Indie Artist | Does Choruses Matter In Hip Hop?

Indie Artist | Does Choruses Matter In Hip Hop?

Choruses (Hooks) are short sets of lyrics that are repeated more than once in a song. They’re also known as hooks because they’re designed to “hook” the listeners and stay in their heads. Most MCs agree that the chorus can be a huge factor in how well a song is received.

Guerilla Black
The hotter your hook is, the harder they can feel the record. If your hook is hot, they’ll take time to remember exactly what you said. Can [a listener] actually remember your whole first verse after he heard your song [maybe] five times? No, I don’t think so—but I think he can remember your chorus very fast. And if he can’t remember it within the first five times of hearing it, I bet you he at least knows a couple of words, especially the key words that make the song what it is to him in his mind.
Brother Ali
The chorus is a really important thing, and if the chorus isn’t right, [my producer] Ant won’t let a song happen.
Rampage, Flipmode Squad
I think if you have a big hook, then you got a record.
As hip-hop has evolved, choruses have become more important and elaborate, for better or worse. 
Tajai, Souls of Mischief

That’s changed a lot—when I first started rapping, the last words you said in your rap was the chorus, like [the verses ended with] “da-da daa, da-da da daa daaa . . . and I’m in controoool!” and the song was called “In Control,” and the chorus was like (mimics scratching) “I-I-I-In control.” Now it’s like you gotta have singers and all kinds of shit—the hook has definitely become more and more important in rap. Like, listen to Eric B. & Rakim, first album—how many hooks does he have? And that’s a classic album.
For some artists, writing a chorus is enjoyable (Akil the MC of Jurassic 5 says, “I love writing hooks—my specialty is writing hooks”), though many MCs find the chorus the hardest part to come up with.
Pharoahe Monch
A lot of times you write the verse as an MC and you get stuck on choruses.
Spider Loc
I force myself to try to think of the hook first because naturally the verses come first.

Structure of the Chorus

Choruses can theoretically be of any length, but they are usually four or eight bars long. Since they are meant to be repetitive and stick in the listener’s head, they work best when kept fairly short. Royce Da 5'9" says, “I don’t normally write my hooks down since they’re only eight bars. Normally I just come up with the hook, and then I just go in and say it.” Songs with choruses that are four bars long include Dead Prez’s “D.O.W.N.” and Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).” Songs with eight-bar-long choruses include Ludacris’s “Get Back” and Nas’s “One Love.”

Some hip-hop tracks have no chorus. This usually happens when an MC wants to focus purely on showcasing their lyrical skills or when the song is in the form of a story, and a repeated chorus may interrupt the progression of the plot. Classic examples are Eric B. & Rakim’s “No Omega” and Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.”

Many MCs like to write a simpler chorus and are not as densely packed with words as the rest of the lyrics. This makes the chorus more direct and easier for the listener to remember.

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