I want to freestyle and I'm really keen, but I need a plan so hit me with it green
August 5, 2010 3:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to become proficient at freestyle rapping and rapping in general inc writing raps. Help me develop a training routine! I want to treat this as if it was a sport I was going to compete in, with structured daily blocks of practice to work on different skills etc. I have lots of ideas of things to work on at the gym for my sport, but not for this. I need some ideas and some structure - thanks :)

Notes: I'm an absolute from-scratch beginner. I have another friend who is keen to do some freestyle sessions with me (I've done one!) but he is much more advanced. I want to work on it at home to keep improving every day but need some ideas on how to structure this so that I can keep on track rather than just vague ideas of what to do. I'm disciplined and like to have structure and routine, as well as goals to check off. I have computer and internet at home.
posted by Chrysalis to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Listen to hip-hop a lot, including battles and freestyle sessions (though lots of recorded ones have a lot of pre-written stuff thrown in--come to think of it, you should probably work on moving smoothly between prewritten couplets/verses and ). Take your rhyme book with you everywhere. Don't just write down whole verses--use it as a sketchbook and put in snippets, found phrases, even paired rhymes. Get a rhyming dictionary. Listen to instrumentals and try out different kinds of flows over them. Consider breath control. Learn a little bit about rhyme and meter and scansion and poetic diction and such. Learn a little bit about DJing. When you're not doing anything else, tap out beats and rhyme over them, if only inside your head. Take inspiration from the worlds of poetry (especially performance poetry), blues, improv and standup. Try to dis your man by comparing him to comic-strip characters, or to freak it bilingually, or to see how long you can keep alliteration going, or to do that Beanie Siegel thing where you end a whole string of lines in '-in' 'em' (these are just examples).
posted by box at 4:59 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Make a list of ten outstanding tracks making sure that it features varying styles. Learn those raps off by heart until you know them back to front and inside out. Think of this as learning your scales. Stay disciplined. Stay focused. Once you are happy you have them down start doing them accapella and begin substituting in your own words and phrases. Record yourself and listen critically. Whilst you are doing this start thinking about how you want to come across - aggressive, humorous, mysterious, laid back etc. Try these different styles out - what suits? Listen to good rappers and have fun!

Disclaimer: I am a middle aged white guy who can barely talk in public let alone rap so take all of the above with a large pinch of salt
posted by oh pollo! at 5:00 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

(though lots of recorded ones have a lot of pre-written stuff thrown in--come to think of it, you should probably work on moving smoothly between prewritten couplets/verses and off-the-dome stuff)
posted by box at 5:01 AM on August 5, 2010

MTV's Made covered this at least once. See if the episode is online.
posted by k8t at 6:09 AM on August 5, 2010

We used to do a sort of drill where a group of friends would take freestyling over a beat for a set period of time and when the time was up the next person in the cypher picked up with the rhyme scheme that the finished guy was currently on.

At first this was by watching the clock and using a minute change to signal us (60 seconds is along and challenging time to freestyle for.) Then later we arranged tracks with a specific bell sound that chymed every 16 bars ( the most common length of a verse in rapping.)

Other items to research, look into:

breath control, plan this as you go so you aren't gasping for air while trying to make you're "gotcha" line while low on oxygen, then you can say it with emphasis and sound coolity-cool

Rhyme schemes, excellent freestylers think 4 bars ahead. As you go think about a funny or interesting you wanna make, start a 4 bar line that leads up to it. Always drop your coolest / funniest line on the fourth bar with a hand motion and lots of swagger. This is easy if you had in planned the whole time, rather than only thinking one bar/rhyme ahead.

You have heard and you tubed JUICE, ADM, and other scribble jam winners? To be honest my knowledge of hip hop is probably about 3 years out dated but they were really great.
posted by oblio_one at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2010

By the way, no offense to box. He's right; everyone throws some clever pre-written lines into a 'freestyle,' but don't put try to do that or include it in your practice, it's considered very cheap and inauthentic.

