The Lost Art Of Free-styling And Battling

Coming from The Bronx, I figured it was only right that I speak on the principles of true freestyling and battling. Because they go hand and hand, the topic is very sensitive to most hip-hop purists. I will do my best to cover both topics.

First I will tackle the lost art of freestyling. My definition of a true freestyle is rapping off of the top of the head and spitting random thoughts in a rhythm. While doing it, if you can have rhyme schemes, then you are a supreme lyricist in my eyes. Nowadays, cats say freestyle and the rhymes are normally pre-written. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a true freestyle is impromptu. Normally when someone freestyles there is always a constant word repeated. That happens when they are trying to jog their memory and catch up with the next bars approaching. I like incorporating both when I’m in ciphers. That’s how I learned to freestyle. Typically, it’s a very difficult talent. I personally started freestyling in high school. I remember not being able to even write raps. I used to steal my father’s tape recorder and just rap into it, listen back and do that repeatedly. By doing that, I learned my rhythm. So for years, I would practice that. Great freestylers have always practiced. From KRS-One to Serius Jones to Charles Hamilton. All those guys also have battled which is my next topic.

Now on to battling. Wow… I remember my first battle. I was in high school. It was lunchroom 160. There was a cipher with this cat named Elevation, Fat Cat and Yatta Barz. I walked into the cipher wanting to rap but my dumb ass walked in with a rap notebook, wanting to read the raps off the paper. Fat Cat destroyed me and embarrassed me. I walked away extremely sad and I said, “I’ma quit rapping.” I went to the library and I was with my man J-money. He told me to keep practicing. I disappeared that year and practiced freestyling and writing raps and memorizing them.

The next school year I came back as a man on a mission. I battled everyone and won. Now, battling has changed over the years. Back in the days, you didn’t have the chance to sit down and write raps for someone. You had to have raps on deck. Or had to be a great freestyler. I was both. I distinctively remember battling a young Charles Hamilton. His name was Freelance at the time. He was the best on his block. I was the best in my area. I tore him to shreds because he was spitting writtens and I was off the top. I remember afterwards me telling him, “Learn to freestyle.” And yeah, he was wearing pink. LOL. Nowadays, you have different battle leagues like URLTV, Grind Time, King Of The Ring etc. I respect all of those battle leagues because it brings me back to the times when I did ’em. You can’t be an MC without battling. Point blank. I love watching battles and ciphers. I go to most of the URLTV events. Shout out to Smack and Beasley who have brought battles to You Tube and the Internet and the streets. To me they are the founding fathers of this new culture of battling. I hope they continue to bring ciphers and battling to the forefront. I’m glad that B.E.T. also has the ciphers on their Hip-Hop Award show once a year as well. They need to make that a show however. And then we’ll be able to distinguish the MCs from the rappers.

I hope everybody has caught some knowledge and insight on freestyling and battling. See y’all tomorrow!

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  • 6 100

    Southerners dont care about no type of freestyling or battling.

    But then again, they dont care about a lot of things.

    Reading. Writing. Arithmetic.

    • IAMPA

      we also don’t care about something you failed to mention. Your opinon or your life.

  • Sha

    Yeah. Freestyling is definitely a lost art. Big-ups to B.E.T. for creating those fake-ass cyphers. Everyone knows those things are more rehearsed than a Sarah Palin debate.

    New Yorkers are closer to the “seed” of hip-hop than most so they understand this craft and appreciate it waaaay more than others. I wouldn’t say that southerners don’t know about it. Big Boi of Outkast is dope at the freestyle. But I would say the further you get away from the streets of New York, the more commercialized hip-hop becomes. Just a fact.


    Not so FAST.

    1st, good drop Factz. I’m from the south by the way of NJ., and like factz and most lyricist it all starts in the lunch room. Its a lot of lyrical cats down south who love freestylin and love battling. Personally, I spent years battling. There was a time when battling was big online.

    2nd, Freestylin is a live in the south as well. We have improtu shows, open mics and etc.

    3rd, none of that gets represented because of the current market. You can’t blame the south its the industry that is marketing the BS or the quick sell. Its like they get it for cheap and sell it for cheap and in the end they profit.

    Finally, freestylin and battling is best in its purest form. However, nowadays rappers are too scared of loosin a mainstream battle. Plus, money is in whats currently selling.

    Factz i appreciate ur movement and ur bars and continue. I really have hope for you and people like CH who spit normal hip hop.

  • El Tico Loco

    Battling and freestyling go hand in hand if you have any sense of competitiveness a cypher quickly turns into an indirect battle, you won’t flat out challenge somebody but when your turn comes, your best comes out but what sucks about it is that the illest line you come up with is gone forever, unless there’s someone recording, but still its gone. I’m a competitive cat so I’ve battled in everything I’ve done from b boying, rhyming, djing believe me I can do it, hell I even tried the online battling and if you check the archives you might find it, but all in all that’s the fun of it I think a lot of the career rappers don’t have as much fun as they did before the fame because of the demands a career has. But just like a ballplayer can hit the Ruck or Metrofitness in the offseason, a backstage battle or cypher won’t hurt your sales, unless you’re just garbage with the bars.