cent's choruses.

  1. Which books, videos or other resources should I follow?

Another curious and strange question I'd ask is,

  1. Can Rap be played on a musical instrument?

I only need yes/no type answer. A concise explanation would also be fine. The reason I'm asking this strange question is because I want to make sure that what I am going to learn is at least music. If something can be played on a piano or a harmonium then for sure it is music.

  • 4
    Can I suggest that in future you limit yourself to one question at a time as per the site guidance. Luckily in this instance you have some excellent answers.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 22:14
  • 2
    "yes, no, everything, yes". You'd be hard pressed to find any kind agreed-upon definition of music that excluded hip-hop. There are genres far less traditionally musical that are still considered music.
    – naught101
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 5:09
  • For a great video on the first one, check out 12-tone's video youtu.be/cvmm0f92L-k
    – user45266
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 7:27
  • @naught101 I'd even go so far as "it doesn't matter, it's not required, anything you can find, yes but differently".
    – user45266
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 7:30

5 Answers 5


Taking them one at a time:

Is Rap music?

Yes, or rather, Hip-Hop is, but in many ways it is meta-music. Going back to "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang (the first release of the music beyond it's core audience), it took and recontextualized the bass line to Chic's "Good Times". The DJ technique is to take pieces of pre-existing songs and recontextualize them, be it as overt as Vanilla Ice taking a Queen bassline for "Ice Ice Baby" to the thousands of small, manipulated samples in albums like De la Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising and the Beastie Boys' *Paul's Boutique".

Rap is a vocal technique, Hip-Hop is the music and the culture. Boogie Down Production's KRS-ONE took a verse on a song on REM's Green album, which is an example of Rap which is not Hip-Hop, and "Pump Up The Volume" by MARRS is an example of Hip-Hop without Rap.

Do I need to learn conventional music for learning hip-hop music(rap)?

Many hip-hop musicians don't know much about conventional music beyond listening to it. Scratching a record, a core DJ technique, is all about rhythm and not about melody and harmony, but that isn't all of what goes in.

Rap, as a vocal style, is not usually too melodically strong. At least that's my take. I've heard rappers grab a melody, like KRS-ONE taking Billy Joel's "Still Rock and Roll to Me" in BDP's "The Bridge Is Over", but it isn't melodic like you'd expect from more traditional singers.

A failing I see is not seeing that Hip-Hop Music is mostly defined by rhythm, not melody and harmony. I have heard talented violinists, for example, trying to play classical compositions over beats and not really satisfying the requirements of either genre, at least to my ears.

But there are certainly gifted musicians in the genre. Flavor Flav seems like just the hype man of Public Enemy, for example, but is a musical prodigy who can play fifteen instruments.

Can Rap be played on a musical instrument?

The Roots and Jay-Z say so.

If voice is counted as an instrument, all you need is a rapper, and a capella is certainly music. Add a beatboxer and you have the rhythm reinforced. Beyond that, if you have musicians that can cover the song you're otherwise sampling, or just drive the beat you want, you have Hip-Hop on instruments.

  • Exactly what is Hip Hop? I've heard songs that I am told are "Hip-Hop" but don't know what characteristics lead to that classification. Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 18:43
  • 1
    @RockinCowboy I think that would be a good question to pose perhaps. I know the answer is not simple.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 18:46
  • Seems unfair that you don’t get credit for 4 answers. :- )
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 18:48
  • @amalgamate - I was thinking it might be a simple answer such as music created with samples verses real instruments. I am afraid a question such as that would be put on hold as being opinion based. Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 19:15
  • 1
    @amalgamate disagree with what? Counting vocals as an instrument. I don't say that vocals aren't instrument what I mean is that in my question I am excluding vocals as instrument.
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:35

A fascinating question I have also pondered - here are my thoughts. Someone once told me music is anything with rhythm and/or tone. Rap has both of theses.

