Friday, March 25, 2011

BlackBerry "Freestyles"

First, let me point out the obvious, that Tim Westwood is one goofy bastard.

This footage has gotten a lot of talk lately. First because Joell rips it, as he usually does, on Westwood's radio show. But, also because of the BlackBerry situation.

I've seen several clips of MCs "freestyling" w/ BlackBerry in hand on a radio show, though Drake is the one that got the most attention (and criticism) when he did it on this same show a while back.

I can understand the frustration from Hip Hop heads when they see this. It used to be, an MC would be on a Hip Hop radio show or, better yet, a cipher on the street corner, and would actually be rhymin' off the top of their head. It was a skill you had to develop to be considered a credible MC. If you spit a 'written', people could tell, and would rip you apart for it.

Over time it has somehow become accepted to come in the booth and spit a pre-written verse. And call it a freestyle, no less. I'm not sure why. Maybe fans want (or MCs think they want) to hear the artist at their best and most polished. Not me, I want to hear them at their rawest. I want to know - How skilled of a linguist are you? How well have you honed your craft? Can you do this shit any time? Anywhere? Can you do this in your sleep? Are you that good, that rhymes just come up and out of you like a bodily function? I want to see.

That's what used to be demanded. But, for the most part I think these MCs have become lazy rappers to an extent. And, on top of that, they've allowed a lot of wack rappers in on the game instead of squeezing them out. They've allowed them to exist for fear of being labeled a "hater".

And that's what wack rappers do. They spit something they prepared. It's all they can do. The skill isn't there to do anything else. It used to not be so obvious when they at least took the time to memorize it. No more. Now, MCs are right up in front of your face w/ their phone.

Now, I'm not saying Joell is one of these wack rappers. Quite the contrary. Ortiz is one of the dopest MCs out right now. By far. And I seek out anything he does, which is why I watched this video. I'm also not necessarily calling him lazy. It's pretty clear that he wrote the rhyme close to the time he was set to go on the show, if not that day. It was fresh. And, the way Joell releases material it's clear that he has a hell of a work ethic.

So, this was exclusive for the audience in the sense that we had never heard it before. But, it doesn't have the same exclusivity as a real freestyle; A rhyme that you couldn't hear a second time because it was made right then and there, in that moment, with that moment. And, a good portion of this verse from Joell will probably find it's way to a mixtape/album track in the near future making the radio appearance nothing remarkable at all. That's disappointing to me. We didn't hear it for the only time, just the first time.

Ultimately, it's not really that big of a deal to me if an MC throws out something on a radio show that they wrote already. It doesn't make or break them as a great MC in my mind. There's just nothing to gain as a fan by listening. It sucks that that particular skill doesn't see the light of day much anymore.


  1. Well said Sean Juan!

    For half the lines that will be a miss, rhyming off the top of their head, a rapper will be appreciated more for the dope ones that will hit!

    Our perfection lies in our very imperfection -- it's what makes something unique and, ultimately, authentic.

    Oh and this my first comment! Great blog with quality content and not just - one pic, D/L link and one line style blog.

    Keep the dope stuff coming!

  2. Appreciate the feedback. Thanks for reading.