TYRAID has recently dropped Rectified, the final video from his project with Green Lantern, appropriately titled Outbreak.
To celebrate that, we asked him to chair a favourite ten selection – he went with legendary freestyles. Hold tight…
Peace y’all, it’s TYRAID, hope this message finds you well in these strange times. So, I’ve been tasked with providing you an essential list to get you through the day. Figured since ya’ll consider me to have “bars,” as the kids say, I’d hit you with some of most standout live freestyles from veteran emcees.
There’s criteria though, so dig this…
The performance must be at least five years old and it can’t be shot in music video format (i.e. Stormzy’s One Take or Elzhi’s Undefeated Freestyle). Also, I don’t care if it’s not spontaneous, I just care if it’s dope. Sorry, purists. Lastly, I purposely omitted 90s freestyles because that would be too easy.
Now, without any further delay, here’s my Bonafide Top Ten Legendary Freestyles.
King Los – Sway In The Morning (‘13)
Los is NO STRANGER to the best lyricist conversation. He’s developed himself into a specialist throughout his tenure in rap; a deadly emcee you definitely need to “social distance” far the fuck away from. This is my favorite (yankee spelling) performance of his. He disrespectfully commandeered the cypher and the entirety of Mobb Deep’s Temperature’s Rising beat. That “Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike” line was hilarious as hell.
“Got a gun names Moses, I’m in the club with it/
Cuz it can part the Red Sea(C )… on your Cubs fitted”
Dope. I watch this probably once a year.
Mac Miller Freestyle [Compilation, Fk It]
I broke my own rules and used a compilation of various appearances to capture your attention and amplify the immensely creative and versatile spirit that is Mac Miller. The seamless combination of legitimate freestyle and memorized bars, along with quirky and aggressive stylings, made this a memorable performance from Mac. We don’t use the term “white rapper” with Mr Fisherman. There’s nothing gimmicky or inauthentic about this remarkable emcee. This man IS one of us. He could write ethereal ballads or lyrically hang with PRhyme, pick what you want. We miss you Mac. Thank you for your gift to us. Best believe we’ll continue to honor your legacy.
JME – Westwood Freestyle (‘14)
So, first the hell off, I’m a huge JME fan. And it’s dope this legend is getting love out here in the States. It was honestly a toss up between this and the joint with Skepta where they both rhyme over the I Spy beat. But that’s less than five years old so it got disqualified. One of the qualities of brotha’s performances is he sounds exactly the hell like he does on wax. In fact, watch that, then watch this… fuck the rules, here’s the other joint. Shout out to the Durag King!
Joe Budden – Last Days / Green Lantern Freestyle (’07)
Microphone check, one two, what is this? Them JBP boys back in business! Before Joey fully transitioned into the personality he was destined to become if you’ve been following him since Joe Budden TV, he was (and still is) a FEROCIOUS emcee. His style is more conversational than say legends like Royce or Elzhi. And as a fellow cerebral, I respect it.
But YO! This was legendary, and shout out to Green Lantern. I don’t know what set Budden off, but he left all “media training” at the door and went off, literally. Styles P was there, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Uncle Murda. I love bars when there’s tension in the room. Last Dayz by Onyx on loop.
Crooked I & Chino XL – Wake Up Show (‘00)
First off, I know this entire thing backwards. I’ve must have listen to this hundreds of times in the near two decades I’ve been aware of this historic event. I love The Wake Up Show; listening to it as a child in the 90s help inspire me to not only rap but become a lyricist.
This was a sparring of the titans; Crooked I and Chino XL, the latter of which chose the name Tyraid for me. That’s a story for another day, though. Please watch this shit, seriously. It’s a perfect medley of aggressively, morosely funky loops and top tier lyricism. Chino raps fast as hell on this, so slow it down and take in just wtf is going on. And Crooked? Boooyyyy…
Little Simz – Fire In The Booth (‘14)
Little Simz is quite honestly one of the most versatile artists I’ve become a fan of. You want Godbless Mary or 101 FM? She’s a rapper’s rapper but so polished, despite her own belief. Lyrically, she’s a matriarch; dominating any featured track. And this exemplary performance on Fire In The Booth is a prime example of why she is as respected as she is. I usually hate when the DJ uses popular instrumentals. But she compliments Kick In The Door, and when the Gunplay comes on is when she gets in her uptempo bag. Get that GREY Area.
