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Here's Why Black Thought's 10-Minute Freestyle Is So Remarkable

Black Thought's latest freestyle reinforces the art of lyrical acrobatics in hip-hop.
Dimitrios Kambouris
Getty Images
Black Thought's latest freestyle reinforces the art of lyrical acrobatics in hip-hop.

The Roots' Black Thought proved yesterday that eviscerating lyricism still matters in hip-hop when the rapper dropped a nonstop, awe-inspiring 10-minute freestyle on Funkmaster Flex's Hot 97 radio show.

Spitting over the beat of Mobb Deep's "The Learning (Burn)," the Philly MC delivered a performance that's so impressive, his name began trending on social media last night after the freestyle published on YouTube. Just as the fanfare ensued, Black Thought himself hopped on Twitter to drop a little humble brag about the whole thing.

"That verse was just what I had to say at the moment," the rapper tweeted.

As a co-founder of The Roots and member of The Tonight Show band, fans have a chance to see Black Thought rhyme on television almost every night — but rarely like this. Similar to a comedian crafting an hour-long comedy special out of individually rehearsed and distinct-but-related smaller bits that add up to an overwhelming crescendo of laughter, a freestyle like this is a methodical act of linguistic acrobatics very few rappers are agile enough to execute. From the breath control to the stacking of metaphors to the spectrum of his playful pop culture references (Shakespeare, Jesus and the Kardashians all get name-dropped) woven throughout, there is something remarkable about holding that sheer volume of wordplay in your dome at a time and being able to let it off at a moment's notice in one take.

To top it off, Black Thought's demeanor throughout the freestyle (check the the tip of his hat at the 6:43 mark) further asserts his G.O.A.T. status.

Try not to lose your breath.

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Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.
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