Freestyling is the art of improvising rap lyrics on the spot without any preparation or written material. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding skills in hip-hop, as it showcases a rapper’s creativity, spontaneity, and wit. Freestyling can also help rappers improve their writing, delivery, and confidence.
But how can you become a better freestyler? How can you come up with rhymes and ideas on the fly? How can you impress your audience and yourself with your freestyle skills?
In this article, we will share some tips and techniques that will help you improve your freestyling skills. We will cover the following topics:
- Building your freestyle from scratch
- Preparing to freestyle
- Freestyling Techniques
- Advanced freestyling techniques
By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to freestyle and how to practice your skills.
Building Blocks of Freestyling
Before we dive into the tips and techniques for freestyling, let’s review some of the basic elements that make up a good freestyle. These are:
- Flow: Flow is the rhythm and cadence of your rap. It is how you sync your words with the beat and how you vary your speed, tone, and emphasis as you deliver your lines. Having a good flow is essential for freestyling, as it makes your rap sound smooth, natural, and coherent.
See How to develop your unique flow as rapper
- Rhyme: Rhyme is the use of words that sound similar or identical at the end or within a line. Rhyming is one of the main features of rap music, as it creates a musical effect and helps connect your ideas. Think of rhyming as a kind of punctuation in a rap. It helps your listeners understand the structure of your verse and helps them engage with it. Rhyming is also a key skill for freestyling, as it shows your creativity and vocabulary.
- Punchlines: Punchlines are witty or clever lines that make a point or a joke. They are often used to end a verse or a rhyme scheme. Punchlines are important for freestyling, as they add humour, impact, and personality to your rap.
- Metaphors and similes: Metaphors and similes are figures of speech that compare two things that are not literally alike. They are used to create imagery and express emotions in rap. Metaphors and similes are useful for freestyling, as they help you describe things in a creative and original way.
These are a few of the building blocks of freestyling that you need to master in order to improve your skills. As rapping is a language, the whole arsenal of literary devices is at your disposal. Now let’s see how you can prepare yourself to freestyle.
Preparing to Freestyle
Freestyling may seem like a spontaneous and random act, but it actually requires some preparation and practice. Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself to freestyle:
- Listening: One of the best ways to improve your freestyling skills is to listen to other rappers and freestyles. Listening will help you learn from their styles, techniques, and strategies. You will also get inspired by their rhymes, punchlines, metaphors, and similes. You can listen to rap songs, albums, mixtapes, podcasts, radio shows, battles, cyphers, etc. You can find them on YouTube
- Practice: Another way to improve your freestyling skills is to practice them regularly. Practice will help you develop your flow, rhyme, vocabulary, and creativity. You can practice by yourself or with others. You can practice with or without a beat. You can practice with different topics, words, or challenges. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will become.
- Relaxation: A third way to improve your freestyling skills is to relax your mind and body before freestyling. Relaxation will help you reduce your stress and anxiety and increase your focus and concentration. You can relax by doing some breathing exercises, meditation, stretching, or any other activity that calms you down. You can also relax by having fun and enjoying yourself.
By preparing yourself to freestyle, you will be able to perform better and have more fun.
Techniques for Freestyling
Now that you have prepared yourself to freestyle let’s look at some techniques that will help you freestyle better. These are:
- Word association: Word association is a technique that involves using a word or a phrase as a starting point for your freestyle. You can use any word or phrase that comes to your mind, or that is given to you by someone else. You then try to come up with rhymes or ideas related to that word or phrase. For example, if the word is “car”, you can rhyme it with “star”, “bar”, “far”, etc., or you can talk about driving a car, owning a car, crashing a car, etc.
- Storytelling: Storytelling is a technique that involves creating a narrative or a plot for your freestyle. You can use any theme or genre that interests you, or that is given to you by someone else. You then try to tell a story using your rap skills. For example, if the theme is “work”, you can tell a story about a paycheck, working a 9-5 or the traffic in Lagos. The more interesting the story is, the more engaging it is to the listeners.
- Incorporating elements: Incorporating elements is a technique that involves using elements from your environment or the beat in your freestyle. You can use any element that catches your attention or that is given to you by someone else. You then try to incorporate that element into your rap in a creative way. For example, if the element is “clock”, you can use it as a rhyming word, a metaphor, a punchline, etc.
- Freestyle structure: Freestyle structure is a technique that involves structuring your freestyle in a coherent and cohesive way. You can use any structure that suits you, or that is given to you by someone else. You then try to follow that structure in your rap. For example, if the structure is “ABAB”, you can rap two lines that rhyme with each other (A), then two lines that rhyme with each other (B), and then repeat.
By using these techniques for freestyling, you will be able to come up with rhymes and ideas on the spot and make your rap more interesting and engaging.
More Tips to help you freestyle better.
- Read more: Read anything. The more you read, the more time you spend with words and the more you can understand them. Also, the more stories you can incorporate into your flow. Unlike other forms of consumption, reading is very much closer to rapping as the words sound in your head. You could even read in a flow that you like.
- Practise your filler bars: In the middle of the freestyle, sometimes, your brain can shut off, and you would not be able to come up with anything. This is perfectly normal. These are where filler bars can come through, giving you something to say while you come u with something else.
- Practise Freestyle every day: While you are reading, while you are walking down the road. Find something to freestyle about when you are by yourself to get more familiar with how your mind works. This would also help you develop a tempo you like.
- Freestyle in front of people: Since freestyle is mostly a crowd-pleaser, you will be doing a lot of it in front of people. Don’t back down from an opportunity to test your freestyle and see how people react to it.
Advanced Freestyling Techniques
If you want to take your freestyling skills to the next level, you can try some advanced techniques that will challenge you and impress others. These are:
- Multisyllabic rhymes: Multisyllabic rhymes are rhymes that involve more than one syllable in each word. They are harder to come up with than single-syllable rhymes, but they also sound more complex and impressive. For example, instead of rhyming “cat” with “hat”, you can rhyme “catastrophe” with “masterpiece”.
- Speed rapping: Speed rapping is rapping faster than the normal tempo of the beat. It is a technique that requires a lot of breath control, flow, and clarity. It also shows your skill and confidence as a rapper. For example, you can rap at double-time or triple-time speed.
- Impromptu topics: Impromptu topics are topics that are given to you on the spot by someone else or by yourself. They are a technique that tests your creativity, knowledge, and adaptability. They also make your freestyle more unpredictable and fun. For example, you can rap about anything from politics to pizza.
By trying these advanced techniques for freestyling, you will be able to push yourself and showcase your talent as a rapper.
As rewarding as freestyling is, what you want to do is to practise consistently so that you will be very good at it whenever you are called to perform. Getting good at freestyle also improves your rap instincts and is often a crowd-pleaser. It is something you can pull out in between stage performances to excite the crowd for your next performance.
We hope that this article has inspired you to practice your freestyling skills and have fun with them. Remember that freestyling is a personal and expressive process that depends on your preferences, goals, and personality. There is no right or wrong way to freestyle, only your way.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope you enjoyed it. Now go practice your freestyle skills!