1) As a kid of the 90's, I completely identify with this question. The other day, my parents gawked at the mere mentioned of rap and asked, "Rap? Is that still going on?!" Of course rap is music. Spoken poetry accompanied with music has become it's own paradigm, with jazz and blues. And yes, rap is included in this paradigm. It isn't going away.

Furthermore, the ability to improvise poetry is not an easily learned skill. It requires a large vocabulary and quick wit.

2) Knowledge empowers. I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that learning conventional music theory would deter your skills in rap music.

3) This might come off as odd, but I would check out some poetry. Yes, I mean the Edgar Allen Poes, the Shakespeares, the Robert Frosts, however, I would also suggest reading the lyrics of other musical artists. Check out some Pink Floyd, check out some musicals, check out some hymns.

4) Can instruments rap? Eh, I guess they could be made to, however musical instruments sometimes play a huge part in the making of rap music. The Roots, Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys - tons of rap artists use instrumentation over backing tracks or DJ's to make their music. Personally, I find rap with instrumentation more appealing.

  • 1
    I would add that modern books about song writing often include resourses not intended specifically for rap, but inspired by rap: how to set up rhyming using partal rhymes and forced rhymes to expand your range of possibilities.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 16:49
  • I was thinking of The Roots myself, check out this interview: npr.org/2013/06/24/190420270/…
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 16:55
  • How do rappers make chorus? Do I need to study conventional music to make chorus or melodic music or tone? Can we imitate arbitrary speech on piano? Once my brother's friend showed me a video in which two tabla players were talking to each other by playing tabla.
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 17:03
  • Music is what you make it, why worry too much about defining limits and boundaries. What do you mean by chorus? I can think of a few definitions that fit the context.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 17:14
  • I am finding it hard to make a distinction between conventional music and rap. Could you tell me what is the difference between them? E.g. In the song Bad Guy at about 5:13, is Eminem rapping or singing? This last verse strucks me hard. I want to learn that kind of music. Is that rap or conventional music?
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 17:15

Is Rap music? Yes of cause it is.

Do I need to learn conventional music for learning hip-hop music(rap)?

No but it helps, many artist know how to play musical instruments

Which books, videos or other resources should I follow?

You need to listen to more artist and types of rap old and new. Expand what you listen to there is so much more richness and different styles then those rappers you mentioned.

Try some:


  • RA Rugged man


  • WU Tang
  • NWA

Old School

  • EPMD

Story Telling

  • ja rule the damaja - you can't stop the profit
  • Young MC

Hard/Horror core

  • Necro
  • Jedi Mind tricks (Vinnie Paz)

Fun / light

  • Humpty Hump - Humpty Dance
  • Will Smith

International Overseas rappers. Some good Australian and UK hip-hop. Dizze Rascal, Hilltop hoods


  • Tribe called quest

etc. Once you have this broad understanding of what HIP HOP is you will be much better equipped to try your hand at it.

Can Rap be played on a musical instrument?

As other have said rap is the voice which can be used with any musical instrument. See Dance with the Devil (Immortal Technique song) where he uses Francis Lai - Love Story piano

for his melody.

Or learn from any KRS ONE songs. Where he teaches "Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is something you live"


Short answers: 1) Yes, rap is music. 2) No, you don't need to learn conventional music, but it can definitely help. 3) There are no specific books or resources you should follow. Develop your own style based upon what you already know, and incorporate any new knowledge, further developing it. 4) Yes, there are plenty of instrumental covers of rap music.

Long 'answers' - I hope no one takes any offense, OP included:

I'll assume you aren't trolling and you truly have these questions... You seem to be seeking definitive answers to questions that have no definitive answers. Leaving textbook or dictionary definitions out of it, the concept of music is one that is defined by individual perception and interpretation. What is music to one person may not be to another, and neither person is right nor wrong. Your subsequent questions rely on a definitive answer to the first.

