The Last Maven


In my community, the words ‘beautiful accident’ are referenced quite often. It always resonated with me at a deeper level than I felt like it should. A beautiful accident is something magnificent and ideal, and is derived unexpectedly in an area of focus. I’ve always held this silent belief that I produce some of my best material from these ‘accidents,’ but most of the time, I’m too wrapped up in a subject or way of thinking. I get caught up in the smallest details, only to feel defeated by my attempt to focus. Then, when I feel like I need to take a break from the task at hand, a new idea appears. Often times, when I’m not trying, something great happens. As amazing as it feels, it’s extremely hard to fathom the idea of not trying as a means of productivity. It feels lazy to not try. Though, that might not truly be the case.

I was so perturbed by this reasoning that I decided to take a class about thinking. This is when I learned of two methods of thinking, both of which felt very familiar. Focused Mode and Diffuse Mode. Most people know what it means to be focused but diffuse was new to me. In a Medium article about Diffused Mode vs Focused Mode, it explains that “Diffuse thinking happens when you let your mind wander freely, making connections at random. The diffuse mode of thinking does not happen in any one area of the brain, but rather all over.” Diffuse, to me, is like freestyle. The freedom in this way of thinking can certainly enhance creativity, in turn, improving the quality of metaphor which is largely about making ideas connect in unique ways.

Though I am still in the process of learning to increase my efficiency as a creative, I can now approach certain tasks with a little more understanding and intentionality. Hopefully, this information will do the same for you.

Reading the Room

A woman hiding in a hoodie, photo by Talen de St. Croix on Unsplash

When it comes to freestyle, reading the room is an essential practice. It’s a form of situational awareness that greatly affects maneuverability as an emcee and as a man. As I enter certain establishments and situations, I instinctively analyze the environment because this will determine the actions that follow.

For example, when at a restaurant, will I be more comfortable being stared at inside while I wait for my food or will I be better off just waiting outside? Can I touch the miscellaneous items left around for customer engagement or should I stand there anxious and inactive just so they won’t think I’ll steal? When waiting in line and an older white woman cuts in front of me should I say something? Will the combination of my irritation and vernacular come off as ghetto? Will I be another example of why they don’t like people like me? Do I just let it slide? Even though people like me have been letting it slide for centuries? Which version of me am I allowed to be at this moment? The version with a bachelor’s degree that speaks to White people like I grew up in THEIR neighborhood? Or the version that doesn’t mention a degree because it shouldn’t matter if I have one for you to treat me with respect? When we protest and see an excessive use of force by those sworn to protect and serve, can I help de-escalate the situation? Will I be handcuffed and paraded down the street or will I never see my son again? The answers elude me.

Life is indeed a freestyle, but who says that freestyling is easy? Freedom is a luxury that everyone isn’t allotted. Every moment is layered with decisions. What kind of decisions do we need to make to really be free?

[Photo by Talen de St. Croix on Unsplash, thank you!]

Off the Top

Over the years, the definition of freestyle has varied in the Hip Hop community. Originally, freestyles were written rhymes meant to showcase skill, but they lacked any real thesis; they don’t need a particular subject matter. This view is closest to its denotative meaning. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “a competition in which the contestant is given more latitude than in related events.” This definition is often used in sporting events which have a variety of categories, such as BMX, swimming, or dancing. If we look at rap as a competitive sport, let’s say swimming, a love song could be a breaststroke and a song of triumph could be a butterfly-stroke. Freestyling would be the only competition that gives to you the freedom to utilize both styles or something else entirely.

Today’s definition of freestyle has a new connotation. It represents the idea of spontaneity and inventiveness. Some say that it’s only a “true” freestyle if it’s improvised on the spot, much like Jazz. In this way, freestyle is often prevalent in our everyday lives. Walking the unbeaten path, answering interview questions, “going with the flow”, an “off the top” rhyme, and last minute decisions are just a few ways to freestyle. A series of random reactions can be deemed a freestyle, but it is also something that can be developed into a skill, with practice. Everyday we face a mixture of both calculated and random events, how we weave through these situations can define us. You can flow with it or against it. Either way, life is a freestyle.

[Photo of “Cypher from Scratch” in Antwerp, Belgium by ChaseMusicBE, licensed under CC BY 2.0, thank you!]