Sway Makes His 5 Fingers Of Death Freestyle Challenge Harder But Dee-1 Keeps The Faith (Video)

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Sway & King Tech’s Wake Up Show made the freestyle a mandatory calling card for any MC who wanted to promote something. That tradition goes back to the ’90s. In the 2010s, Sway In The Morning‘s 5 Fingers Of Death challenge is what keeps some MCs up at night. The stage has also become a huge platform for emerging artists to win over a curious, captive, and competitive audience. Other times, this competition is a thrilling reminder of what makes the O.G.’s so nice with the mic. On the latest episode, Sway says he feels that the esteemed freestyle challenge has gotten “soft.” Sway encourages DJ Wonder to choose hard beats with broad shifts in BPMs—better testing an MC’s flow.

With that call to action (and the beat choices do reflect those instructions), it is guest Dee-1’s turn to rise to the occasion—which he most certainly does. From rip, lines like, “My president ain’t my priest, my governor ain’t my god / My mayor ain’t my master, I got to bring it hard,” show what this rapper is about. “East side, 9th Ward, New Orleans what I claim / Everybody want the platform, nobody want the pain,” before moving onto “I’m Tupac, M.L.K., and Detroit Red / But all the girls say I look like Chris Brown with dreads.” That’s during Freeway’s “What We Do” instrumental.

DJ Wonder switches things up to quirkier beats less common to freestyle displays. On the second beat, Dee samples up some of his religious raps, seamlessly rhyming chapters within The Bible. By the third instrumental, he touts “now instead of buying Nike shoes, I buy Nike stock / Yeah, I stack my paper; I invest it / Too bad we been psychologically molested.” From there, Dee-1 keeps giving up game: “Peace of mind is priceless, find it and protect it / Hate is at an all-time high, don’t get infected / Stay focused on your own lane, that’s that mission-vision / Always pray before you make a big decision / Remember, any day could be your last / So remember every day to learn, love, and laugh / Remember life is a test / Align your passion with your purpose, you will see success.” Then he references the title of his recent album and 2016 mixtape of the same name, Slingshot David. Dee-1 encourages all to use their gifts and talent to defeat any oppressor (or system of oppression) bigger than them. He makes it known that some parts of this epic freestyle are off the top, and tailor-made for the opportunity.

At 4:00, Dee-1 asks for one more beat. DJ Wonder appears to give him one hell of a challenge, by dropping an EDM-tinged instrumental with a building tempo. As the MC begins acapella, his flow rides the accelerating beat. After the beat dies, Dee-1 closes the session with these dazzling lines: “The Rap game is like a sport, gotta look good for the TV / So I stay fly like Three 6, ballin’ like I’m 6’3″ / Draftin’ me low, Tom Brady / Now I’m the one, Mc-Grady / Runnin’ this thing, Barry Sanders / Servin’ y’all boys, Pete Sampras / Always smiling, Derek Jeter / Always swing for the fences, Mark McGuire / I don’t use no steroids either / In other words, no ghostwriter / ESPN, I’m breakin’ news / Tell TNT I’m Shaq’in a fool / I dabbled with rappin’ / What happened was that I became Carl Lewis, now I’m runnin’ these tracks.” There is reason why Dee-1 has such a devout following, long before major label backing.

Last week, another highly versatile MC in the Sony system also crushed “5 Fingers Of Death”: CyHi The Prynce.

#BonusBeat: This recent TBD episode looks at why even Christian MCs wave off the term “Christian Rap”:

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