ARTICLE: That’s not a freestyle

That’s not a freestyle (By Timid)

In an interview by Angie Martinez on Hot 97 in New York, Jay-Z proposed a pay-per-view challenge against Nas consisting of each of them doing a show followed by 3 freestyles each. Jay-Z had this to say,

” :we end it off – he get 3 freestyles as we call ’em but you know they gonna be prepared… I prepared 3 :”

This is my issue this time around. Freestyles. How is there even a different interpretation of what freestyle is? Freestyling is spittin’ off the dome on the spot period; there should be no debate about that.

Too clarify my ramblings, there has been a tremor in the force. People have been calling prewritten verses ‘freestyles’ because they aren’t associated with a song. This is a total misrepresentation of the truth.

How is it that it is acceptable to call a prewritten verse a freestyle? A prepared verse isn’t a freestyle it’s a verse; a written. Any emcee with any type of honor or pride in their craft should not try and pass off a written verse as a freestyle. Now in the case of a mixtape for example, but really anywhere, if you are going to drop a prepared verse that’s fine but just don’t call it something it’s not. And a freestyle it most certainly is not.

Freestyle is an important part of hip hop in my opinion. It’s a valuable part as well especially to the emcee. Freestyling is an excellent tool to find your flow, get comfortable with it, define your style, and strive for that perfection. Freestyling is a class in itself and teaches how to find that rhythm. You can’t forget about the brain training you get through freestyling. What about the spontaneity, the creative expression, and the raw nature of this art form we call rap??? Hell it even looks good when they all bob up and down like that in a cipher.

Speaking of cipher. Honestly, if anyone feels that I’m off base here and overreacting, over dramatizing, or giving this issue a greater importance than it should have then take that prewritten ish to a cipher and see what happens. What : what?!? Heads will know and heads will call you on it.

I was sitting around with an emcee one day chatting after a recording session. That night at the club there was a freestyle contest going on. I let it be known that I was definitely going to check that out. This new jack emcee, let’s call him MC NoClue, says that there’s no reason to freestyle – nothing good comes out of it and you can’t make anything but simplistic rhymes in a freestyle. I almost threw him out. It’s a disgrace to trivialize it so. Now I know this rant sounds like something that belongs in a Temple of Hip Hop newsletter but it’s pretty disgusting.

I regularly attend an underground club that has an open mic for freestyling every week and it’s a beautiful thing. If you have never seen or heard or taken part in a real freestyle session you don’t know what you are missing. It’s a site to see. Not only to watch the emcees but watch the crowd too. It’s amazingly awe striking. If you think this is overemphasized then you underrate Hip Hop and the skills it takes. Take a listen to a 9:59 freestyle session on stage in Boston by Mr. Lif, Akbar and Akrobatik.

You gotta love that.

Today’s emcees are turning rap into a dying art; yeah I know – Temple of Hip Hop again. Let’s be real, in the beginnings of rap talking about “perpetrators” was commonplace, even today it’s referred to as “being real” or “keeping it real”. So even from the beginning to now there’s has been that honor element and it’s spoken of strongly today yet false freestyles and ghostwriters are common acceptable and widespread practices. How are you not perpetrating a fraud and keeping it real if you passing off something as something it isn’t?

Are emcees so image conscious now that even the spontaneous has to be planned out? Has hip hop gotten so corporate that even at the foundation it has to be structured so? Where’s the raw edge to it? Where’s the life in it? This isn’t the purest cut of hip hop there is, so in essence it isn’t real dope.

“…I prepared 3, I got like 50.”

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