14 Rap Rhyme Schemes Every Rapper Should Know

14 Rap Rhyme Schemes Every Rapper Should Know 14 Rap Rhyme Schemes Every Rapper Should Know

There’s something inexplicably alluring about a rapper that has a good flow. 

Great flow comes from when a rapper can easily glide over a beat without any interruption or kinks in their rhythm. Of course, while a lot of this has to do with the way they articulate and the lyrics they choose to use, most of it has to do with their rhyme scheme.

Utilizing different rhyme schemes is the best way to captivate a listener. 

While almost every genre of vocal music uses rhyme schemes in some facet, ultra-rhythmic genres like hip-hop and rap take rhyme schemes to the next level. 

As a rapper or songwriter, you may have experienced the all too familiar struggle of getting to the end of a near-perfect line without any way to cap it off with a rhyme. What you might not have known is that there were several different rhyme approaches you could have taken in that instance, and today, I’m going to show you how to get out of your rhyming ruts and start crafting fresh, intricate raps with unique rhyming patterns that will no doubt blow your listeners away.

What are Rhyme Schemes?

Since the dawn of poetry, writers have used rhyming to establish rhythm and structure. In reality, songwriting is just poetry put to music, and with that in mind, we can use the same key rhyming tools to make our songs more interesting. 

A rhyme scheme emphasizes key aspects or ideas in your lyrics, providing a basic framework so that you can organize your thoughts into a coherent progression for your listeners. 

No matter what kind of music you make, rhyme schemes can also help create rhythmic flow, making your ideas feel slightly more predictable for the listeners. In this case, having a slight bit of predictability is a good thing. 

Lastly, songs that use consistent and thoughtfully chosen rhyme schemes are often more memorable. There’s a reason you remember all of the nursery rhymes you were taught as a kid.

The beauty of having many common rhyme schemes to choose from is that we can keep our lyrics from sounding overly predictable or cheesy. Though you remember those nursery rhymes from your childhood, you probably don't want your raps to sound like them.

In its simplest definition, a rhyme scheme is a pattern of end rhymes . Most music and writing academics will teach rhyme schemes with letters of the alphabet. When two lines rhyme with one another, they get the same letter.

In the popular ABAB rhyme scheme, for example, the 'A' lines would rhyme with one another and the 'B' lines would rhyme with one another. However, we'll also use the letter 'X' in rhyme schemes to indicate two lines that do not rhyme.

Four Line Rhyme Schemes

To start, let's take a look at some of the most popular four-line rhyme schemes, which are rhyme schemes made up of four lines.


The ABAB rhyme scheme might be the most popular four-line rhyme scheme out there, especially in rap music. Some people also refer to this rhyme scheme as alternate rhyme.

To use it, you can rhyme the first and third lines with one another, and the second and fourth lines with one another using a different vowel sound.

Below is an example of ABAB in the song "Black Beatles" by Rae Sremmurd

That girl is a real crowd pleaser (A)
Small world, all her friends know me (B)
Young bull livin' like an old geezer (A)
Release the cash, watch it fall slowly (B)


The XAXA rhyme scheme is very similar to the ABAB scheme, though the main difference is that you have two non-rhyming lines in the mix.

The first and third lines should not rhyme with one another, though the second and fourth lines should.

I like this as a simple rap rhyme scheme, as it isn't as predictable as ABAB. It sounds far more natural, almost as if you were having a conversation with someone. Many contemporary hip-hop artists and songwriters will use this rhyme scheme in their songs.

One great example of XAXA off the top of my head is Johnny Cash's "Hurt," which uses the lyrics:

I hurt myself today (X)
To see if I still feel (A)
I focus on the pain (X)
The only thing that’s real (A)


This rhyme scheme, sometimes referred to as monorhyme , uses all the lines with the same end rhymes. I wouldn't use this rhyme scheme too heavily in a mix, as it can get extremely predictable. However, if you're building tension during a specific part of a track, it can do wonders.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas and Billy Ray Cyrus makes use of AAAA rhyme scheme:

I got the horses in the back (A)
Horse tack is attached (A)
Hat is matte black (A)
Got the boots that's black to match (A)


AABB is another popular four-line rhyme scheme in which the first two lines rhyme and the second two lines rhyme. Both of these pairs should have different rhymes at the end. Sometimes, you will hear people refer to this particular rhyme scheme as a couplet .

"Bye Bye Bye" by N'Sync offers a great example of AABB rhyme scheme:

Don't want to be a fool for you (A)
Just another player in the game for you (A)
You may hate me but it ain't no lie (B)
Baby bye bye bye (B)


I decided to pair these two rhyme schemes into one, as they’re very similar to one another. 

In either one, the idea is that one line is deliberately left open-ended, providing the writer with the flexibility to incorporate words that might be challenging or even impossible to find rhymes for. 

Plus, rather than having to solely focus on your rhymes, you can use this rhyme scheme to select words based on their meanings in the context of your overall lyrics. Plus, both these rhyme schemes create a subtle lyrical tension, which makes them tons of fun for the listener.

