Last night, I had a long conversation about what it is like to free style on stage. "How do you follow a rhythm, tell a story, and make it rhyme?"
At first, I thought it would be quite simple to explain the parallel thought processes that I have when I free style. But before long, I was made aware that I was using the skill set as part of the definition. It is really hard to talk about the art of the free style without giving examples. Yet, these examples are what make it inaccessible from the uninitiated.
So, I tried a different approach; making a simple rhyme, and then outlining all of the thoughts that go into that rhyme.
One plus three
fortify the city
them against me
all odds seem shitty
Will I cease to be?
Now's not the time for pity
My opponents make a run
I try to beat them black and blue
You talking to me?
INCOMING- hit the floor
and this is how the above verse comes to exist. One plus 3 is a math equation that equals 4. When I think of 4, I often associate 4 with "4 corners." 4 corners can be a defense, the pillars of the walls about a castle, my bed, a metaphor for the underlying principles of some argument, i.e., the four corners of modern music theory are rhythm, frequency, . . . .
I chose the image of a castle surrounded by a series of walls. Each wall joined in a 90 degree angle at the corner. When a castle is attacked, you have to fortify the perimeter. That is how I got from 1 plus 3 to fortify the city. FOURtify the city.
When does a city need to be fortified? When it is under attack. Usually it is a war (them against me). There are a lot of ways to describe a war, but Them Against Me is what I chose because it rhymes. The plurality of Them versus the singular nature of ME is an unfair fight. Thus, "all odds seem shitty."
I could go on explaining each thought and connection, but I think you get the idea. The part I cannot explain is how to have all of these thoughts in parallel, while rapping, and keep sync with the music. It probably has something to do with experience, brain compression algorithms, thinking in pictures instead of words, etc. By the way, I often mention that I think in pictures. I am not sure if this is accurate, but my understanding of a picture is that it contains a lot of data. So, thinking in pictures gives the brain to compress the free style synthesis process.
When we experience the world with our eyes, the brain processes information at alarming speed. In fact, I am not sure what the limits of the brain are, but as an example, imagine driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour. Is it possible?
Of course it is. We instinctively block out and compress all irrelevant data. Then we focus on the data that affects our decision making. Yet, we can also listen to some Massive Attack, carry on a conversation with other passengers in the car, realize that we are thirsty, smoke a cigarette, and wonder if the girl in the next lane has a nice ass.
This blog post started as a facebook note. So I am including the original comment thread because I think it adds to the conversation.