Also I forgot Supernatural, another mc famous specifically for freestyling.
posted by oblio_one at 7:27 AM on August 5, 2010

From the perspective of a rap fan: The most obvious sign of a beginner or straight up bad rapper is that they don't understand how to follow the beat. When you are listening to a track pay attention to the beat pattern, and then see how the rapper syncs the syllables to the rhythm. You'll find that the emphasized words tend to line up with the emphasized drum beats. Learning how to play drums or at least program hip hop beats into a drum machine would probably help.

Also, pay attention to how words sound. A lot of my favorite rappers focus less on what the words mean, and more on what sounds they contain. Don't just figure out how to end each line with a word that rhymes with whatever the last one was, think about what kinds of sounds each word has and pick ones that go together. For example a lot of hard sounds (k, d, i) will give a certain impression, whereas a lot of soft ones (o, l, m) will give a totally different one. Write down some lyrics that you like and look at how each word choice affects the feel of the song.

I'm not a big fan of freestyle but the ones that have impressed me the most are ones that have a structure like a real song. So verses that kind of go together and a hook/chorus that repeats.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:32 AM on August 5, 2010

Ok I assume you've already got the listening to rap down....next:

1) Try to listen to as much underground and freestyle rap as possible. You'll notice similar motiffs, similar word structuring (cops are pigs who are later turn into bacon, no such thing as halfway crooks), you want to get so familiar with rap, hip-hop and its history that you should be able to finish most verses in your sleep.

2) Hang out with other rappers, but not just the guys that you know, go to open mics, collaborate with other rappers, etcetara. You want to be around people who are creative, this will allow you to get where you want to be much much faster....

3) Keep it real, obviously you are not the common rapper (because most rappers are not disciplined and structured you know) so you have to find your own niche, something that works for YOU and nobody else.

I won a rapping contest (albeit in Spanish when I was 16) and I just remember loving the music then battling the next day with friends at school...until I turned 24 I used to constantly annoy people around me as I was always trying to come up with freestyles for no reason whatsoever it was just what I did......if it doesn't just happen, if you are not excited about the music, and if you cant stay on beat then this may not be for you....
posted by The1andonly at 7:44 AM on August 5, 2010

Focus on internal rhymes. Nothing sounds more prehistoric/amateurish in rap as only rhyming the last syllable of each line. The flows of most of the best rappers have really unique internal rhyme schemes. You don't have to be unique, but notice how the greats structure their rhymes and half rhymes. Just get a verse you like and circle and connect all the rhymes and half rhymes. You'll see there is a crazy spiderweb. If your rhymes just go straight up and down, your flow sucks.
posted by milarepa at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2010

Hopefully this doesn't start a river of favorites, but I think Kool Keith is like Jimi Hendrix of rhyming, so I'd recommend studying "Critical Beatdown" by the Ultramagnetic MCs.
posted by rhizome at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2010

Give yourself some deadlines and/or goals to work within. For instance you could tell yourself that you need to have a song 'finished' every week. The song doesn't have to be good (and likely won't be at first) but will undoubtedly get better with each go. Simply having a concrete goal or framework always helps because you'll be unlikely to notice your growth or improvement without specific markers. And I suspect that writing rhymes and honing that will likely develop your freestyle skills in the process.

Stream of consciousness writing seems like it would be helpful. Maybe do a timed session of 5 minutes where the pen can't stop moving until the time is up. And try it verbally for shorter bursts of time.

Also, slow everything waaaay down and freestyle as slowly as you can. Literally don't allow yourself more than four syllables (or so) over each bar. Make it as easy as you can. Build it up a little bit at a time.

I always recommend ICS sessions to people who are trying to juice up their skills and creativity. I find it really effective and fun.

(+1 for the Critical Beatdown suggestion.)
posted by palacewalls at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2010

...and by 'verbally' i mean, you know, with your mouth. Out loud.
posted by palacewalls at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2010

Whenever you have downtime is an opportunity to work on your skills. Have a mix of simple beats (instrumental, natch) in your car or iPod and freestyle over them. It's the best way to exercise the improvisational faculties. I've done a lot of freestyle poetry, though not a lot of it has been rapping. The more you do it the better you get. The best practice possible is to go up in front of others at an open mic (but don't do it until you've practiced quite a bit, you don't want to freeze up there).
posted by Kattullus at 10:57 AM on August 5, 2010

« Older Global Keratin Hair Taming treatment: personal...   |   Damn these flies Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.