Rappers Saying Sh*t Before They Rap: An Absurdly Detailed Investigation
RefinedHype Nation regulars know that I don't listen to "freestyles", mostly because everything that was exciting about listen to a freestyle has become, in 2013, the equivalent of watching Drake reading off his Blackberry. But every so often enough people tell me, "No, really, this is worth watching" that I break my freestyle boycott and check something out. That's what happened with this Vic Mensa, A$AP Rocky and Bun B cypher on "Rap Fix", and I'm glad I checked it. We don't get to see rappers just so openly excited about rapping, and actually obviously rapping off the top, It was fucking awesome.
But because I've got rap OCD, pay way too much attention to small details and once my brain gets moving in a certain direction I can't stop it, the second time I watched this cypher I started thinking about all the shit Vic Mensa said before he actually started rapping. In fact, we get a full ten seconds or so of monologue before he starts spitting: "Alright, I'll cut it short. Let me think. I'll play a little numbers game, you know what I mean? Gotta keep my digits right, alright, check 'em out. Yo..."
From there the questions just started spilling out of my brain. What percentage of rappers say shit before they start freestyling? My guess would be the majority - that girl Glam does a little five second "let me hear it" preamble before she raps - but both A$AP Rocky and Bun B launch right into theirs, and for his second verse Vic goes straight in. What's the longest a rapper's ever spent saying "yo, yo yo yo" before they started rapping? Has anyone ever said some truly memorable shit in their pre-rap?
Thanks to the interwebs, we can at least begin to answer those questions. Let me open up YouTube and start "researching".As long as it's on my mind, let's go back to that Drake Blackberry freestyle:
For the record, I'm not really counting all the pointless banter between Drake and Flex, as annoying as that is. I'm counting from the point the beat actually drops, and Drake clocks in at about nine seconds here comprised of: "Oh...yeah...you know...yeah...young...I got ya....look."
It seems obvious now that I'm writing it, but those pre-ambles are mostly just a way of killing time until you figure out the flow you should use over the beat. That's probably why Rocky and Bun were able to launch more quickly into their part in that "Rap Fix" cypher than Vic; Vic was hearing it for the first time, while they got to figure out their flow while Vic was rapping. (UPDATE: It turns out that was Vic's beat, so nevermind.)
Drake and that "Rap Fix" cypher are fine and good, but I need a larger sample size. Seeing Sway reminded me of the "Wake Up Show" invitational cypher that had like 20 people in it, and a lot of them were more unpolished, younger emcees. Let's watch, I'll point out some highlights below:
Right from the beginning the first dude threw me off a bit. When he shouts out his site and then says "check it" you think he's about to start rapping right away so we can, you know, check it, but then PSYCHE! He throws in another five seconds of 'Yo, yeah, get 'em...."
On the flipside the second dude, MyGrane, goes right in, not even a "uh" to be found, while the big man up third gives us a little three second "We right here, you tuned in, listen, yo."
From there three emcees go on to say some shit before they rap, while seven just get right to it. (I'm not counting them saying their names, which is essential in a radio cypher. Anything else though counts as saying some shit.) Those numbers would seem to suggest that just straight rapping happens about twice as much as saying some shit, but this was such a high pressure environment, maybe the data is skewed and rappers were more likely to cut right to the chase than otherwise. Maybe things would get different in a battle. Let's see...
Yeah, that is a different story. Both of those dudes got straight to rapping in the cypher, but in a battle format they all do some serious saying shit before they rap, most notably Madness' "I'm gonna feed you a glass sandwich" threat, which is the best saying some shit before you rap shit I've heard yet. And as long as I'm getting sucked into the "Wake Up Show" YouTube vortex, I have to watch Eminem's freestyle. I've literally watched this over 100 times, but I can't seem to remember if he says some shit before he raps or not. I'm gonna say...yes, yes he does. What's your money on: Eminem says some shit, or gets straight to the rapping? No cheating, make your call before you press play:
Huh, if we're being strict he does say some shit, specifically the "Alright, yeah yeah, alright, thank you", although for the most part he gets right to the rap. Reading that back over it seems funny that he says "thank you" right before he starts rhyming. It's always important to mind your manners when you're about to rap about beating a retarded kid with a prosthetic limb.
And oh shit, now that I'm thinking about Eminem, that reminds me of one of the most famous, at least in my head, saying shit before you rap cases of all-time, "Cleaning Out My Closet". (I wrote about it in-depth here.) The man's got no snare in his headphones. HEY, GET HIM SOME FUCKING SNARE IN HIS HEADPHONES. JESUS!!!
Fuck, up until now I was really only thinking about saying some shit before a freestyle or a battle, I hadn't even considered saying some shit before a studio track. And I don't mean more scripted monologues or intros, I'm talking more along the lines of the "Uh, yeah, yo, ok" shit you hear in freestyles, and/or requests for the studio engineer to turn the headphones up, the snare down, whatever. This feels like an entirely different world, and frankly I don't know if I have the energy to head down that road right now. (I know, let's all shed a single tear for the poor over-worked rap blogger.)
So what did we learn from all this? Not a motherfucking thing, I just hope this helped my fellow rap-obsessed RefinedHype Nation members pass some time, although I will close with two points:
1) Now I need to play a Will He Say Some Shit? drinking game. I'm thinking you get on YouTube, click on random freestyle videos, and before it plays everyone has to bet whether the guy will say some shit or not. And yes, I'm aware that my life is ridiculous.
2) I know there have to be some other great examples of rappers saying shit before they rap out there. Let me know in the comments below.
This article originally appeared on RefinedHype.com, which has now merged with The DJBooth. For more info, click here.
Written by Nathan S. on 11/14/13
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