Learn How to Rap Like a Pro

Freestyle rap is an art form itself within the hip hop community. Originally, freestyle meant “unassociated content” so technically written song could be considered a freestyle. Over time, however, it came to mean “off the top” where a rapper delivers lyrics impromptu style, either alone or in a cypher (group of rappers together).

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While most talented rappers can freestyle to a certain extent, there seems to be a divide between the greatest written rappers and the greatest freestyle rappers. The most notable examples of freestyle rap champions in the past fifteen years have been Supernatural (who recently claimed the Guinness World Record for longest freestyle), Juice, Eyedea, TheSaurus and Illmaculate (2 time world champions recently). Despite their fame, none of these MCs have delivered an album that received critical acclaim.

Freestyling still remains a true indicator of a rapper’s skill, however, and is perhaps the single greatest way of building your reputation is the shortest time possible. Freestyle battles provide an avenue for up and coming rappers to demonstrate their lyrical prowess alongside bigger names. A rap battle generally consists of two rappers who have two one-minute rounds to effectively out think, outwit and outspit their competition. Most televised rap battles have rules regarding profanity and misogny, though most untelevised battles or those shown online like Jump Off TV’s freestyle rap tournament offer no constraints, allowing the rappers to be dirtier than a Richard Pryor comedy skit.

Freestyle rap also plays a vital role on radio. The nationally syndicated Wake Up Show featuring Sway and King Tech is a cornertone of rap culture and often invites well known emcees to spit freestyles on their show. They’ve included such notables as KRS One, Eminem, Atmosphere, Tech N9ne and Xzibit, and allowed all of them to demonstrate their freestyle prowess.

Freestyles also help writers feel out a song. Rather than combatting writer’s block, many MCs will simply freestyle with a beat to feel out its mood, while testing out different rhyme patterns and tempos to see which fits the best. It is said that Jay-Z doesn’t write his rhymes at all, but rather freestyles them in the booth before put together into a cohesive song. This is a grey area and raises an interesting question: If he’s freestyling parts of song, then putting together, is he really freestyling? Or just writing out loud?

MCs who freestyle rap- be it over mixtapes or the neighborhood- are in a lot of ways the guardians of hip hop. They’re the ones who are living the culture truly in the moment (much like B-boys and B-girls), as low to the ground as possible. While some rappers may go platinum and start resting on their laurels, the freestyle rappers are out there sharpening their skills every day.

How to Rap Off The Top in 3 Easy Steps

Freestyle rap can appear to be magic – an MC able to pull out hilarious punchlines seemingly at will to crush his opponent, win a crowd or just impress

their friends. However, once you understand the mechanics of freestyle rap, you’ll start to recognize just how top notch freestyle rappers like Supernatural or

Juice are able to freestyle at such a high level. If you want to learn to freestyle rap, read on:

Simply put, the more words you know, the more words you’ll have to work with, and the better your freestyle rap will be. Anyone can rhyme words like “bat, rat, cat and sat” but what about “impressive, suggestive and subjective?” Get yourself a regular dictionary and choose a few words that stand out to you. Then, write those words down and between three to five words that rhyme with (if you have trouble with this, you can always Google it, or consult a rhyming dictionary).

Once you have a list of new words and several other words that rhyme with them, try to write a simple rap using each group of words. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be award winning stuff- the point is to write it down. By getting the words on paper, you are much more likely to remember them during a freestyle rap.

Now that you’ve written your rap, run through it until you have it memorized. Guess what? You know have a large number of words and phrases you can use in a freestyle. Am I suggesting you spit written material? No- but I do suggest using the rhymes themselves in a freestyle rap. Remember, it’s the number of words you know, but the number of rhymes you memorize that make for a great freestyle rap.

The worst moments in a freestyle are when you start with an opening line and don’t have anything to rhyme it with. Rather than focusing on your next lyric, you’re wasting time trying to remember a rhyme. Save yourself the trouble and learn as many rhymes as possible.

Over time, these freestyle rap techniques will help you improve your skills as an MC.

Freestyle Rap Tips

Below are some freestyle rap tips that will help you improve your flow and improve the delivery and structure of your rhymes. At first they may seem a bit confusing however sit down and try to pick a famous rap tune, or one of your own and see how or if the following techniques are being used. Then try to write a new rap, not a freestyle using some of these techniques. Hopefully you should find the rap feels more solid and has a bit more bite to it than other rhymes without these techniques in.

Call-backs

Call-backs in a freestyle are simply when the first part of a bar rhymes with the last part of the second bar.

Inners

An inner is when you do not wait to the end of the second bar to put your rhyming word. In effect you pre-empt the call-back and change the rhythm of the rap. A good example would be:

“Spittin on the MIC like a like an MVP, I’m the best you see….you LIKE what you hear when you listen to me?”
In this example MIC and Like are the inners, providing rhymes in the middle of each bar or line.

Multis

Multis are used like a machine gun to bombard a couple of lines of the freestyle rap with as many words that all rhyme as possible. A very simple example would go as follows:

“The cat got the fat rat with a baseball bat, you keep spitting this cr$p and i’m gonna get you like dat”

Structure your rhymes

It is absolutely crucial you try to structure your rhymes. This is of course much easier when you are writing down lyrics as opposed to a kicking a freestyle off the top of your head. However what you will find is you can pre-build structures in your head.
Rather than just following a boring pattern of

Word word Word word Word word Rhyme
Word word Word word Word word Rhyme

try to break up the flow by throwing in some inners or multies as described above.

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