This Multi-Award Wining & Critically Acclaimed feature film, considered by many an underground hip hop cult classic, explosively explores the world of improvisational rap with some of the most amazing MC’s ever to bless the Mic!
The film premiers this month digitally for 1st time ever on iTunes & is available now for Download:
FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme
Explosively documenting the story of a group of underground hip-hop MCs & DJs
from the early 1980's to the present day, FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme is a
film that explores the world of improvisational rap—the rarely recorded art form of
rhyming spontaneously; off the top of the head. Made over the course of more
than seven years, by a co-operative of filmmakers, b-boys, dj's, and MC's know
as The Center for Hip-Hop Education, FREESTYLE takes the viewer on a
journey through the previously unexamined dimensions of hip-hop as a spiritual
and community based art form.
FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme, experimental in its nature as an improvisational
film: no showing of the program is ever the same experience, combining the best
of independent art house cinema within the hip-hop mix tape format. The project
features appearances by: Supernatural, Mos Def, Black Thought & ?uestlove of
the Roots, Freestyle Fellowship, Lord Finesse, Cut Chemist, Craig G, Juice,
Boots of the Coup, Medusa, Planet Asia, Sway, Crazy Legs, Jurassic 5,
Wordsworth, Bobitto Garcia, and The Last Poets. FREESTYLE offers us a
context in which to view living art as a social critique in story and rhyme that is
designed to bring about a cathartic transformation of frustration into beauty.
Following some of the best MC's ever to bless the mic, the film features
legendary battles including those of the film's hero; Supernatural pitted against
his arch nemesis Craig G providing the through line for the story. As these artists
improvise poetry out of a mix of language, politics and culture that make up their
lives, we discover revolutionary worlds where the English language is subverted
and re-appropriated as a tool of economic and social empowerment.
FREESTYLE is a critically acclaimed film that is the first of its kind in many
respects. It is the first film to explore the social and cultural background that led
to the current development of the street poet, or MC. It provides an inside look
into the framework of hip-hop culture, its rules, taboos and social impact. It gives
a voice to popular Black/urban culture, which is known to be a profound influence
on youth culture globally. FREESTYLE is allso the first independent film to
counter false notions of hip-hop's erroneous negative and overly aggressive
image, therefore providing a unique look at a growing influence in modern
American and world culture. Finally, FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme is the first-
time documentary directed by Kevin Fitzgerald, co-founder of The Center for Hip-
Hop Education and a young and talented African-American filmmaker on the rise.
Holding great educational value for hip-hop enthusiasts as well as for those
misinformed about hip-hop culture due to its intimate and honest portrayal of
hard working independent artists, the film focuses on a group of intelligent,
ambitious, and talented young men in pursuit of a dream, deconstructing the
'thug life' image that is often associated with the music.
A spiritual tale, FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme offers a unique glimpse into a
driving force in modern-day culture while maintaining the elements of
quintessential coming-of-age cinema: an honest and thought provoking portrayal
of the experiences surrounding the pursuit of the dreams of youth. The artists in
FREESTYLE provide insight into one of the least seen faces of present day hip-
hop: improvisation and creativity.
Freestyles exist only in the moment
Freestyling is the art of spontaneously rapping whatever comes to mind—
whether political or personal—but always keeping what you say in perfect
rhyming verse. Like the Griots or Jalies' of West Africa, the modern day MC
(Master of Ceremonies or Mic Controller) is seen as sharing the same purpose:
to communicate poetic story to a society hungry for truth, connecting more often
than not through some divine or mystical power.
Though not known to the mainstream media, an MC freestyling over a DJ rocking
doubles of a break is said by many to be the root of all hip-hop. Like spontaneous
rough drafts, many known MCs freestyle before writing out their lyrics in the
studio. Others refuse to record them, insisting that the poetry comes from their
fleeting spontaneity. Like jazz solos, most freestyles exist only in the moment,
creating a subculture where reputations are made through rhyme and you're
often only as good as the last verse you spit.
The original African-American form of story telling
The film begins by launching headfirst into the origins of the black verbal art form
known as Rap. From Southern gospel preachers to Jamaican Toasters, and
neighborhood park jams where MCs rhyme over DJs; to battles at the now
famous Lyricist Lounge open mike in New York: FREESTYLE: The Art of Rhyme
builds an authentic quilt of the life, culture and history of hip-hop by capturing
some of the most famous—as well as underground—rhyme sayers ever. By
mixing known and unknown artists, the filmmakers shows what the media so
often doesn't: that at its core hip hop is an expression of spirit, a fleeting escape
into the divine found through live creativity in the present moment.
Poetry is a more academic and structured form of rhyme, while a
less structured form but no less sophisticated type is Freestyle.
Most rap and hip-hop music played on radio or television is somewhat
commercialized. Unlike this homogenized corporate rap gruel the priority of
Freestyle is usually that of the highest artistic integrity and social consciousness.
Beneath the surface of commercialized rap and hip-hop lie the deeper roots of
rhyme. In this underground realm are the true MC's who do what they do not for
financial gain, but for spiritual fulfillment. Instead, these underground spoken-
word-poets do what they do for the freedom of expression. With this freedom
comes a release from tensions and relief from everyday problems. And unity
discovered is the result or this empowering creativity.
Being Free to express yourself
Freestyle is something we see both young and old people doing in the film and
those sessions are some of the most extremely passionate and engaging to
experience. Most of the ciphers consist of artists coming together, almost
anywhere, getting in the zone with other MCs to spit rhymes. At times the rhymes
are just plan stupid and make everyone laugh, but other times they are really
deep and thought provoking. Often these rhymes are one of a kind, never to be
repeated again, only to be absorbed into our open hearts and minds.
Freestyle is exactly that, a free style of rhyming. There are no set boundaries and
generally any new and innovative way to rhyme is looked upon as brilliant.
Freestyle is all about a personal form of expression, and spontaneous storytelling
one that reflects deeply upon the character of each artist.
In various cities, there are freestyle and open mic competitions. The participants
often 'battle' for prizes and for the status of the best MC. Battling isn't physical; it
is, for lack of better words, a conversation which goes back and forth between
rappers to see who can concoct the best rhymes on the spot. Although, as we
see with the films hero Supernatural prizes are usually given to the winner, but
MC's generally do rhymes for recognition that they're the best and for the fun of
Destroying the played out gangster rap image
Rather than well-lit rap stars with platinum records behind them, FREESTYLE:
The Art of Rhyme shows real people from diverse communities explaining the art
form in their own words. The film's structure grows organically from their words
and performances. These artists shape the form of the film with real ciphers and
sessions, and destroy the played out gangster rap image by showing us a real
humanity that has attracted both the world's respect and dollars.
In fact, early work-in-progress screenings of the project not only garnered awards
but also attracted underground MCs, who would then cipher outside the venue,
and ultimately wind up being included in later versions of the movie. The
filmmaker/students collected such a diversity of original footage (Super16,
Super8, Hi8, DV, Betacam) in addition to "sampling" stock footage spanning
decades (from the 50's to now), that the film itself mirrors the freedom and
aesthetic of a Freestyle. And in that sense it represents as a true hip-hop film.
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