Learn English with Rap: Slow the Flow (Ugly Duckling)

Are you studying English to find a better job? Or maybe you need to pass an English exam. Either way, I’m sure that your necessity to learn the language is making you stressed and even a little anxious. Well, all I will say to you is…


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Sometimes when things seem too difficult, it can be caused by a lack of creativity. So, what better way to be creative than, diversifying your English learning experience with RAP MUSIC!

With this song “Slow the Flow,” besides practicing your English rhythm and flow, you’re going to:

  • Learn how to pronounce ING to sound more natural and fluent
  • Learn expressions for stress and relaxation
  • Learn new vocabulary related to daily activities
  • Open your mind to an alternative method of language learning

In this article, we are going to focus all our rapping skills on an underground rap group from Long Beach California called, Ugly Duckling. This group has been around since the early 90’s and still produces music to this day.

The reason I chose this band was because of their relaxed vibe and cool lyrics. Unlike a lot of mainstream rappers, Ugly Duckling rap about everyday problems, which make it easier for us to relate to.


The reason I prefer to use rap music to teach English, is because Rap music has more to offer to a language learner, compared to other music genres. One of the benefits of rap is that the phonetics are very similar to general spoken English. Listening and repeating rap songs is ultimately going to help your pronunciation, and give it a more natural flow when speaking.

Another benefit is that rap music is full of colloquial expressions and slang. If you’re a real rap fan, you will notice how the vocabulary changes from group to group, country to country, etc.

To learn more about getting a natural flow to your English, take a look at a previous RLE article.
How to learn English with Rythm and flow

Let’s take a look at the clip
[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDtE6XXCAbw” width=”600″ height=”400″]

Slow the flow, relax your mind
Gain control, take your time
Slow the flow, relax your mind,
Gain control, take your time

Verse 1

It’s half past 8 and you’re late for work
Your stopped in gridlock and you’re berserk
Put in overtime 5 days a week
Pullin’ out your hair for stress relief
But you gotta compete so you get no sleep,
You want the good life but it don’t come cheap
Climbin to the top of the totem pole,
You’ll fall and break your neck man slow the flow


Gridlock – A traffic jam in which no vehicular movement is possible
Mentally or emotionally upset
When you have to work extra hours at work
Pulling out your hair-
An expression used to show frustration
It don’t come cheap-
To say that you have to work hard and pay a lot for a life of luxary
Climbing to the top of the totem pole- A Totem pole is a native American mythological symbol.

Verse 2

Now I’m from southern California
home of the laid back
we don’t go lookin’ for a needle in a haystack
and I say that
in a subdued mood
kick it on the beach, eat a little mexican food
but you, I understand,
what’s the rush?
Mad like you missed the bus
Another one’s comin’ in about ten minutes
Man you don’t gotta push yourself to the limit


Laid back- Having a relaxed or casual atmosphere or character
Looking for a needle in a haystack-
An expression that means something is really hard, nearly impossible.
The state you are in, “he’s always in such a bad mood.”
Kick it-
Relaxing and hanging out at a place. “Let’s kick it at the party tonight.
What’s the rush-
Missed the bus- When you don’t get to the bus stop in time you miss the bus.

Verse 3

Forget about the weekdays,
ready for the weekend
bring your swim trunks and jump into the deep end
For a minute or two
and take a look at the view
I guarantee you’ll see something new
We only have two seasons; summer and spring
So rock your flip flops and your cutoff jeans
If you live in Long Beach then you know that I mean
California dreamin’ where it’s all routine


Swim trunks- Shorts used for swimming
To rock – 
To wear the clothes in a very cool way
Flip flops- 
Rubber sandals, also known as jandals, chinelo, thongs (Australia)
Cutoff jeans- 
 When you cut you jeans to make them shorts

A situation comes that so soon is past
and you’ll catch whiplash movin so
quick fast
You’re looking for satisfaction; mistaken again
King Solomon said it like chasin the wind,
you need to slow down start takin’ it in.

Whiplash- An injury in your neck or spine from moving your head to quickly. Very common in car accidents.
Chasing the wind- 
To chase something you will never catch
Taking it in- 
To absorb something


You will notice in this song that when a verb is in the continuous “ING,” they don’t pronounce the “G” sound. This is not just common in Rap music, but in spoken English in general.

The common rule for the “ing” pronunciation is that it usually takes on the sound of the last consonant of the verb. For example.


But as you English improves, and you start to work on the flow of your pronunciation, you’ll see that instead of pronouncing the full “ING” sound, you can just use a single “N” sound. For example.



With this song we have just learnt 2 new and cool ways to express relaxation, “laid back” and “to kick it.” Now I’m going to expand on that topic and teach you some more ways of expression not just relaxation, but some cool expressions for those stressful work related situations too.


Chill out- To be in a relaxed state, usually after doing something that has consumed your energy. “I’ve worked so hard today. I can’t wait to go home and chill out.”

Take it easy- To relax, be less tense. “Why are you always pulling your hair out, you should take it easy!!”

Go with the flow- To agree with others or do what they are doing because it’s easier and stress free.



Up to my neck in it- This expression is used to express that you have so much work to do you don’t know where to start. “I’d love to grab a beer tonight but I’m up to my neck in it.”
An alternative expression could be ‘up to my eyeballs.’

Up shit creek without a a paddle– A Scottish slang term meaning to be stuck in a bad situation without anyway of fixing it. The bad situation being ‘shit creek’ and the ‘paddle’ being the solution.

Burnt out- Exhausted as a result of longtime stress. “I’m so burnt out that I don’t have any energy to go out on the weekends.”


How do you feel after listening, and learning, with this cool song? Relaxed? Laid back? Up to your neck in new words.

I hope this song has shown you how much you can learn with music, especially rap. Diversifying you English with a little bit of creativity might be just what you need to motivate your learning experience, and I’m sure it’s a lot more fun that the boring old grammar book.

Please help Real Life English help you by telling us some of your favorite rap songs that you think have helped or could help your English. All suggestions are valid and appreciated.

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  • very interesting

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Ese says:

    Wow! thanks a lot….. i’ve always had problems with pronunciation of words but it’s amazing how much i’ve improved after this lesson…. ^_^

  • Juan Chill says:


  • Juan Chill says:


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  • Phat Mai says:

    it seem interesting ! let's try it !

  • Srini says:

    I am kannadiga I want rap in english

  • Naveen chris says:

    Please help me I want do English rap