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What Exactly Is A Freestyle Rap?

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Image from Vibe.com

The four elements of hip-hop are breaking, or breakdancing, DJing, graffiti, and the MC.  You don’t need to embody all four elements to be “hip-hop,” just one will do just fine.  It’s also quite common for MCs to freestyle but that definition is split between two different generations.  Freestyle rap of today is categorically different from that of the 80s and maybe even the 90s.

If you don’t know what a freestyle is its a set of lyrics that don’t have to make sense but they instead showcase the lyrical prowess of the rapper at hand.  In the 1980s, freestyles were prewritten.  Yes you read that right, they were prewritten.  The art of the freestyle was to show your lyrical ability.

Here’s Fab Five Freddy with a prewritten rap.


Many of the rappers of today are experts in the ‘off-the-dome’ style of freestyle rapping.  As you read, ‘off-the-dome’ means the rhymes coming out of the mouth of the MC are made up right there on the spot.  The lyrical content doesn’t have to make sense but it does showcase the lyrical ability of the rapper.

Kendrick Lamar going ‘Off-The-Dome’ for a freestyle for Funk Flex on Hot 97.1


Essentially what it comes down to is freestyles are meant to showcase a rapper’s lyrical ability.  Whether it’s ‘off-the-dome’ or prewritten on Drake’s iPhone, enjoy it.  Tell me in the comments below, who are your favorite freestyle rappers?


These are two videos I really enjoy watching.

Asher Roth