The only thing as good as Black Thought rapping is Black Thought talking about rapping
It’s been weeks since Hot 97 dropped the Black Thought freestyle that stopped the world; the rapper is still on a victory tour.
The entire conversation was insightful. Here are some of the highlights.
On why this particular freestyle had such a huge impact on pop culture:
“The game has changed. It’s different. The standards are different, the criteria that’s taken into consideration in determining validity is different. We’re at a point in history where lyricism almost comes last in very many regards. So for someone from my school, who has come from the ilk of lyricism being held in far higher regard, it brings a different sort of urgency to every performance. That’s what I went into that Flex freestyle with, with that same urgency that I had when I was a young person coming to New York from Philly with very much to prove.”
On whether the freestyle was written or off-the-top:
“It absolutely was a combination, as it would have to be. I mean, I’m no superhero. I’m definitely an adamant professional, and I feel like I’ve mastered the craft. But it’s just changed. If I were on Stretch & Bobbito back in the day, like when I would go to their radio show and freestyle, everything had to be completely off the top. And, you know, I’m able to do that with the best of them. But in order to say what is needed, to get a rise out of young audiences, the 18-to-25s. … You know, I have a couple of boys who are 17, 18 years old…and in order to get that sort of response from them, it has to be a combination [of improvisation and pre-written].”
On the type of content Thought used in the freestyle:
“I feel like the performance is better received when I’m able to show vulnerability and wisdom, and not only winner-takes-all. I’m not only concerned with the braggadocio aspect and proving my lyrical prowess. That’s a part of it, and that’s a part that has to be spoken to as well. … But at the same time, there needs to be a balance. So as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to give the listener, the audience, and my fans those glimpses into the inner workings of me, into what makes the machine that is Tariq Trotter.”
And finally, one of the more interesting parts came near the end, when Thought talked about this generation of “mumble” rappers. Thought gave an insightful perspective style, and even provided an interesting theory — that he’s one of the originators of mumble rap:
“There are some millennial artists that I totally get and understand, and I know what they’re talking about. People who I’ve worked with and who I’d like to work with. But there’s a whole element of artists that I can’t explain what they’re talking about. And it’s not just because of their stylistic approach with the whole “mumble rap.” Lots of people are saying that I shut down mumble rap in one 10-minute setting. But that wasn’t my intention, because mumble rap — if we go back — that’s something I invented. I invented rapping without actually using the words. … [With] songs like “Don’t Say Nuthin’,” freestyles like “New Year’s At Jay Dee’s,” I essentially invented mumble rap, where you go for many bars without saying any words. And when I did it, it came from a place of being inspired by scatting.”
And suddenly, mumble rap makes a lot more sense. Head to Rolling Stone to read the entire interview. It’s great.
Source: Rolling Stone