Freestyling is for everyone, and provides a way to think and speak flexibly. In rap, it’s essential to acknowledge these two things: (1) anyone can and should freestyle, and (2) the liberating and powerful practice of freestyling was brought into the world by African-Americans, specific creative human beings in the Bronx and Harlem in the 1970s, who developed hip hop and rap as we now understand it.
You can’t freestyle if you can’t breathe. To understand your life as a freestyle and use this metaphor to improve it, you need to be allowed to live. It’s now 65 years after the Civil Rights Movement started in the US and blacks continue to be subject to constant, systemic racism. And senseless killings continue, constantly. Just to once again remember three instances from the past four months:
- Ahmaud Arbery, going jogging near his home in Brunsick, Georgia as he often did and of course unarmed, was chased down by three men and shot to death on February 23.
- Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was shot to death on March 13 in Louisville in her own home by three police officers who entered while she was sleeping.
- George Floyd, handcuffed, in police custody, not resisting, and lying prone on the street, was killed by a police officer in public in Minneapolis on May 25 while three other officers stood by.
Since freestyling is about voice, and about the ability to think and speak freely, it is very appropriate for those undertaking this practice, or even inspired by it, to speak the names of our neighbors and American family whose freedoms have been crushed in this ultimate way. There’s an even simpler way to start using your freestyling voice in support of freedom. Say, loudly and in public, the name of the human rights movement that started seven years ago and that aims to end racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration — Black Lives Matter.