Freestyling is an art, much like the culture of Hip-Hop itself. This essential skill set is one that every rapper should have in his arsenal. For those just starting out I’ve created these quick tips for any beginners out there that want to become a reputable wordsmith (that’s a word…look it up).
#1 – Be Cool
First thing you gotta do is take as much pressure off yourself as you possibly can. There’s no crowd watching, there’s no money on the line (yet), and you’ve probably got no reputation to wager. So relax, because bringing unnecessary tension into your body will only cause a block in your mind. When you first start out trying to freestyle don’t even use a beat. Spend as much time as you can going a cappella.
You’ll find more creative space when you’re not trying to rhyme to a clock and get the next line out before the last bar ends. Not having any time constraints will definitely make easy practise. Also, try to stick to an easy rhyming pattern (more words rhyme with “blue” than “bridge” if you know what I mean). When you’re not trying hard to sound cool, the words will line up and flow easier.
#2 – Pens Still Count
Now don’t go throwing your rhyme book away thinking that there’s no credibility in good ol’ fashioned writing just because you heard Kanye West got up in the studio and bust a fat 16 bars off the top of the dome! That bad boy is going to be with you as long you still call yourself a rapper. I know we live in a digital age but books are still legit (I myself have three so far). You need to be flexing your rhyming muscle on the daily, so get that guy familiar with a more rhythmic vocabulary by continuing with the written (why not even read a book).
The more you develop your flow through your written bars, the more confident you’ll be behind the mic. Like riding a bike, I mean, you don’t still look down at the handlebars do you? So make rhyming as natural to you as one plus two and every other thing you do (yeah, I’m a regular Dr. Seuss!).
#3 – Make Mistakes
Now that you’re relaxed writing on the reg, the main thing now is to keep your flow going. There may be someone out there that started out at a great level but absolutely no-one begins a master. The fact is: you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to stutter or (worst case) you’re gonna straight up freeze, but that’s perfectly okay.
Remember, no-ones watching when you’re still building the car, only when you’re racing (…metaphor-ce!), so don’t be afraid to say all the stupid things your brain comes up with. Laugh at yourself too if what you said was that bad-funny, it’ll make you enjoy the process of learning. Keep going as long as you can and eventually length won’t even be a concern. You’ll just get lost in the fun, caught up in the joy of being able to express yourself
#4 – Free Your Mind
Think freely. Inspiration is all around you, in everything you see, hear and touch, so use it. Let your mind make the connections that it wants and go with it, you’ll probably end up surprising yourself with the words you’re able to pair together. You may have read it somewhere (like I said, why not even read a book) or you may have used the combo in a previous verse you wrote when you took my advice and kept using your rhyme book.
Even if it sounds ridiculous at first, remember, you gotta keep the flow going (like I said before you know). The worst thing you can do is second guess yourself as you go about doin’ ya thang. If just one word is switched out mid-thought you’ll just end up clogging the system and letting nothing out. Just say it.
#5 – Practise, Practise, Practise
Your teachers, your parents, your everybody has said this and I’m going to say it again: PRACTISE. MAKES. PERFECT. So dammit, just make sure you do it. Rap while you’re getting dressed in the morning, while you knit or while doing any other random thing you can think of. With your motor functions pre-occupied it should free up some creative space. You will eventually want to get out of your bedroom of course. Make friends with other rappers (if they aren’t your friends already. If not, stop lone-wolfing out here).
Have friendly cyphers together, even just two of you is fine. When you’re not in front of strangers there’s a lot less pressure and they probably won’t be as quick to hate on you for messing up. But even when you’re alone you can get some solo practise time in by setting up a mic and facing the speakers towards you so you can hear yourself. Or make a voice recording of yourself and play it back to be your own audience. That’s a bit awkward at first but you’ll get the hang of it.
Hopefully these tips will be able to help any aspiring artists out there. Got tips you wanna share? Having trouble with your rhymes? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com