The next time you hear rap booming from a house party or a passing car, stop and check out whose vocals are being blasted. It could be a rich professional rapper bragging about his new ride, but don’t assume — it just might be a University student. While no club survives to support campus rappers, a few young creatives have made this form of rhythmic vocalization their own, whether through recordings or freestyle.

For Jonathan Hornstein, a junior in the Ross School of Business, rapping has become part of his weekly routine.

“I definitely don’t go around to people saying, ‘Hi, my name is Jon. I’m a rapper,’ but it’s become one of my most prominent hobbies. It’s on my resume — under my additional hobbies, it says that I enjoy rapping. So I would say that most people who know me know that I like to rap.”

Hornstein first got into rap on a high school backpacking trip to Scotland in his sophomore year.

“My counselor was really into hip hop,” he said. “So we’d be riding around in this van listening to hip-hop music and I kind of fell in love with it.”

To date, Hornstein has written and recorded nine songs together with his DJ friend, bearing names such as “Fly Me to the Moon” (which samples the Sinatra song), “The Song I Never Wrote You” and “Confused.”

“What happens first is that we’ll think of the concept – some song that we’ll sample with a certain beat,” Hornstein said. “You’ll listen to the beat, play around with the speed and you’ll sort of get in your mind this is how the flow should be going. You develop a sort of rhythm sense, then based on that, you’ll start writing the rap to get that rhythm sense.”

Hornstein keeps certain things in his mind while writing and recording the rap, such as rhythm, breath control, enunciation and rhyme.

“You need to make an impact on the song because even though these days a lot of what people pay attention to is what’s behind the rap – the beat – you want to make sure your rhythm and flow is adding to the song,” Hornstein said.

A common misconception about rapping is that the words have to precisely rhyme.

“Sometimes what’s more important is that the vowels have the same sound. For instance, break rhymes with ‘steak.’ But in a rap song, you could rhyme ‘break’ with ‘crate.’ The rhyming dictionary wouldn’t pick that up, so you really have to develop that kind of innate sense,” he said.

Although Hornstein does not usually engage in freestyling — the completely improvisational act of rapping off the top of your head — others, like LSA junior Erik Torenberg, do.

Torenberg got into freestyling last winter after watching the documentary “Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme,” which features a wide array of popular rappers, including Mos Def, Eminem and Tupac. After showing it to a group of his friends, among them LSA senior Jeff Koelzer, they all started freestyling whenever they were together, whether they were walking to classes or going to a party.

“A lot of the time it happens in the kitchen of a house party waiting in line for some jungle juice,” Koelzer said. “And that’s when we’ll break out. It’s such a spectacle when it happens.”

“At a party there’s these cycles — and when there’s downs, you start something and mix it up,” Torenberg added. “And now it’s kind of become our thing when we’re out, and we want to spice it up.”

Traditionally called a cypher, the group will go from one person to another, rapping with nothing but an amateur beatbox beat and their own voices.

“A lot of it is just completely losing yourself,” Torenberg said. “We include everyone, even people who have never done it before. You just say exactly what’s on your mind, and you don’t stop — there’s no good or bad. It’s all about fun. And we all bounce off each other.”

Beginner freestylers frequently engage in the use of the pocket rhymes — the term for a rhyme that the rapper has done before that is already in his head.

“You can do pocket rhymes if you’re stuck,” Torenberg said. But as the group gets better and better, they try to minimize the practice.

“We just started, so we’re just trying to get words out. When you get good is when you start telling stories,” he added.

Still, Torenberg and Koelzer have fun rapping about whatever is going on around them, from John Locke and economics terms to the party they’re at.

“What I like about freestyle is the literal transformation — regurgitation — of exactly what’s on your mind. You literally can’t think of anything else besides the rapping,” Torenberg said.

“I’m not very good, but I get amazed at myself at what comes out,” Koelzer added. “It’s so coherent — you’re not consciously aware of it, but it’s the power of your subconscious mind when we’re all together like that.”

Torenberg admitted that it was the act of freestyling that really drew him into it, not necessarily the product that came out.

“For me I love it because it’s such a different work than school. If I have a headache from doing too much work, when you rap, you just completely lose it,” he said. “You just have no inhibitions and then you just go. If it’s not clarifying, it’s very liberating. A complete outlet.”

While for Torenberg, the rap ends once the words come out, Hornstein’s rapping process is more lengthy. After having to physically write the rap, he also needs to practice performing it, all the while keeping the key aspect of flow in mind.

“Flow is something that’s hard to define,” Hornstein said. “A lot of people say that rap isn’t really a talent because you’re just saying the words. But really where you can sort of tell that’s not true is that if you listen to someone who’s good at rap, you really hear a rhythm, and people say it flows. ‘Flow’ is sort of the rhythmic speaking of the words.”

The freestylers, however, beg to differ — they don’t have an overlying classification for the word.

“Don’t know, don’t think about it. Just think it sounds cool. A melody plus words equals ‘flow,’ ” Torenberg said.

“We always use it in our freestyles. I don’t think it has a definition. There’s this consistent façade of rappers saying ‘Oh, I got flow, you don’t understand, that’s how it goes.’ Nobody knows,” Koelzer added.

Torenberg’s group of friends said they do not engage in rap battles.

“We’re not too contentious about the whole thing. It’s so easy to go up and come up with different insults that you have in your pocket and say them to someone — they’re pocket rhymes that you could say to anybody,” Koelzer said.

Hornstein does not do rap battles either — in fact, he doesn’t even do a lot of freestyling.

“I cannot freestyle. I wish I could — I’m not that big of a freestyler,” Hornstein admitted. “By virtue of me knowing how to rap, I have a lot of rhymes in my head. I can think of stuff to put in the rhymes, but the raps don’t really make any sense.”

“They talk about this a lot in the documentary (‘Freestyle’). When someone is good at one they’re not good at the other, for some reason,” Torenberg said.

“With (recorded) rapping, because you have all the time in the world when you’re writing things down, it’s more important that you are creative than fast about it,” Hornstein said.

On the other hand, freestyling is all about the process behind it — no recordings, no written words, just beats and sounds.

“For us, there is no final product. The final product is the process,” Torenberg said. “The art is really about bringing everyone together. It’s about creating moments of heightened awareness at moments where there ordinarily wouldn’t be.”

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