Depzman – SBTV Warm Up Sessions (‘12)
Let’s stay in the UK for a bit, with this one. Of all the Depz freestyles, I check for every now and again, this is my favorite (more yankee spelling, deal with it) along with the Trendsetter joint. It’s grimey, it’s arrogant, it’s higher-level lyricism, and effortless as hell. As an outsider, Depz exemplified the new generation of grime emcees. It’s criminal how this young brother was taken from us before he can get the roses he deserved.
“Who’s the boss? Me. Look at my flow, then look how your brethren’s flowin… 🤔 exactly like mine/
SMG were the baddest in grime/
Dem man dere stay cattin my lines/
Yeah I got bars to last a lifetime/
No one ain’t a match in my eyes/“
Salute, legend. Rest well, Depz.
Kendrick Lamar – BET Cypher (‘13)
Boy oh boy, this was so strategic. This is by far my favorite Kendrick live performance, ever. Everything him and his camp did, leading up to this moment, was so strategic. While he was bubbling in the underground to the point of “next up” acclaim, it was this, in my opinion, that solidified him as an official heavy hitter. We can all speculate who he was talking about. While I think that part was a bit obvious, I think he was also taking off on elders. To me, the energy screamed, “I did all of this and you’re just now giving me props? When I’m just now “popular enough” to like? Fuck your torch. Matterfact, Y’ALL are the torch now, where’s my match at??”
Whether intended or not, this was a victory for 90s kids and a pivotal moment in hip hop. Debate me.
Blu – Wake Up Show (‘05)
One more for the west, with the inclusion of one of Blu’s earliest and best works. Again, another 90s kid from the west showing the versatility and showmanship of hybrid emcees. Blu is something special and someone who doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of props he deserves. Politics and off-the-mic controversy has nothing to do with the impact this man has on a generation of listeners, to this day. Peep game on this performance. This is a man who is made to hold the torch.
“My minimal will match yo best/
If you think the rules done changed, mane, ask the ref/
My class is vexed, y’all needed to get ya glasses checked/“
What a powerful introduction. I go back to this performance every once in a while, when I feel my hunger isn’t where it should be.
Jay-Z – Corporate Takeover Grammy Freestyle (‘07)
Okay, before we get started I must admit — none of those were ranked. I’m an emcee, you can’t ask me to list a “best of [anything]”.
However, there is an exception, and that is the legendary performance by Jay-Z (the hyphen returns, since we’re taking it back), known as Corporate Takeover Freestyle aka Grammy Family Freestyle.
A young Tyraid first came across this in the fall of 2006; a “prodigal son returneth” moment unlike any other. I’ve heard under a hundred Jay freestyles and standout verses, but this was something unparalleled, and I couldn’t figure out why.
It was this brazen, lamenting, joyous, troubled, testimonial, voracious, jaded, flawed, mistake-ridden mess of a freestyle and that’s what made it so perfect. It was a bold “fuck you” proclamation, with a now-proven prophetic undertone. He sounds like a tired boxer in the midst of discovering his second wind.
I think Jay really stepped into his own legend, that evening. That moment is where he became the goat; the Michael Jordan Flu Game of his career. All of this was right on the eve of the under-appreciated classic, Kingdom Come.
“See Martin, see Malcolm/
See Biggie, see Pac, see Success and it’s outcome/
See Jesus, see Judas. See Cesar, see Brutus/
See, success is like suicide/
‘Suicide, it’s a suicide’ /
If you succeed, prepare to be crucified/
Mmm. Media meddles (medals), niggas sue you, you settle/
Every step you take, they remind you, you ghetto/
So it’s tough Being Bobby Brown/
To be Bobby then, you gotta be Bobby now/“
“Everybody screamin ‘they want the old Hov’ /
But the new, improved Hov hit like Albert Pujols/
Errbody wanna hear me talk that money like Phil Rizzuto/
But my mind is on Pluto/
Bills that I do fold, I now invest/
On tryin to find some loopholes in the IRS/“
Plus it was the first time Jay was on his “grown Hov” vibe.
