3. Main (lead) vocals
Rappers generally like their vocals dry and free of noticeable reverb; the reason for this is that reverb reduces intelligibility, which makes it difficult to understand what a rapper is saying when they're rapping quickly.
Look, sometimes it is necessary to have reverb on the rappers vocals, so have a look at using pre-delay to separate the reverb tail from the vocal to keep the vocals nice and present in the mix. See if you can use a pre-delay time that is in sync with your session tempo. This will make the reverb sound a bit more musical.
An old school vintage technique to keep sounds upfront and still give them space is slap back delay. It works really well on guitars, vocals and drums. Typical of slap back is a single echo (repeat), and very fast or short delay times usually between 40-120ms.
Slap back delay can be quite difficult to hear, especially when a short delay time is used, and the feedback signal is mixed at a low level. When you A/B (compare) the effect, on a solo part the difference is quite obvious, but in the context of a complete dense mix with lots of other parts, the delay result is often something you ‘feel ‘more than you hear.
Once you’ve set your slap back delay, you can get really creative by adding filters and modulation as well.
Your objective with main rap vocals is all about control. You want to highlight the edginess of the vocal and add depth, character and space, without losing the intelligibility and upfront focus.
Doubles and Ad-Libs
Doubles and ad-libs are scattered throughout most rap songs, and this is where you can be nice and creative with effects, as they don’t have to be clear and upfront. You can use delay, chorus, flanging, reverb and distortion.
Use the effects on the double vocals and ad libs to add contrast and interest to the various parts of the song.
You need to be thoughtful in how you approach the record and mix stages for a rap session, or you could land up with a bit of a nightmare to mix out.
The aim is to manage and control the energy and keep the energy of the performance , so to sum it all up:
1. Use a dynamic microphone (or a combo of condenser & dynamic).
2. Use a fast reacting compressor that has character (check out the Quick Dial Compression Series)
3. Keep lead vocals dry and upfront (or use the slap back delay technique).
4. Apply different effects to the doubles and ad libs in the track to keep things fresh and interesting.