Sway and King Tech Present...Freestyle Fanatiks

Throughout the late ‘90s and ‘00s, Sway & King Tech provided a radio platform that celebrated rap and DJ innovators, along with a showcasing block for burgeoning talents such as Eminem, Crooked I, and Tech N9ne. After slews of self-released freestyle discs, the duo— along with Carmelita and DJ Revolution release the DVD accompaniment, Freestyle Fanatiks (Melee). With interviews, vignettes, and over two hours of impromptu rhyming, this DVD celebrates the kings of West Coast rap radio.Unlike the discs through the last 10 years, the DVD shows both sides of artist visits to The Wakeup Show. While KRS-One revisits his transition from criminal to Teacha, The Neptunes discuss the importance of The 45 King, and Cee-Lo explains his then-break from Goodie Mob. Most viewers will be attracted to the freestyles, which whether it’s the pointed poetry of the aforementioned Cee-Lo or the brutal bars of Planet Asia, cover a spectrum of rappers. Meanwhile Black Thought fumbles over rhymes deep within his catalogue and DJ Quik gets cold feet going into the required freestyle. The diversity of the artists, and the clever questions capture the significance of Sway and Tech better than any of their music compilations. The major setback of the DVD is its age. Most of the footage is from 2002 to 2004, which poses the question—why has it taken so long to come out? Some of the segments, such as Common’s visit during the Electric Circus or Crooked I’s Death Row-era freestyle circulated on the net and through the short-lived MTV show. Although the extended vignettes of Grandmaster Caz’s lengthy site visit through The Bronx and the look at the evolution of breaking may seem out of place, both are testaments to the fullness of the DVD and its hosts’ care for Hip-Hop’s history and elements.Had Freestyle Fanatiks come out on the heels of This or That, it would be as big of a draw as the Up in Smoke or Documentary DVD. Five years too late, Sway and King Tech still ring bells. This is the radio that people need to hear in a stagnated time in commercial rap, not to mention a major catalyst in several rappers acquiring deals, and setting the record straight on past issues. Ah, glory days.