1. Expose Yourself To More Music
- Classical Music – No not Jay Z's classic album Reasonable Doubt, but old fashioned Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Debussy, or Rachmaninoff. Try to stay awake and you'll most definitely get a better idea as to how real music should be played and interpreted from a phrasing perspective.
- Popular Music – Today's radio hits, whether you love them or not, the reality is they make money. Analyze a few and see if you can find similar characteristics in both the music style and in the lyrics.
- Different Genres – Every genre commonly played today obtains influences from others, and there is plenty to learn from the perspective of people of different interests. Just a few songs of a genre you're not used to a day can really open up your musical ear.
- Obviously you should already be listening to plenty of your own genre of music, which brings us to our next point.
2. Be Brutally Critical in Your Analysis
Don't just listen to a verse, say you don't like it, then write it off; at least not at first. If you're not into a song is it possible the track is simply bad? Most of the time it will be! However, see if you can figure out what exactly it is about the song that's bad. Is it the production? Are the lyrics too simple or don't flow together? Is there an a cuss word in every sentence?
It may seem counter productive at first to analyze bad pieces of music, but if you can pinpoint exactly what makes someone else's flow unappealing, you will be less likely to make that mistake yourself.
3. Brush Up On Your Language Arts
Regardless of how boring you may find the subject, you can learn a thing or two from Shakespeare. Similar to listening to different styles of music helps you develop your own, embracing various types of sonnets and poetry can add a unique style to your work. Also, get very familiar with the various literary elements, don't be like all the mediocre rappers out there who can only compare two separate things using “like” or “as”. Considered to be one of the all time greatest rap tracks “I used to Love H.E.R.” by Common is actually an extended metaphor throughout all three verses, look it up.
4. Experiment As Much As You Can
You can read up on all the musical theory, lyrical styles, and literary elements your heart desires, but until you start applying what you've learned, no real progress has been made. Create random experiments writing 64 bars of music in 6/8 time signature with at least 7 metaphors (not similes), switching the beat to a jazz feel half way through, all while painting the imagery of downtown Chicago. Would this result in your first No. 1 hit single? Maybe, maybe not, either way that's not the point, the point is to develop your musicianship stronger and stronger. If you want to sell more than your competition it takes training like an elite.
All that's left to do is put in the work, use these tips and give yourself some time. In a very short while you'll be standing out from the other guys.