The hip-hop community is still recovering from the blistering, 10-minute freestyle The Roots’ Black Thought unleashed during a recent stop at Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex radio show. Following the viral freestyle, Black Thought spoke with Rolling Stone about why he feels the freestyle earned praise, his thoughts on hip-hop’s current climate and how he “invented” mumble rap.
Black Thought showed off his impressive lyrical dexterity throughout the freestyle and proved that his residence on The Tonight Show hasn’t affected his rap abilities. “I think hip-hop, the culture, is at a crossroads right now, and there’s not very much that people who are older than millennials have to identify with,” he told the magazine of his freestyle. The veteran rapper added that hip-hop has shifted to a point where “where lyricism almost comes last.”
He continued: “So for someone from my school, who has come from the ilk of lyricism being held in far higher regard, it brings a different sort of urgency to every performance. That’s what I went into that Flex freestyle with, with that same urgency that I had when I was a young person coming to New York from Philly with very much to prove.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Thought discussed a particular line in his freestyle where he called out “lame” artists in hip-hop’s current landscape and asserted that he “essentially invented” mumble rap.
“Lots of people are saying that I shut down mumble rap in one 10-minute setting. But that wasn’t my intention, because mumble rap – if we go back – that’s something I invented,” he asserted. The Roots’ rapper added that scatting was fused into the group’s earlier works like “Don’t Say Nuthin'” and “New Years At Jaydees.”
“The same way that all other pop culture has evolved into what we now know it, so has the music. Art, politics, everything must change, and everything has changed,” Thought concluded. “But there’s a way to embrace change and still appreciate and incorporate elements of the foundation from which it came.”
Read the full Rolling Stone interview here.