Lyrical kung-fu: learn to freestyle rap like a pro
The current record for fastest rapper is held by Spanish rapper Chojin, who rapped 921 syllables in one minute on December 23, 2008. It’s an impressive feat, but the only trouble is that at that speed he is totally unintelligible. Good rap isn’t about speed but about rhythm and good enunciation. It’s a shame to write or improvise lots of words and garble them out so that nobody knows what you’ve said. When you’re a professional wordsmith, it’s best not to waste your words.
The most prized state in rap is getting into a good ‘flow’, where you are improvising freely while staying nailed to the beat. This involves practice, breath control, experience, talent, and a delight in words. It is the direct, live communication of emotional states and thoughts as soon as they arise, and those who achieve this state describe it as immensely liberating.
Rap isn’t something anyone is born with, and it can be learned. Some rappers have taken the traditional route of growing up in the right neighbourhoods and blasting out The Dozens (a one-on-one rap battle that continues until one participant gives up) or MC’ing at parties. This is rap as a way of life, and gives you the best start if you want to be a rapper. But someone with no experience or ability whatsoever can also become a rapper if they are determined enough.
You can get there by ‘stealing’ rap skills from your favourite rappers, mashing them up and eventually making them your own. That’s a natural way to learn, because in music in general, few musicians start out by playing only their own compositions or by improvising freely. They generally learn music they like that was composed by others – indeed, many make careers out of only this (classical music, anyone?). So you can start by imitating a rapper you like, rapping their work verbatim, until you start to feel the urge to introduce your own variations. Then, do it! You’re rapping your own material.
Whether you want to bust some good party rhymes or deliver serious socio-political messages, the chops of rap can be acquired via a number of well-reviewed courses, of which our favourite is the Udemy course Learn How To Freestyle Rap, Rap Like A Pro, And Write Lyrics.
Here you will learn how to activate that elusive creative flow state and improvise lyrics on the spot as well as write good ones. You’ll also learn how to improve your rap voice, turn your surroundings into a rap, build your confidence as a rapper and have a whole lot more fun on long car journeys.
The course is presented by Pat Parra, a red-headed Chilean rapper from California. Before the course starts he delivers two golden rules for the beginner rapper:
1. When starting out don't worry about rhyming
2. Don't stop if you mess up.
Soon you’ll be in the flow.