Are freestyle raps better rehearsed or improvised?

Hip-hop artist Nasty C. Photo: Oupa
Hip-hop artist Nasty C. Photo: Oupa


Phumlani S Langa has had enough of rappers calling written stanzas freestyles. 

I’m getting sick and tired of people talking about rappers freestyling when that actual art has been dying a slow death for years.

By my understanding, a freestyle rap is going off the top of the head, formulating lines on the spot. Wikipedia says that freestyle rap is: “A style of improvisation, with or without instrumental beats, in which lyrics are recited with no particular subject or structure and with no prior memorisation.”

The Urban Dictionary cites legendary US rapper Big Daddy Kane, who is regarded as a pioneer and who believes that freestyle rap involves being, "free of style". The full definition given by this site is “unrehearsed and impromptu rap.”

READ: Landrose could be what SA rap needs

The Nasty C “freestyle” on Metro FM's The Touchdown with Tbo Touch cannot be deemed to be a freestyle as he has his phone out in the visuals and is clearly reading those poorly written scripts from it.

How is that a freestyle? Never mind the fact that the Just Blaze beat was way too potent for a rapper like him, his lyrics were garbage, but he was reading the words. Surely that's a written, no? Also, as an aside, his flow sounds like he needs rest. What’s that, the jet-lagged delivery?

READ: Blxckie’s 4MULA to success

Freestyling is honestly a farce these days because other rappers will simply be prepared and proficient enough to kick a written verse so well, without a phone or paper, and make it seem like they are going off the top. But a true freestyle can be picked out by the almost staggered delivery that comes as a result of the rapper forming the sentences before letting them out.

 If you have something well-rehearsed and down pat then what would be the point of any hesitation, you already know what you’re going to say. Once you catch the beat, which is a part of this art that can’t be taught, you’re cruising.

Then we get these rappers who “freestyle” but use the same rhyme patterns whenever they do. 

"The cat with hat in the back sipping Cactus Jack," and that’s a big shout out to Youngsta CPT. He knows well that almost no other South African rapper can think quicker on their feet, so he resorts to the same patterns whenever he kicks a free. He might simply change the rhyming word.

READ: Phumlani S Langa | Takeoff seemed to live by the sword ... was he not going to die by it?


Let’s get back to the basics. I don’t mind if a rapper uses a few written concepts amid ideas formulated on the spot but we have to remember when Kanye spat a verse for the song Gorgeous as a “freestyle”…he already wrote that verse he just hadn’t found or crafted the right beat for it yet till he created My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Stop sending me links with fake freestyles and stop calling your written tracks freestyles. If complete improv is what we’re doing, then let’s do it purely or not at all. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
2022 Fifa Qatar World Cup
Latest issue
Latest issue
All the news from City Press in PDF form.
Read now
Voting Booth
As we are commemorating the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which started on November 25, crime against women continues to be worryingly high with over 13 000 women assaulted between July and September 2022, while over 10 000 rape cases were opened in the same period. Is government doing enough to curb GBV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it’s trying
0% - 0 votes
No, it's failing women and children
83% - 10 votes
I'm too discouraged to care
17% - 2 votes