MCs Say They’re Freestyling…But They Ain’t Been Rhyming Like Common Sense (Audio)

Hip-Hop Fans, please subscribe to AFH TV, a streaming video service focused on real Hip-Hop culture. We already have exclusive interviews, documentaries, and rare freestyles featuring some of Rap’s most iconic artists and personalities, and much more is coming--movies, TV series, talk shows. We need your support. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Google TV, for all subscribers. Start your 7-day free trial now. Thank you.

Over the years, the definition of the term “freestyle” has blurred. The word initially referred to a rhyme, written or spontaneous, that was not about a particular topic but, instead, was “free of style.” In the 90s, it came to mean a rhyme that was impromptu, or “off the top of the head,” though, as time has revealed, even then many artists who were freestyling were still spitting written rhymes that would later surface on records. Now, the vast majority of artists kick pre-written freestyles, with some notable exceptions like King Los and Lupe Fiasco. Not everyone is capable of going off the top, and there are no judgments (some of the best rhymers ever live by the pen), but there is something uniquely exhilarating when an MC steps to the microphone and creates fresh rhymes on the spot.

Common is one such MC and back in 2003 he was a guest on The Tim Westwood Show and delivered a nearly 6 minute freestyle. His mind can be heard working as he conjures his rhymes, sometimes starting a thought and going in a different direction than he may have initially intended. He does not break, however, and his rhymes are coherent and often multi-syllabic.

By this time in his career, Common was 5 albums deep and had nothing to prove. Many a lesser MC would have refused to freestyle at all, let alone go off the top, but he stepped to the mic fearlessly, showing why most MCs ain’t been rhyming like Common since.

Related: The Best Freestyles of 2015 Left Heads Spinning and Microphones Smoking (Video)