1. Focusing too much on content
I think flow is more important than great lyricism. I think if you had to have one and not the other, I would always go with flow over lyricism. There are people whose lyricism is great, but their flow makes it so I can’t listen to them. Because it’s music—at the end of the day, it’s music. You’re listening to it because of the feeling you get from it and the way that it makes you move and what it does to your soul and your spirit when you hear what’s going on. It’s music, and so before words are even involved in music, it really is about the feel.
2. Picking the wrong beats
B-Real, Cypress Hill
I pick beats by the way they hit me when I hear it. If it calls out to me in some sort of way, in any way, then I’ll most likely pick it to try to write something to it. If it doesn’t hit me at all, like not even interest me at all, then I’ll bypass it, it doesn’t matter whose beat it is. I have to feel comfortable on it—I have to be inspired by it and excited by it, otherwise it might not be a good song.
3. Copying other rappers’ styles
Don’t try to be the next whoever—be the first you. That’s a lot easier said than done, of course, because when I started rhyming, I was trying to sound like King Tee, or whoever was in my tape deck at that time.
4. Writing in your head
Evidence, Dilated Peoples
I know a couple of rappers who can write in their heads, and it’s really dope in the studio session itself, but the people who listen to your records don’t care—the people just want to like your music, they just want to enjoy it.
5. Not being on beat and in time to the music
Having the rhythm to being able to stay on beat, it made me sort of like a percussionist. I always wanted to play drums, so if you listen to my flow it’s like I’m beating on bongos or something.
6. Not spending time studying rapping and working on your craft
Big Pooh, Little Brother
Nobody becomes great overnight, I don’t care if you’re rapping, if you’re playing ball, whatever—nobody becomes great overnight. It’s a constant work in progress, and you have to constantly work. Practice—you gotta take it seriously, you gotta really want to elevate your game, you gotta really want to step your game up. You have to really want to do this for real—you can’t come at it with a half-assed attitude. If you really want to get better, you gotta work at it, man.