Disclaimer: The following article features lyrics and music videos from rap songs. If you’re offended by such material, at work, or with a child, this might not be the article to look at right now!
When you think of hip hop music, the ukulele certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. You might think the two don’t mix well together – the serious and profane lyrics or rap music don’t seem to have much in common with the happy, high-pitched music of the ukulele. Well if you are thinking that, you’re dead wrong.
The juxtaposition of extreme opposites actually make hip hop songs on the ukulele extremely fun to play and sing along to! Adding a few hip hop songs to your ukulele songbook is certain to be a hit with your friends and family who otherwise might not care for the songs you’re playing. It can turn a low energy solo performance into a high energy sing-along party atmosphere.
What’s also great, is even if some people in your audience don’t know the song you’re playing, they’re likely to still enjoy it if they have a sense of humor. The often dirty rap lyrics sound hilarious sung to the chords of a ukulele and make listening along great fun.
Here’s everything you need to know to get started, and some examples of easy songs rap songs to play on the ukulele.
Hip Hop and Rap Ukulele Chords
One of the best parts of playing hip hop songs on the ukulele is the chords used are often very basic, and so are the strum patterns. What’s even better, is these skills are highly transferable from one song to the other. The main chords you’ll need to know are Am, C, G, D, F. See? I told you they were easy! Even beginner ukulele players can master these songs quickly.
Hip Hop and Rap Ukulele Strum Pattern
The strum pattern can differ from song to song, and you should really just try to feel out what sounds best or fits how you’re going to sing or rap the lyrics.
One key skill to successfully pulling off many rap songs is being able to “chunk strum” the ukulele. Click here for a detailed guide, but basically you’re strumming multiple fingers across your screen and instantly dampening them with your palm/thumb to add a nice percussion sound to the song.
Since percussion beats are so instrumental (haha) to rap songs, it really helps to add them into your ukulele music when it makes sense. You can learn the chunk strum in less than a day, just keep at it and it will become as fluid as a regular strum in no time.
Generally, one strum pattern that will fit many songs where you want to play at a fast pace is D-DU-UDU.
Another great strum pattern that works well for slower songs or songs where you want to add a chunk strum is D-X-U-UXU where each X represents a chunk strum.
If you’re having a hard time grasping the strumming patterns just by looking at them, don’t worry! We have a video below to show you each of them. Just practice the patterns daily (or use your own) and they’ll become stored in your muscle memory quickly.
To Sing or Rap?
The final thing we’ll cover before getting into our best ukulele rap songs list is how you should use your vocals. We suggest experimenting with both rapping the lyrics and singing them as if they’re a pop song, a la Ben Folds singing his famous rendition of B*tches Ain’t Shit. We like to use whatever fits the flow of the ukulele the best.
One other thing to consider is practicing playing a “clean” version of the song with edited lyrics, in case you want to bust it out in front of a younger (or older!) crowd that might be sensitive to adult language.
Easy Hip Hop and Rap Ukulele Songs
So, we told you how to play hip hop songs, but which ones work the best with the ukulele? We decided to pick out the best beginner friendly songs for the ukulele, and you can view our best beginner ukulele list if you’re in the market for a uke yourself.
We’ll start with our own compilation video of these songs being played so you can get a feel for how to play and sing them, then get into specifics after the video.
Birthday Song by 2 Chainz ft. Kanye West
This is our favorite ukulele rap song for the sheer absurdity of the lyrics. Before the first verse is even finished, you have such gems as “She got a big booty/ So I call her Big Booty” and “I’m in the kitchen/ Yams everywhere”. This is the quintessential song that displays how funny it is to mix raunchy rap lyrics with the sweet and innocent sounding ukulele.
Chords – Am C G D (repeat the entire song)
Strum Pattern: D-X-U-UXU (once per chord)
Original Song –
F**kin Problems – A$AP Rocky ft. Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Drake
This song features a lot of profanity (as you may have guessed by the title!), but it can be fun to play either explicit or by making your own hilarious “clean” version. Every verse of this song is amazing, and Kendrick’s verse at the end is really the icing on the cake as everyone shouts the most famous line from the song (Girl…).
Chords – Am, F, C, G
Strum Pattern – D-DU-UDU (2x per chord, strum at a fast pace)
Original Song –
Gangsters Paradise by Coolio
Here’s a 90’s classic that very friendly as far as rap songs go. No cursor and sexual content, and it’s popular enough that most everyone knows it. If you to, you could sing Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise” as well.
Chords – Am, C, G, D
Strum Pattern – either will work depending on your style, we prefer the strumming pattern (not chunk)
Original Song –
Just a Friend by Biz Markie
We’re going to keep it old school with another sing-along favorite – Biz Markie’s Just A Friend. This sing is great because you don’t need a talented voice at all to sing it. Once again, it’s completely family friendly. The melody is very fun to play and sounds great on the ukulele. The memorable line “OH SNAP! Guess what I saw!” is a crowd-pleaser every time.
Chords – C, Dm, G
Strum Pattern – D-X-U-UXU (you’ll go through the pattern twice for C, four times for Dm, then twice for G)
Original Song –
Get Low by Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz
Get Low was one of the biggest songs of the 2000’s for music of any genre and instantly became a staple at school dances and weddings alike… which is all the more shocking when you go through and read just how dirty the unedited song is. You can stick with the radio edit (seen below) if that’s more comfortable for you.
Get Low on the Ukulele sounds best when sung pop-style rather than try to rap it. The deep, harsh tone of voice they use just doesn’t work with the chords.
Chords – C, G, Am, F
Strum Pattern – D-DU-UDU (once per chord, strum at a fast pace)
Original Edited Song –
Move by Ludacris
Another 2000’s rap hit, Move can sound good on the ukulele but it’s a bit more difficult to do than other songs.
You start by playing two down strums on a regular B-flat. Then, play a B chord with the same two down strums. You’ll notice you kept your hand in the same exact position, but simply slid it from starting at the first fret down to start at the 2nd. For your last chord, keep the same exact hand position but slide you hand down to the 4th fret and strum again.
So keeping your hand in the shape of a B chord, you’re moving between frets in this pattern – 1st, 2nd, 4th, 2nd (repeat). Once you get past the intro, you may want a more aggressive strum pattern.
Chords – Sliding B/Bb
Strum Pattern – Make your own!
Original, heavily edited song –
Here’s a list of tips as you try to find other hip hop songs you can play on ukulele
- Not every song is going to work. Hip hop songs have a huge range of beats and many don’t use a guitar like pop songs do, so some songs just aren’t going to translate to ukulele.
- When in doubt, try this chord pattern – Am, C, G, D. The Real Slim Shady by Eminem, Stronger or Jesus Walks by Kanye West, and So Fresh So Clean by Outkast, and tons more all work great with this chord pattern and some variation of the strum patterns above. Sometimes you’ll need to find a different chord pattern for the chorus, but often you can use the same chords all the way through.
- Have fun with it. Learning a musical instrument as an adult is supposed to be fun! When you’re playing a hip hop song on the ukulele, you can really loosen up and not worry about hitting the right pitch as you sing along.
Have a different rap song you love to play on your ukulele? Share with us below!