It was late night when I began to write in my diary of random thoughts about why I was inclined to written versus freestyle improvised flows. I was midway through my writing when other thoughts put me on pause for a moment. Let me just say that my intrigue with word and phrase origins is the root of my guilty pleasure in constantly digging until I get to the root of things- word origins included.
So I wondered what exactly is considered “Freestyling” in reference to Rap? Well from what I have heard and somewhat understand (again I don’t claim any expertise in this area) it is: improvising, the spontaneous method of throwing together bars on the spot over a beat or sometimes “acapella”. Freestyling is spittin’ bars that may not necessarily rhyme, but has a topic or message whether it be dissing, bragging or conveying. It definitely requires tremendous skill and practice I would think! I don’t think experiences would hurt either. In a battle, freestyling takes heart and kahuna-sized balls to do, which is something I just do not see my chickenbutt-self ever doing (at least in public! haha).
Dancers freestyle. Bboys and Bgirls freestyle. People in the Debate Club freestyle. Spoken word artists freestyle. Cooks freestyle (sometimes). Comedians freestyle. I freestyle in my own way. (Oops, did I go too far?) Spontaneity is fun and free. I appreciate it. But, still it seems that there inevitably must be some element of preparation involved whether or not it’s intended, it’s there. Maybe a lingering thought or line, or maybe a dance combo in the back of the mind that surfaces on the spot? Maybe I could also add that “freestyling” includes how you put together what you already have prepared, but on the spot. Hmm, that sounds about right too.
Back in the day, I remember thinking that the true test of one’s rap and rhyming skills was one’s ability to freestyle. I also remember live radio shows like Sway and Tech on The Wake Up Show, where one of their segments involved spotlighting MCs with random topics like say “Captain Crunch Cereal” and they flexed their skills by rhyming about that topic _on the spot_. I remember the excitement because it was live and even looking forward to particular faved artists.
My first thoughts? Being able to ad-lib and spit bars on the spot is definitely an amazing skill. Still, it may just be but one component of an MC’s “rapability” (yes, I am making up my own words! Haha). Since writing also happens to be a huge part of my background and interest, I can’t help but have a deep appreciation for written prose, metaphors, similes, etc. Sounds all fancy shmancy, but if you really break it down like they do in the 16-Bar Breakdown, it’s undeniable to find the multiple references, implications, wordplay, wit, metaphors, similes, expressions, (I could go on) without even mentioning the well-rounded knowledge that is expressed and implied within these Bars! So damn skilled and talented, a battle MC of this caliber would smash on any PhD of Poetry if ever the challenge was put forth- in my opinion! Ooh, I’d love to see that one day.
Freestyle VS Written? I wouldn’t think one should feel forced to choose a side on a Die Hard level. Admit though that good shit is good shit. Some MCs are better at presentation, freestyling, written, etc. However, just as even the greatest comedians pre-write their best stand-ups (something my naïve self only discovered later, believe it or not), I often lean towards written simply because there is so much thought put into it. You know you are getting someone’s hard work, time, effort, heart, and it is with absolute intention and purpose. Like, he or she clearly meant to clown on your oversized Dumbo ears- _something_ like that. Writing is thoughtfully constructed, and for that I have nothing but ridiculous respect and appreciation- even admiration.
Win or lose, I believe an MC deserves Googles of props and respect for both their freestyle and written skills.