Earlier this month, Black Thought, of the Philadelphia-based hip hop group The Roots, dropped an epic 10-minute freestyle that went viral almost instantly. Born Tariq Trotter, the legendary artist delivered the freestyle on the New York hip-hop station Hot 97 with Funkmaster Flex. The video currently has over 2 million views on YouTube. Trotter linked with Rolling Stone to try to explain why the freestyle caught fire so fast online.
“I think hip-hop, the culture, is at a crossroads right now, and there's not very much that people who are older than millennials have to identify with,” Thought told the publication, describing the current state of hip-hop. “There isn't much that's reaching the mainstream that is hip-hop in the sense that people my age know it as, if that makes any sense. 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 sense of urgency is what hip-hop heads feel this new generation of rappers lack. “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. I think people had almost forgotten. Maybe not forgotten, but people had given up hope that someone out there was still around who is doing it the way we had done it,” he continued.
The 10-minute freestyle is being considered a breath of fresh air amongst hip-hop heads, who tend to frown upon this era of mumble-rap. But the rapper has a different perspective on the new generation. “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,” Thought contended. “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.”
Read the rest at Rolling Stone.