People often tell me that rappers and “entertainers” that rap shouldn’t have to burden themselves with tradition. But I feel some kind of way when rappers bluntly say “I don’t freestyle” on radio shows or something to that effect. It’s almost like going to work and telling your peers you’re not going to handle whatever responsibilities that come with your job. Apparently it’s a new day in the industry and people want to hear songs. And well, I don’t have a problem with that.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore that freestyling comes with the territory of being a rapper. Whenever rappers or “entertainers,” depending on who you ask, get on a radio show they’re expected to drop a freestyle when asked. Then some pull their get out of jail free card out, give whatever reason why, and leave people hanging. It’s not good form to drop something wack and pre-written’s technically aren’t freestyles. But artists should at least come prepared to kick some bars over the air. It’s not like everyone can’t kick a verse like Em did on Tim Westwood. But honest efforts backed with talent get respect at the very least.
Take a look at this J. Cole “freestyle.” Is it pre-written? All signs point to yes. But he was still prepared to rap. That’s the least a self proclaimed rapper can do. Pre-writtens prove one’s ability to write and come up with compelling flows. Such is especially the case with recorded freestyles like Yelawolf’s Lemonade rendition. So while they’re unused verses they still grab listeners’ attention all the same.
And on the other end of the spectrum you have freestyles off the dome. I picked this one because KiD CuDi isn’t a rapper’s rapper and, if anything, he falls more into the “entertainer” column since he has Top 40 appeal without aggressive lyrics. Plus this freestyle isn’t anything mind blowing. But he still did his job and made a fair attempt at textbook freestyling. It just goes to show that if you’re going to claim to be a rapper, or an entertainer that raps, you ought to back it up with some form of lyrical ability.
If you’re rapping for a living you ought to treat it like a professional. Additionally, dropping rhymes on the spot is a common practice and cats need to stop letting rappers off the hook. It comes with the territory of the profession so it’s best to come correct when the occasion arises. In closing, musicians don’t get on radio shows with their instruments and tell DJs they’re not going to play. Likewise, even singers drop vocals live at times. So why should rappers get a free ride? Freestyling serves as a means to seperate legit talents from hobbyists similar to how singing and the ability to play instruments distinguishes pros from amateurs. There are obviously more components that go into making an artist special. But his or her competence to rap shouldn’t be overlooked: especially at the drop of a hat.