But, casting that aside for now, the main issue is differentiating between rap, rap music, and hip hop music. I'll leave hip hop as a culture out of this. Again, this is all open to interpretation, especially considering that a lexicon is based on usage and is both regional and cultural. So, this is all from my perspective as a non-hip hop musician in the southern US. Rap is, as has already been pointed out, a vocal technique - or more specifically it is rhythmically improvising or reciting rhymes or verses. Rap music, which is generally what people seem to refer to when they use the term 'rap', is essentially rapping to music. Hip hop music is a broader genre that generally encompasses rap music. Making it more confusing, genres have a tendency to blur over time and the music industry loves crossover appeal in order for a song to reach wider audiences.

Do you need to learn 'conventional music' for learning rap music? No, but that really depends on what you're trying to do and what you personally consider to be rap music. I am a classically trained musician, but I know many songwriters, producers (amateur counts right?) and even musicians that have no formal knowledge of music theory, and I consider them better than myself in what they try to achieve. Listening to a lot of music tends to give one an innate understanding, whether they know what musical terms different concepts are called or not. It can definitely help though.

Naming resources isn't useful without knowing what your goal is. If your goal is to sell your music through any of the currently generally available avenues, you're on a hard road of discovery and learning no matter where your talents lie. If your goal is to make music, then pick up a pencil, tap it on the table, and make up some rhymes to the beat. :) If you're really serious about it, I'd recommend downloading a trial of a DAW like FL Studio and playing around with it. Try creating basic renditions of your favorite songs. Learn how to make basic beats and/or melodies. Download other people's projects and see how they fit together. Then play around with your own ideas. I'm sure there is a multitude of much simpler music creation software, but I am not familiar with any of them. There's probably an app for that.

As far as whether you can play rap on an instrument, I'll start with the assumption that you're discounting vocals as an instrument. If you consider Linkin Park rap then check out Eklipse - In the End. The problem is whether you consider their version rap. Probably not. If you play a rap song on a classical instrument (again, discounting vocals), then is it rap at that point? I'd say no, since I consider rap music to be rapping to music. But can you have instrumental hip hop music, or instrumental versions of hip hop music? Absolutely. Just search for a hip hop song (or just 'hip hop') adding the word instrumental. Some will be a hip hop song without lyrics. Some will be a completely different genre version of a hip hop song.

  • What I want to learn is the type of music Eminem, 50 cent linkin park, Matalica etc makes. The Eklipse-In the End removes the rap portion of Mike Shidona. After searching hip-hop-instrumental I got only the beats. I take it as that rap cannot be played on piano. Thanks for your answer, it is helpful.
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 5:50
  • user31782 - those 4 are entirely different from one another so that doesn't help at all. Some guy's point is key though - listen to the stuff you like, sing/rap it etc.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 9:50
  • @DrMayhem I guess Eminem and 50's music is similar--hip-hop. And linkin park and Metalica's are similar-- metal(LP has rap too). My mission is not to be able to sing or rap. I want to understand it.
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 17:02
  • You misunderstand - if you are trying to understand it you need to realise how different they are from each other, and this can only be done by listening.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 17:24

I think the answer to "Can Rap be played on a musical instrument?" is no. If you meant can rap music use musical instruments then of course, but you will have heard that in the music you already mentioned.

So I think you are asking "can you have rap music that only uses instruments, and no vocals"? i.e. Can you have instrumental rap music?

I don't think you can. You could certainly write a classical piece which followed the same patterns as a rapper's flow but I don't think you could say that piece is rap.

  • 1
    Instrumental Hip-hop is definitely a thing though.
    – naught101
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 5:12
  • @naught101 could you post a youtube/soundcloud link of something you consider in this category? I'm not quite sure what you mean, exactly.
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 9:39
  • 1
    Have a look at the instrumental section on the Hiphop Production page on Wikipedia. Some most artists have been affiliated with vocalised Hiphop acts at some point. I would recommend checking out DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus' early stuff, and Hermitude. Grandmaster Flash also puts of amazing live breakbeat shows.
    – naught101
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 9:56

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