From the days of ghetto blasters to the shiny-suit era to the day bloggers directed influence, the term freestyle has survived through different generations of hip hop and continues to be a hot-button issue.
Whether you’re from the old school of thought or the new, the debate always seems to brew. ¡MAYDAY!’s Wrekonize has been lighting up the web with his Thrift Store Halos freestyle series which has seen the Miami emcee spit free verse after free verse over industry beats.
While the series has been extremely popular, even Wrek couldn’t escape the internet chatter of what a freestyle really is. Curious to see what he had to say, we caught up with Wrek days after ¡MAYDAY! returned from the Gathering of The Juggalos to discuss the method behind his freestyles and asked him to share his thoughts on freestyle critics.
How are you picking the beats? Is it spontaneous?
It’s kind of spontaneous really. When I would come across beats in the past that I wanted to work on or use for a mixtape, I would put it to the side. I have folders of beats that I’ve put to the side where I’m like, “Yeah, I really dig that. Maybe I’ll flip that for something.” So, I have a little pool of beats and I’m always looking out for what beats are hot or what’s poppin’off. Sometimes someone will send me something and I’ll take note of that. It’s spontaneous to the vibe – when I sit down to write it.
The first one – I’ve been wanting to do “Goldie” for a long ass time and I was finally able to find a decent loop of that. That one was planned. Then, “Hands On The Wheel”, actually Dekal sent me that one. He was like, “I think ya’ll would kill this.” I had been sitting on that beat forever and then once I started doing the freestyle stuff, I was like alright, that’s one to do. “Mighty Healthy” was a beat that I’ve loved forever. I’ve always wanted to rock that and I just kinda sat down that night. I was just like, “I’m gonna do this one, fuck it.”
It seems like you have a pretty quick turnaround on these.
The last two were done really close to the day. I wrote “Mighty Healthy” like Monday night and then I recorded – no, actually I didn’t get to record until Tuesday. So, I ended up recording it the day before. Most of the time, the turnaround is pretty quick which is cool because it allows me talk about things that have just happened or are hella current. I don’t have to wait on it like I would with a song. Which is another reason why I like doing the freestyle, it allows you to be current and talk about things that are affecting you yesterday and today.
Like a South park episode, everything is happening now.
Straight up, it’s literally turned around in a couple of days. I didn’t really have a choice with this one because we were at the Gathering until Monday morning and that morning, my brain barely worked from the trip. We were going to stay that last night, but we ended up staying the whole night at the Gathering anyway so when we got to the hotel, they had cancelled the room because we never showed up. It was like seven in the morning. The room got cancelled and we ended up just saying fuck it and we drove. We never lied down or slept, we just did the whole drive back to Miami. By the time Monday came around and I got home, I couldn’t think, speak, eat, shit – I couldn’t do anything properly because I was still recovering. I ended up writing “Mighty Healthy” on Tuesday. I literally wrote it when I woke up, recorded it that night, and turned it around for the next day.
You had Bernz and Gianni make appearances in the freestyle series. Are you going to them for input on these?
Nah, I mean, when it comes to these because I’ve been doing them for a while, I’m kind of a control freak. They’re pretty cool with me and they know I’m a little manic when it comes to that shit. Actually, Bernz was going to jump on “Goldie”. He heard it and wanted to drop a verse on it, but it was too late, I was literally about to print it and upload it for the next day. I turned that one around quick. He heard the scratches and everything and was like, “I’ll just get on the next one.” I let him know that I wanted to do “Hands On The Wheel”, which I thought would be dope since I had been wanting to do that beat for a while.
I’ve kinda got ideas on certain beats that I wanna rock. For the most part on the beat selection, I’m kind of a tyrant about it, but yeah they came with ideas for the hook on “Goldie” and the cuts as well. Gio just came out of nowhere and was like, “I’d love to do some scratches for that.” I’m open to ideas all the time from the crew, but for the most part unless they come with an idea, I just go about it however I can get it done.
You’re having fans vote on the beat for your final freestyle, right?
I wanted to do four of my own and the last week will be voted on. I’ll have everyone submit a bunch of joints. I’ll take the top 10 or so joints and have people vote on them. Then I’ll do that one for the fifth week.
One thing I wanted to address is the debate or criticism over the term ‘freestyle’ and how it’s used today. Does that bother you at all?
Yeah, that shit is so frustrating, but it’s just one of them internet comment things that you have to deal with. Without being too disrespectful, but at the same time people need to know it’s irritating – if you’re really listening to a 64-bar verse that has intricate line patterns and multi-syllable flips and you’re questioning whether or not that came off the top of someone’s head – you kind of look like an idiot. If you know anything about hip hop or emceeing, there’s no way in hell you’re going to sit there and listen to a verse with that level of intricacy and think, “Did this person kick it off the top of their head?” I’m always baffled when people say that, but I recognize the meaning of that term, using it the way we do, it’s kind of a dated term. It is some classic hip hop shit.
In the beginning, “freestyle” didn’t mean off the top of the head. It just meant a free verse without any specific direction and put on any kind of beat. I do realize it’s dated, but fuck it. I’m an eighties baby and that term still means something to me. I think it might also be them not knowing, like they’ll hear the freestyle and think that’s a song. They think it’s the original track because they’ve never heard the beat. Like “Marvin & Chardonnay”, some people had never heard that record because they don’t listen to the radio. They would be like, “Oh, is this gonna be on the next project?” and I have to say, “Well no, I don’t own that beat. I just jacked that shit.” Certain people just aren’t in the know.
I’m at the point we’re I’m just going to make jokes about it in the freestyles. I want to drop a little mention of it. On “Mighty Healthy” there were a few people that commented on it being written like, “Oh that’s dope, but it doesn’t sound like a freestyle.” Yeah, no shit. It’s not, you cracked the code, good job. It’s comedic at this point.