Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme | Chicago Reader

Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme

An engaged and knowing look at the underground world of improvised rap, concentrating on artists less interested in commercial success and cutting records than in the “spontaneous right now” of “nonconceptual rhyme.” Director Kevin Fitzgerald, a DJ himself, traces freestyle to the early 1970s, when Jamaican emigres introduced “toasting” (a disc jockey improvising vocals over an instrumental track) to the South Bronx. Chicago's Juice rhymes so fluently that others accuse him of writing his raps in advance, which he considers “the ultimate compliment.” Also included are Medusa, late-60s ur-rappers the Last Poets, a terrific street performance with accompanists vocalizing a beat, and a freestyle contest between Juice and Supernatural before a cheering audience. 60 min.

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