Black Thought has proven himself to be one of rap's best writers, period. Undebatable, given the scope of his repertoire. Projects with The Roots and his recent solo output has provided countless exhibits of his penmanship, to the point where he's all but come to embody the classic your favorite rapper's favorite rapper archetype. Yet even with such a deep discography of recorded music, for many, the shining point of Black Thought's catalog arrived exactly three years ago to this day, when the legendary emcee unleashed ten minutes of bars upon an awestruck Funkmaster Flex.
It's likely that anybody who first witnessed Black Thought's incendiary take on Mobb Deep's "The Learning" can remember where they were they heard him delivering ten minutes straight of uninterrupted lyricism. Many were left with jaws agape as Thought unleashed scheme after scheme, honed in with zenlike focus. "I'll acknowledge the original People's not Oliver, Y'all go get the next challenger for Excalibur," he spits. "I'm more policed for my core beliefs / They tried to capture me and brand me on the cheek with a fleur-de-lis / The side of my heart'll be more discreet / I'm international, my passport page is like War and Peace."
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What makes the rap clinic all the more impressive is the fact that Funkmaster Flex stands in as an audience surrogate of sorts, his reactions mirroring our own. The fact that Thought was able to get it all out in one cohesive take is in itself astounding, even removed from the profound complexity of his penmanship; one can only imagine witnessing it occurring first hand. In truth, it's hard not to discuss Black Thought's instantly-classic Funk Flex Freestyle without dealing in hyperbole. It's as if witnessing an act inexplicable to the human psyche, rationalized only by a higher power. Three years and twelve-million views later, Thought's words have yet to dull in their potency.
Happy birthday to a monumental moment in hip-hop history.