How Many Lines Is A Bar In Rap?

Rap music is known for its popular use of the word “bar”. The word bar is most common in music production because it is a measure that is used in determining duration.

If you’re a hip-hop fan you’ve probably come across the term “16 bars”.

16 bars are considered the normal amount of bars that an emcee should record or rap to complete a verse.

In this post I’m therefore going to discuss how many lines constitute a ‘bar’ in rap/hip-hop.

With that said, let’s get right into it.

How many lines is a bar in rap?

One single line of words is what is considered a bar in rap.

The famous 16 bars in hip-hop points to 16 lines that are rapped over a beat to complete a verse.

In essence “bars” is simply a substitute for the word “lines”.

Bar dissection

To further understand bars let’s take an example of a hiphop song with a sixteen bar verse.

In this example I’m going to use Kendrick Lamars song called “Real” featuring Anna Wise.

I’m going to take the first verse of the song as an example which we are going to explore in this discussion.

Here are the lyrics to verse 1:

I promise that I know you very well/

Your eyes never lie even if they tell/

Sweet lullabies that come with a smell/

Of a dozen roses flippin’ down the green hill/

You living in a world that come with plan B/

Cause plan A never relay a guarantee/

And plan C never could say just what it was/

And your plans only can pan around love/

You love him, you love them, you love her/

You love so much, you love when love hurts/

You love red-bottom and gold they say queen/

You love hand-bag on the waist of your jean/

You love french tip and trip that pay for/

You love bank slip that tell you we paid more/

You love a good hand whenever the card dealt/

But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself/

With this example, each line is a considered a bar in rap music.

To make this easier, I’ve added a forward slash at the end of each bar or line to make things easier for you to understand.

The example above is the perfect representation of a complete 16 bar verse in hiphop or rap.

To basically understand this concept properly, I’d advise you to go to any streaming platform and listen to the song in the example.

This will give you additional knowledge as to how bars are treated when they’re rapped or performed.

How bars differ in rap

Let’s get into the actual bars themselves and briefly get an understanding of how they’re sometimes structured to make sense.

There’s a lot to know about writing hiphop music but I’m just going to go over the basic fundamentals.

The 2/4 bar correlation

Most of the times in rap music, rappers look to build Cohesiveness in a verse or chorus.

They want their writing to make sense for people that are listening.

Therefore some rappers will write and correlate 2 bars and then jump to something completely different in the next two bars.

In such situations a rapper gives the first line or bar as an introduction then goes to the nex bar to give context to the first line.

Some rappers even go beyond simply correlating two lines. Some may correlate even 4 lines.

A part of our example depicts this:

You living in a world that come with plan B/

Cause plan A never relay a guarantee/

And plan C never could say just what it was/

And your plans only can pan around love/

As you can notice in this example, Kendrick lamar paints a good picture in the four bars above.

There’s perfect flow in the bars that portray a complete thought.

The complete 16 bar depiction

Now that we’ve tackled correlation between 2 and 4 bars let’s get into complete 16 bar depictions.

In most rap lyrics where a rapper is telling a story there’ll be a correlation that spans over 16 bars or even more in certain cases.

There a lot of songs out there that express this and our Kendrick Lamar example is one of these.

He expresses a full story in 16 bars and touches on different subjects that are all connected.

Final Thoughts

A bar in rap is simply a single line which expresses half or a complete thought usually linked to the next line.

One bar in rap usually ends in a word which rhymed with, at then end of the second bar.

This is the reason why the acronym RAP stands for Rhythm and Poetry.

The more you listen to your favourite rap songs, the more you’ll learn about bars and lines and how they work together to form complete songs.

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