While traveling back from New York yesterday on the train I was passing time by going through my social media and came across some posts with a free style from Black Thought #FREESTYLE087. I have headphones on so I click on the link with a usual expectation of a great rhyme because it’s Black Thought. Before I clicked on the link my anticipation was heightened because the video was longer than 10 minutes and it was with Flex so this means that the whole time is the rhyme without any interview. So, picture me sitting on the train in the quiet car not knowing that I am about to listen to a lyrical keynote and sermon that inspire me to want to have a Pentecostal pedagogy moment. Here are five take-a-ways from this excellent exhibition of artistry, knowledge and lyricism.
- The Beat: The beat selected for the freestyle is “Burn” by Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep is known for coming with some of the hardest beats that just make your face twist and make even the most docile individual feel that they go hard (at least for the length of the song). This to some may seem like a diversion from the Black Thought that many people know but I think it was masterfully and purposely done. We also lost Prodigy this year and what a way to show homage to a fallen Hip-Hop brother.
- The Cadence of the Rhyme: Black Thought’s cadence as he delivers his rhyme sits in the pocket of the track like a sampled instrument. The ability to remain constant with the flow and slightly breathe to place emphasis on a word or phrase to let you know that you just heard a punch line is nothing short of amazing. I would love to hear this freestyle acapella to fully appreciate the rhythm of the cadence.
- The Repetition Factor: This freestyle rhyme is so dense in many places that it is virtually impossible to hear and appreciate everything in one listen. On one listen you may just be amazed by the fact that Black Thought has the lung capacity to flow for the length of 2.5 songs without his voice breaking from a lack of breath. In the initial listen, you will hear some punch lines that make your face scrunch up and then you go back to listen more intently to absorb the black thoughts of Black Thought.
- The Educational Value: When you begin to dissect this rhyme, you hear everything from Slang, Spirituality, Substance Abuse, Science to Shakespeare. Imagine the conversation starters that are embedded in this rhyme that can benefit us as a community if we simply sat down together and listed to the rhyme and began to converse. The beauty of this work of art is what you hear that moves you is dependent on where you are emotionally, mentally and spiritually as you listen. We can listen together and hear different things and both of us be right in our hearing because the life and power of the words resonate differently based on the condition of the soil of our hearts and minds.
- The Bars that raise the Bar: An estimated 240 + bars dropped by Black Thought (https://songbpm.com/mobb-deep-burn?q=mobb%20deep%20-%20burn 96 BPM translates to a 4/4 bar every 2.5 seconds which is 24 bars every minute so in 10 minutes you would have an estimated 240 bars) has raised the bar of what it means to freestyle and the ability to infuse knowledge in a way that is comprehensive, creative and palatable to the average listener. Jay-Z made a song called “Lyrical Exercise” where he expresses the art of rhyming using physical exercise metaphors. If we extend this metaphor then lyrically we physically witnessed the fitness of one of the best in the business.
Timothy Jones is an educator, writer, Hip-Hop pundit and the Chief Visionary Officer of HipHopEd follow me on Twitter @tdj6899