The Power of Free-styling in Rap Culture
For any avid consumer of hip-hop music, the timeless question of how to judge rapping skills is often brought up. Just as sports fans argue over who are the best players, rap fans argue over who is the best rapper. Instead of comparing touchdowns or homeruns, songs and verses are compared. The two major ways of judging someone's rapping ability are the free style rap and the written rap. Although mainstream, or written, rap does not lend much airtime to true free styling, mainstream rappers are finding a way to combine free styling with written rap.
There is an unwritten rule that all true rappers must possess the ability to freestyle with comfort. The basic concept of free styling is to rap and make up the lyrics as you go along. A free styled rhyme is usually one verse long, or about one minute. A lot of rappers who are famous don't freestyle and are open about it. Since most rappers are driven by selling records and making money, they don't see any value in free styling. When a rapper releases a record commercially, they don't put freestyles on their record, they only release pre-written lyrics. So, most rappers see free styling as a waste of time and money. This theory of free styling being a waste most often comes from rappers who are signed to a record contract. The main reason free styling is seen by its fans as the truest way to prove your rap worth is because it's difficult.
Writing a great rap can be just as difficult but equally important in gaining credibility as a rapper. When a rapper writes a song, they have no excuse for a bad product since they have plenty of time to prepare it. In rap terms, a bar is two lines that rhyme with each other. The standard length for a verse in a rap is 16 bars and 48 bars make up a standard song. A written rap usually tells a story, or contains metaphors and similes as well as punch lines. The written rap lets the rapper use all parts of their brain to create a great rap verse. In one example of creativity, Nas, a rapper from Queens, NY turned himself into a gun and told a story about his owner and the things he'd seen as a gun. Writing a rap lets the rapper explore their creative side, whereas a free style forces the rapper to keep things very basic. The Notorious BIG, who died four years ago, is known as one of the greatest rappers ever based on his story telling ability alone.
Rap music, is divided into two major sections, the underground and the mainstream. Mainstream artists can be heard on the radio and seen on TV and in movies. Underground rappers are not played on the radio and they usually can't afford to make videos to put on TV. The freestyle carries the most weight in the underground, where rappers are more concerned with lyrical content and true ability. The quickest way to show you have true ability, in the eyes of the underground, is to freestyle with content. ...