I don’t know.
This post title is from a Big Daddy Kane song, but I’m not super familiar with his music. So, that was probably a bad move.
After my Freestyle post, I thought I would write about freestyle a little bit more.
For me, it started back when Jurassic Five came out with “Concrete Streets.” I was in middle school when I got the album, so I guess with my life experience being summed up in a pair of concrete playground-worn shoes I wasn’t reaching for any big ideas. It was just good music. #theroots
A few years after that, one quick shot of freestyling happened when a group of us were waiting to, ahchem, do our thing and dude started freestyling. None of us had been a part of it before and so we were quiet. Then he looked over to me and was like, “Dan, you write poems. Freestyle some shit!” And I was like…
My throat was tight. I didn’t have anything to say. And I’d never tried it before or really knew how it actually existed.
“Playground tactics / No rabbit in a hat tricks / Just act classic…”
But what was classic freestyle!? How could I get there?? Well, that day we moved on to other things, but the moment stuck with me. As my love of music developed and I reached out to new things and dug deeper into hip hop (and hard rock, post hardcore, for sure some emo). My feelings found a place deeper than the dark corners of my heart. lol
It would take some years for me to really dive in, but when I did, it changed me and my writing for good.
In college a buddy of mine from high school and I started hanging out together. We’d known each other from a poetry class where he would tap out beats on his desk while I listened intently between lines of poems.
He introduced me to some indie or underground or whatever you want to call them rappers, musicians and labels. Lives existing around words.
I remember my first time seeing him and another buddy freestyle. With them spitting lines in his little late 90’s civic I felt like it was the first time I was actually on guard enough to even think about loosening up and jumping in. I couldn’t even tell you what they spit about. They used words? Maybe pancakes came up? All I knew was that it was an atmosphere of response, call to action, there, in the rivalry between body and soul, listening for my place in a creative universe.
Damn. I was taken back to that first space when I didn’t have anything to say and felt nothing other than the heat of the spotlight on the back of my neck. I didn’t jump in that time either, but in the moment, I knew for the first time that it was possible. I actually could just jump in.
With time I eased into it. I would spit a couple lines (all spit, no lines) at a time. Okay a few words here and there, then lines came. I’d follow along to what my friends were saying and how they were doing it, listening to the moments of flow and for their solutions to stumbling through. I laughed a lot. I thought a lot. I listened.
A few decent flows later, and we were freestyling night after night. Hours on end. One winter, when I had a house and basement to myself, I set up a stereo, a drum kit, a couple amps, keys, and found some instrumentals to loop, and went horse with words I only just learned I had in me.
Freestyling opened me up to a borderless expression.
I’ve turned that energy to continuously create despite obstacles, 5 second breaks in thought patterns and assorted writer’s block pot holes. I write and write until I can’t write anymore, then I revise. I build sonic patterns and match them to physical appearances.
I write with living energy, now, thanks to the music.
So, the title is a little off. I didn’t exactly burn up. I mean, I’m not looking for battles or to get that record deal. But my creative life brightened along this journey that continues today in my car with shuffle on and at home when no one’s around.