In no particular order, here are ten freestyles that now double up as old-school anthems from back in the days when Bluetooth and Limewire were today’s equivalent of Twitter and YouTube. There are too many noteworthy Fire in the Booth’s, so we haven’t included any of those here.
The following old-school freestyles aren’t the only ones worth your time, because YouTube is full of gems when it comes to freestyles. We’ve picked these ones because they were iconic in some way or another.
1 – Skepta’s first Westwood Freestyle
You can’t talk about old-school UK freestyles without mentioning this one from Skepta as it might just be one of the best freestyles the UK has ever seen. “Let me show you why I’m the king of grime, you write one hundred million different flows, I write that classical line to last me my whole lifetime.” Skepta said it way back then, and some eight years later, it’s safe to say he definitely didn’t lie.
2 – Wiley, Chipmunk & Ice Kid freestyle – Westwood
When Wiley brought two young MC’s through to Westwood’s studio back in 2007 – Chip and Ice Kid, they had a relative buzz, but afterwards, there could be no doubt as to who the game’s best young MC’s were. This is also something you’d show to someone who swears blind that Chip hasn’t had crazy bars for nearly 10 years now.
3 – P Money Swifturk Visionz freestyle
P Money is one of the originators (no pun intended) of maintaining a grime sound whilst also having crazy punchlines, and this freestyle showcases his quick tempo and those mad punchlines to a tee. “I’ll split your pineapple bare ways, don’t try and get rude on the airways, if I go back to the yard for the fruit bowl, grapes are gonna fly like British Airways”. Those same casual shellings we saw all those years ago, definitely hasn’t been lost today in 2016.
4 – Giggs SN1 freestyle part 2 – Westwood Crib Sessions
This freestyle starts off with Giggs and Gunna D destroying the ‘Swagger Like Us’ beat, before a few verses from Giggs and Joe Grind lead us into of the coldest moments you’ll ever hear in a freestyle, provided by the Landlord himself from 5:35 onwards. It’s as if Giggs entered the game as Charizard, even though most rappers have to begin as Charmander, who doesn’t turn into Charizard until Level 32-36 after going through a crappy middle period of being Charmeleon. Very few rappers have a catalogue of bangers as extensive as him, and his verse in this freestyle is one of many next-level, superior moments from the Landlord.
5 – Krept & Konan – Behind Barz | Adele Hometown Glory
Krept & Konan’s freestyle is simply too honest, raw and eye-opening to not be considered in a conversation for ‘one of the best UK freestyles ever’ (at least in the era of YouTube). We first see Krept go completely HAM, showcasing a more emotional and honest sound which wasn’t commonplace amongst UK rappers back then. Krept’s verse was so cold, it left a feeling of ‘na Konan’s definitely not matching that’, then he does, and years later, it’s still as iconic as it was back then when it was known as one of just a few UK rap videos to have over 1 million views.
6 – Wiley, Ghetts, Scorcher, Skepta, Wretch 32 freestyle
This is one of those freestyles where you look back and it becomes clear as to why the five MC’s in this freestyle from 2007 are widely accepted as five of the best grime artists in the UK almost ten years later. Two words – Work. Rate.
7 – Wiley epic freestyle
One YouTube comments read “hands up if you’re still listening in 2029”. We’ll just leave it at that.
8 – Giggs, Buck & Kyze SN1 freestyle – Westwood
The first four and a-half minutes of this video are an interview, but the next five are testament to SN1’s strength as one of the most coherent units in UK rap. Although one of the very best, Giggs wasn’t the only sick rapper to help put Peckham on the map, and this is one of many memorable SN1 freestyles. This one makes the cut due to the rareness of a verse from Buck, which are always fire.
9 – JME Tempa-T & Shortee freestyle Part 2 – Westwood
Part 1 to this freestyle was a close contender, but Part 2 simply had to make the cut. This freestyle doubles up as some kind of loose template for how any sick freestyle should be – mad energy, synergy and lyrical skill. Then there’s also Tempa T going nuts whilst spraying bars from ‘Next Hype’, a few months before the song was released.
10 – Blade Brown F64 [S1: EP12]
Back in the first season of SBTV’s F64 series, Blade Brown’s instalment was definitely one of the more powerful ones. Before this, not too many people were aware of Blade’s ability as a lyricist, but afterwards, there could be no doubts. “But n****s aint fucking with my old CD, fuck your mixtape, I’d rather hear my own CD”. Blade definitely didn’t lie when he said that, as Bags and Boxes (1) is still a powerful tape which he then followed up with countless raps that cemented his position as one of the UK’s best trap-rappers.
BONUS TRACK – Terminator’s F64
“THESE MAN CAN’T MOVE TO ME, I’LL MOVE TO MAN, THEN SLEEP PEACEFULLY”
By Ajay Rose