MC Hammersmith Electrifies the South East: An Exclusive Chat with the Freestyle Maestro!

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Dive into the extraordinary world of MC Hammersmith, the revolutionary freestyle rapper who defies expectations by emerging from the “ghetto” of middle-class West London.  Explore the influences, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his unique artistic path.

Can you tell us about your journey from a middle-class private school in Hammersmith to becoming a renowned freestyle rapper and comedian? How did your background influence your comedic style?

I’ve always been a huge fan of hip hop, and I got into improv as a teenager, so combining the two seemed like the natural thing for me to do. My comedic style is very awkward and uptight, for which private school prepared me perfectly.

Your academic background includes a Master’s degree in Linguistics specializing in phonology. How has your expertise in linguistics influenced your approach to freestyle rap, and how do you use it to create spontaneous and improvised rhymes?

Learning about phonology and prosody was useful – so I do think I know why some words rhyme better, or sound more satisfying, than other words. I think it probably sharpens the instincts. Equally, Tupac never studied formal Linguistics, and he’s pretty good.

You’ve spoken about your struggle with OCD and how it led to an obsession with rhyming. Could you elaborate on how this condition has shaped your creative process, and how do you manage it while performing on stage?

I told myself when I was first learning to freestyle rap – if you think of a rhyme, write it down. That was in 2015, and my rhyme book is over 20,000 words long now. Being so strict about it was great for the memory. OCD is all about sticking to rules, which is great when the rules are actually helpful. I love rules. Rules make fun safe.

When I’m onstage, I never feel my OCD in action. I’m completely in the moment and able to live outwit it. Well, during a good gig. During a bad gig it’s awful. I did a corporate gig in Mansfield once that was so bad I almost had a panic attack. Looking back, it’s a pretty funny image though. Me sweating profusely in front of 100 disinterested chartered surveyors.

 Your freestyle raps are known for their spontaneity and speed. Could you share your creative process when you step on stage for an improvised performance? How do you come up with rhymes on the spot?

My creative process is nowhere near as involved as people think. I just jump between target words by chaining together set-ups, and try and leave gaps so the best rhymes go at the end.  I’ve also learned thousands and thousands of rhymes, so I don’t need to come up with them on the spot. Turns out, it’s all just practice. Who knew?!

In addition to your freestyle rap, you’ve gained recognition for your scripted hip-hop comedy videos and writing for “Epic Rap Battles of History.” How do you approach scripted comedy versus freestyle, and what do you find most enjoyable about each?

They’re actually surprisingly similar. Put your best punchlines on lines 4, 8, 12 and 16. They just work better there in a 4/4 hip hop backbeat. The rest is filler, justification, freewheeling, icing on the cake. I love that about both of them.

MC Hammersmith: Straight Outta Brompton will be at The Glee Club Oxford on 25th April, Leicester Square Theatre London on 27th April and Brighton’s Old Market on 28th April

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