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How To Rap Part 3: Become a Better Freestyle Emcee

This is a 6 part series on How to Rap  

- How to Rap - Introduction
- How to Rap Part 1 - Cadence and Rhythm
- How to Rap Part 2 - Confidence, Delivery, Energy
- How to Rap Part 3 - Become a Better Freestyle Emcee
- How to Rap Part 4 - How to Write Great Rap Lyrics
- How to Rap Part 5 - How to Record Rap Vocals
- How to Rap Part 6 - How to Stack and Polish Rap Vocals

Author: Slik Nixin
Published: September 2011

How To Rap Freestyle

Freestyle rapping is spontaneous expression in its purest form.  It requires, focus, composure and the capacity to think on the fly.  The X Factor in the equation is an emcee’s natural, God-given ability to do this. 

Over the years, I ‘ve met lots of rappers who can freestyle for days.  The difference between the good freestyle emcee and the great freestyle emcee has a lot to do with confidence and his ‘filler to punch-line ratio’. 

How often is he rapping something witty?  Is he rattling off a bunch of incoherent nonsense? 

For me, as a rapper, free styling is kind of hit or miss.  If I’m upbeat, in the zone, and have some good energy to feed off of I can come up with some pretty clever rhymes.  However, if I’m not focused, or not in the zone my freestyles are generally just so-so.  Sometimes I’m way off and they suck!  

Written Raps VS. Freestyle Raps

In terms of lyrical content, written raps are normally more creative and witty.  This is because it’s a lot easier to sit down and write something really clever than it is to spontaneous think up while the pressure is on.

However, the main advantage to becoming a great freestyle emcee is having that ability to fall back on.  There will be times when you will need it.  If you ever forget your written material you can improvise with freestyle raps.  It also gives you the ability to rap about anything, anywhere, at any time, which is great if you ever get put on the spot.

Hip Hop Samples
Hip Hop Samples
RnB Samples
RnB Samples
Dirty South Loops
Dirty South Loops

With that in mind, the only way I know how to become a better freestyle emcee is to practice.  Cypher sessions with other emcees are a great way to get better.   Get a group together and start kicking rhymes back and forth – feeding off each other’s lines as you go.

Instant Rhyme Generation Techniques

How to be a better freestyle emcee Throw on a bangin’ beat from one of PlatinumLoops Hip Hop Producer Packs and grab any magazine or book.  Go through the first ten pages or so and highlight random words

Then start flipping through those pages and kicking rhymes based on the highlighted words.

This activity will increase your word bank and train your brain to be creative in those ‘on the spot’ situations.  The more you practice the better you will get. 

Another helpful technique is to Google random world events or topics and try to rap about them.  The topics could be about anything, but try to mix it up.  You could start rapping about the war in Afghanistan and end up rapping about the Mel Gibson debacle.

This technique is a bit more challenging, but it teaches you how to freestyle about current events going on in the world, which can be a clever thing to do in the right situation.

Mix Up The Beats

When practicing your freestyle raps be sure to change up the beats every three to four minutes.  It’s very easy to do once you get your hands on a PlatinumLoops Producer Pack.  Just load up a couple different loops and you can jump back and forth between them as you go.  This allows you to get comfortable free-styling at different tempos and rhythms, which is a must.

R&B Sample Packs
R&B Samples
Hip Hop Loops
Orchestral Hip Hop
Soul Loops
Soul Loops

Improvisation

Every great freestyle emcee learns how to improvise.  They know how to kick rhymes incorporating the surrounding environment as creative fuel.  Being adept at improvising gives your freestyle raps more authenticity.  You can go from rapping about fast cars to rapping about the old lady riding by on her motorized scooter and everybody listening can easily follow along.

When practicing your freestyles pick out random things around you and generate rhymes based on the things you see.  This is a simple, yet effective way to get better at improvising.

Practice Regularly

If want to become a better freestyle emcee you need to practice regularly – even if you are a natural.  The functional premise of freestyle rapping is basic – use it or you’ll loose it.  Practice while you’re driving to work.  Practice while you’re washing dishes.  Practice, practice, practice – this is the only way to get better in a hurry.

Freestyle Raps In The Battle Rap Phenomena

 

In the beginning of Rap history Battle Rapping was almost always a competition between two emcee’s free style ability.  It usually occurred on a street corner somewhere and the only people who witnessed it were gathered around the battle.  These days modern battle rap is much different.  Most of the battle rap circuits around today are written leagues and the popularity of Battle Rapping, as a sport, has grown massive with the invention of YouTube.  You can find these leagues scattered all over the world.

In a written battle league you know who your opponent is in advance and you have an allotted amount of time to write and prepare for that battle before it goes down.  You research your opponent; watch their previous battles, and anything else you can do to medal in your adversary’s personal life.  These battles are a lot different from the impromptu battles of the past.

With that being said, why worry about freestyle raps in a written battle league?

… Because they are still relevant..

  1. What will you do if you can’t freestyle and you forget your written material?
  2. If you can’t freestyle then you can’t ‘flip’.  A ‘flip’ occurs when one emcee says something and the other emcee cleverly rebuttals that statement in the next round.  This requires you to create a witty response on the spot at the spur of the moment and can completely change the momentum in a rap battle.
  3. If you can’t freestyle then you can’t improvise.

Think you have what it takes to be a battle rapper? 

Check out companies like GrindTimeNow and King Of The Dot.  These companies host big battle events you might be interested in.

Freestyle Raps And Written Raps: The Ultimate Battle Rap Combo

The evolution of battle rap has pushed top tier emcees to incorporate a combination of written and freestyle raps in their battles.  Nowadays, the elite battle rapper can transition from writtens to freestyles and vice versa so smoothly most people watching the battle can’t even tell.  Again this allows them to ‘flip’, improvise, and keep the momentum going if they stumble with their written material, which gives them a huge advantage over an opponent who can’t freestyle.  

Modern battle rap is extremely competitive! Go big or go home.

Wrap Up

Freestyle raps are a vital component in being a complete rapper.  I myself wished I had spent more time honing this skill.  Don’t make the same mistake - start stepping up your freestyle game right away.  There will be plenty of instances in which you’ll be glad you did.  If you practice the techniques mentioned in this article you should see a major improvement!

Check out the other articles in this 'How to Rap' Series:
This is a 6 part series on How to Rap  

- How to Rap - Introduction
- How to Rap Part 1 - Cadence and Rhythm
- How to Rap Part 2 - Confidence, Delivery, Energy
- How to Rap Part 3 - Become a Better Freestyle Emcee
- How to Rap Part 4 - How to Write Great Rap Lyrics
- How to Rap Part 5 - How to Record Rap Vocals
- How to Rap Part 6 - How to Stack and Polish Rap Vocals

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