Freestyle rapping is one of those skills that comes more naturally to some than it does to others. There are people who may only feel comfortable doing it in the privacy of their shower, and then there are those that have the magnificent ability to create hip hop songs on the fly. No matter what skill level, the ultimate way for a person to get better is with practice. Rapt.fm gives its users the opportunity to engage in rap battles with folks around the world, via video conference.
There are three rounds in a Rapt.fm battle. Each emcee is given thirty seconds per round to rap. The site provides the beat, randomly picked from a large library of quality instrumentals. Non-participants can watch the battles as they happen, and then vote at the end on who they think should win. Each participant's results are kept track of in their win-loss record.
Established rappers also come on to challenge users on Rapt.fm. In the past few years, the site has featured Soul Khan, Big Pooh from Little Brother, Dres from Black Sheep, Jarobi from Tribe Called Quest, and more. In addition, the site has held contests where the respective winners got the opportunity to open up live for Royce da 5’9, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Girl Talk.
Erik Torenberg co-founded Rapt.fm in 2012 because he wanted to learn how to rap more seriously. Freestyling was something he only did amongst his friends, until he saw Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme and became enamored.
"I was really inspired," Torenberg told Zumic, "and I wanted to rap with the best people in the world. You know, whether in Detroit or LA or New York, and the way to do that was through Rapt.fm."
At first, Torenberg and his team began building a site called Rap Roulette. The idea was similar to Chatroulette.com, a website that randomly matches users to have conversations, except this site was used for battle rapping. Torenberg and co-founder Jamie Pitts changed the name to Rapt.fm because they "wanted it to be appreciative of the art, and of self-expression." Torenberg explained, "The word "rapt" means completely fascinated by what you see. And that’s how we feel when we freestyle."
The company began to pick up steam after winning Startup Weekend Detroit in 2012. After winning another competition, Rapt.fm received funding from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
Their slogan is “Express Yourself." Torenberg explained the meaning of it, saying, "We’ve always had a mission that anyone could have fun freestyling, the same way anyone could have fun dancing, regardless of skill level. And that’s what we hope to accomplish. Create a community for the best hip hop artists, or the absolute beginners."
A few months back I learned the hard way that Torenberg, also known as T-berg, is not only the co-founder, but also one of the most talented freestylers on the site.
Expanding on their basis of freestyle rapping, the website's staff hosts workshops at schools and workplaces, teaching students and co-workers more about the art form and helping keep their minds sharp.
For more information be sure to check out Rapt.fm.