“Better adhere to these texts ‘fore you go/
Broke, spending more than you accrued on silly begets/
I know silly begets silly, you learn on your own/
At least my conscience is clear, I’m no longer steering you wrong/
Nothing wrong with begets, after you get a home/
Take care of your own, you can go back to the [‘jects? makes most sense]”
Legendary, down to the half remembered bars and adlibs. Watch that whole thing.
P Money – Sketch Freestyle (‘12)
This one was tough because I didn’t know whether to go with this or the joint he did with the legend MistaJam in ‘11, that Wiley sampled on his Godfather album. I don’t know fam, P Money to me is one of, if not the most deadly lyricist in the UK. If Mans Talking is flawless. I Got Bars is flawless. In fact the entire Snake 2 album the latter record is on is a classic. How the hell do you back to back entire diss albums? His clash with Dot Rotten is the stuff of legend. P is someone I bring up to closed-minded Americans trying to sleep on Grime and UK Hip Hop. Anyhow, this freestyle is an exemplary performance, per normal. Peep game, pimp.
TYRAID – Wake Up Show: Unplugged (’13)
You didn’t expect me to throw my hat in the ring? This is a live cypher with immensely talented musicians such as Anderson .Paak and The Avila Brothers, for The Wake Up Show. It’s a highlight performance that put some extra gas in the tank.
“Talkin knockin up actresses in previous songs? We don’t believe you, at all/
You couldn’t pull a bad bitch, if you’re Cesar Milan/
Rap’s my kingdom, you heathens get your feet off my lawn/
You ain’t a leader, you’re Peter and John, belonging under the wing of my arm/“
“Dog. Use some dignity, it’s not that hard/
You really want to steal some credibility then start a blog, problem solved/
While you dishin gossip to get some sponsors, I’m conditioning, getting stronger/
Roqy got The Eye of ‘RICHARD PARKER!’/ “
Anyhow… check it out.
Dizzee Rascal (& Sway) – Westwood (‘07??)
I remember first being introduced to grime here in the states, and it was courtesy of this living fucking legend, Dizzee Rascal. I’m over the top, so when I first heard this verse, I turned my computer speakers off and yelled “FUCK!”
All facts. He demonstrated pure versatility over one of my favorite beats from 2000. Shout out to my man Knine for reminding me of this.
While the climate is rapidly changing, there is a portion of stateside consumers who still don’t take to British rappers. Especially when they rhyme over traditional American production. That is also what made this so dope. Dizzee tore into this beat like Trunks pulling the sword out on Freeza. Special shout out to Sway, spending time in the UK, I’ve come to understand the undertone of resentment and feelings of exclusion towards their cousins from across the pond. Things are changing, though. The link up is real.
Anyhow, Dizzee’s double-timed his verse, landing just out of pocket enough for each bar to land on the end of the snare. I can’t do it justice by quoting it, so just listen, trust me.
CyHi The Prince – Westwood Freestyle(‘15)
CyHi is criminally underrated as an emcee. Yes, he’s regarded as one of the best. It’s just not celebrated as much as it should be. Brotha’s pen is just impeccable. The double entendres are as smooth as the ally-oop-like set up bars. Check this immaculate verse out, because not much explanation is needed.
“I’m at the London edition with an abundance of bitches/
Only way I save ‘em .. is if they becomin a christian/
Growing up? Umph, I made the dumbest decisions/
But.. this is what you get when your son was on ritalin/
And other prescriptions while stuck in detention/
My niggas got tats on their face like they come from New Zealand/
Who think killin’s a wonderful feelin’/
So like a treadmill, nigga don’t make us run in the buildin/”
Lady Leshurr & Lady Lykez – 1Xtra (‘15)
I couldn’t leave without bigging up this joint with Leshurr and Lykez from 1xtra. I mentioned dudes rhyming over I Spy and last minute-remembered these two beat the dog shit out this beat while Melody Kane was on the wheels. I love how women have been dragging male emcees, by the numbers, these past few years. And Leshurr has been leading the charge, especially, with her Queen’s Speech series.
Check this moment in recent history. Absolute bars.
Alright, there you have it, Top Ten Legendary Freestyles and some.
This is TYRAID signing out from Phoenix. See y’all soon.
Stream and buy Outbreak from TYRAID and DJ Green Lantern on Bandcamp.