Note that some people will refer to these as "ABAA" and "AABA," though since they're both composed of one line that doesn't rhyme with anything, I feel it's proper to use an 'X' instead.

Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar's "Nile" is an excellent example of AAXA in a song:

Hey little buddy, where you goin'? (A)
I'm not sure, but I know I'm still in motion (A)
This ain't regular, I seen regular (X)
These streams may take me out to the ocean (A)


This particular rhyme scheme uses a couplet positioned in the center of a four-line poem or rhyme, sandwiched between two additional rhyming lines.

In terms of rhyme structure, it's inherently dynamic and fun to use, especially when you want to create a sense of continuity of forward motion in your lyrics.

One great example of the ABBA rhyme scheme can be found in "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor;

There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range (A)
His horse and his cattle are his only companions (B)
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons (B)
Waiting for summer his pastures to change (A)


The AXXA rhyme scheme provides plenty of room for improvisation, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. 

While the first and fourth lines in the stanza rhyme with one another, the two lines in the center do not, introducing an element of unpredictability.

There’s something quite appealing about the way the middle lines keep you suspended until the stanza resolves itself at the end. Note that some people will refer to this as the ABCA rhyme scheme.

Straight up, what did you hope to learn about here? (A)
If I were someone else would this all fall apart? (X)
Strange, where were you when we started this gig? (X)
I wish the real world would just stop hassling me. (A)

Note that the above example does not make use of a perfect rhyme, wherein the words have the same vowel and consonant ending (ex. fat and cat). Instead, it makes use of additive/subtractive rhyme, which is a form of near rhyme that uses the same vowel in the rhyme, plus or minus the end consonant (ex. here and me).


In this rhyme scheme, each line in the stanza will rhyme with the next, with the exception of the final line. More often than not, the last line will have more or fewer syllables than the proceeding three lines. Some people will refer to this rhyme scheme as AAAB.

One great example can be found in "Fix You" by Coldplay:

When you try your best but you don’t succeed (A)
When you get what you want but not what you need (A)
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep (A)
Stuck in reverse (X)


Does a song need to rhyme to be a great song?

Definitely not! 

In fact, there are many popular songs where none of the phrases use end rhymes! 

We call this scheme the XXXX rhyme scheme. Making it work can be quite difficult, so if a challenge is what you’re after, I’d recommend experimenting with it. 

In cases where songwriters and rappers use XXXX, emphasis is placed on the lyrical flow and rhythm rather than the rhymes. 

One great example of XXXX can be found in what is arguably one of the most popular songs of all time — "Hey Jude" by The Beatles.

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

You'll notice that I've underlined a few words in the chorus, which provide internal rhyme, rather than keeping the song devoid of rhyme schemes altogether.

Six Line Rhyme Schemes

If you feel you've moved past the basic rhyme schemes in your hip-hop lyrics and want to explore some more complex rhyme schemes, check out the notable rhyme schemes below, which use six lines rather than four.


The XXAXXA rhyme scheme offers a stanza that comes in two distinct sections, using rhymes that only land at the very end of lines 3 and 6.

The verse lyrics from Sarah McLachlan's "Angel' are a great example of XXAXXA:

Spend all your time waiting (X)
For that second chance (X)
For a break that would make it okay (A)
There's always some reason (X)
To feel not good enough (X)
And it's hard at the end of the day (A)


Another popular rhyme scheme in the six-line category is the AABCCB rhyme scheme, wherein the two first lines share a rhyme, the third line introduces a moment of unresolved tension, and the last two more lines follow suit with a rhyme, tailing off with the sixth line that rhymes with the third.

A great example of this rhyme scheme can be found in "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" by Dua Lipa:

I know it's hot (A)
I know we've got (A)
Something that money can't buy (B)
Fighting to fifths (C)
Biting your lip (C)
Loving too late in the night (B)


This rhyme scheme is a bit unusual, though it can create just the right amount of tension under the right circumstances. One of my favorite examples of this is in the song "Why Georgia" by John Mayer:

I am driving up the 85 (X)
In the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon (A)
Stuck inside the gloom (A)
Four more exits to my apartment (X)
But I am tempted to keep the car in drive (B)
And leave it all behind (B)


In this rhyme scheme, the two first lines rhyme, followed by a standalone line. That phrase then repeats itself, tying the entire six-line stanza off with a bow.

One great example of this complex rhyme scheme can be heard in "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin:

She says days go by (A)
I don't know why (A)
I'm walking on a wire (B)
I close my eyes (A)
and fly out of my mind (A)
Into the fire (B)

Final Thoughts - Going Beyond Basic Rhyme Schemes

When writing lyrics, you have several different possible rhyme schemes to choose from. Even beyond the main rhyme schemes above, you can use rhyming words as an internal rhyme or tie rhyme sequences together to create something beyond the conventional rhyme.

Experiment with using different rhyme schemes in your raps and I promise you'll come up with fantastic results that'll elevate the way people perceive your lyricism.

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