BHM Quote: Jay Smooth On Freestyles Or Written

Photo Credit: Madam Toussaint, No that’s not Jay Smooth above!

You asked for it based on your responses to the random quotes in the upper left hand section of this blog. Welcome to’s Black History Month Jay Smooth Quotes Week!

My least favorite trend of recent years is how the term “freestyle” has been redefined as referring only to rhyming off-the-top, which has led to a vehement (and IMO irrational) disdain for performing written rhymes in any cypher or live venue.

I believe this mindset is entirely misguided, and can be terribly unhealthy for the art form.

I think this strict constructionism is often a product of insecurity, especially among younger heads who weren’t around for Hip-Hop’s early days or the Golden Age of ’85 to ’91 (or thereabouts). Without these credentials they need a concrete list of rules to which they can conform, and thus reassure themselves that they are “real” or “true”.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I suppose. There’s nothing wrong with putting together a system that helps you maintain a sense of tradition.

But you’ve got to keep it in perspective. A system of law should serve to protect your freedom, rather than take it away. ~Jay Smooth, blogger and vlogger, on Hip-Hop fundamentalists and freestyling


You can check him out at his web homes: or

I had a conversation about this with a friend who wasn’t born in the 90s yet still wasn’t into rap during the Golden Era. She told me in a time when everything is prepackaged, written by a publicist and even reality shows are scripted we want a freestyle to really be off the dome. It’s the only thing that unscripted now in Hip Hop now.

Personally I like a freestyle to be off the top of your head if you’re going to call it a freestyle, however I am aware that this is not everyone’s forte. And it doesn’t need to be. I don’t need my favorite rappers to do everything well. Lauryn Hill or Chuck D to freestyling- totally unnecessary.

“Freeway & Peedi Crakk Freestyle”

Not my favorite freestyle but something like a classic…

There’s nothing wrong with writing rhymes down and doing different drafts can get you better product in the end, just like how we were taught in school.. There’s a few rappers out there I’d like to mail some spiral notebooks to. Better yet marble so you don’t loose anything.

Who can say what’s in a rapper’s head anyway? Maybe nothing’s off the dome. Canibus has prefab phrases already set- do his freestyles still count as freestyles?

What do you think? Is anything off the dome these days? Who are your favorite rappers that can’t freestyle? Do you like a rapper more if they can freestyle well?


Post a comment