Harry Mack Discusses Why He Initially Kept His Freestyle Rapping A Secret
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Harry Mack Discusses Why He Initially Kept His Freestyle Rapping A Secret

By: James McDonald | www.jamesmcphoto.com

Harry Mack Discusses Why He Initially Kept His Freestyle Rapping A Secret

Harry Mack is a multi-talented M.C, producer, jazz percussionist, and remarkable freestyle extraordinaire. Harry has been perfecting his craft since he was just ten-years-old when he first began his love of music playing the drums and carrying a rhyme book with him wherever he traveled. His invincible, improvised multi-layered bars have dazzled everyone that Harry has come in contact with, incorporating strangers' arbitrary words and visual anecdotes into his raps on the streets with his outstanding series Guerilla Bars and virtually through Omegle Bars. His infectious positive attitude follows him wherever he goes, bringing instant smiles and childlike wonder to everyone he performs for, whether it's on the Ellen DeGeneres show or freestyling on the Cruz Show for Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. I talked to Harry about his love of jazz drumming, how to overcome thoughts of self-doubt, and much more:

James: How are you doing amongst the craziness in our world right now?

Harry: It has been interesting for sure. I feel like this year has simultaneously dragged on forever but also flown by.

I cannot believe we are already back to Thanksgiving and almost near the time of year when this whole thing started. Just like everybody else, I am finding ways to remain active by continuing to do what I love to do. I thrive under those sorts of creative pressures.

James: Congratulations on 500k subscribers on YouTube. How does it feel to now have that kind of reach across the platform?

Harry: We have had a lot of growth, especially in the last two or three months on YouTube and across the board, which is exciting. To have that kind of reach is mind-blowing.

I never imagined that my freestyling could bring me this kind of platform. Now that I am here, I feel like this is just the beginning. I am excited to keep grinding hard and continuing to grow.

James: You have been hustling between your pre-pandemic series Guerilla Bars which then transferred over to Omegle Bars. How did that idea come about?

Harry: At the end of 2019, I was not very efficient. For my Guerilla Bars series, I would have the idea, pick a location, and find a videographer to film it. We would capture the content for the episode, edit it all to completion, and post it on YouTube. But then we needed another one, and so the whole process would start again from scratch.

That worked in the early stages of my channel because I didn't have a tight schedule that I was trying to maintain. At that point, I was trying to get content out regularly so that I could grow on YouTube.

I needed to be more efficient. I told myself in 2020 that I was going to film lots of Guerilla Bars content and get it out in the coming weeks. Through January and the first half of February, I had already booked back to back weekends of going out in public and shooting Guerilla Bars content. By sheer coincidence a week after I had finished my last Guerilla Bar shoot I felt the need to take a short break. Shortly thereafter, we got the official lockdown order in Los Angeles.

I was sitting on a vault of Guerilla Bars' content. We're currently in a time where I can't go out and make videos if I wanted to. In some ways, that was a huge blessing. I put out the content with timestamps to show that everything was filmed before the pandemic and didn't run out of Guerilla Bars episodes until a few months ago.

My fans told me I should hop on Omegle, which is a website that randomly pairs you with strangers via video chat on the internet. Because the site is a sketchy place, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go that route. Luckily, the site now has a category feature that allows me to connect with real humans who are there to talk. It's been an amazing experience. We are making very uplifting content with lots of smiles. I'm proud of it.

Harry Mack Is The Freestyle Puppeteer - Omegle Bars 8

James: I think of what you do as a magic trick because people initially become skeptical when you tell them you are a freestyle rapper and leave them speechless for more at the very end.

Harry: I agree. Freestyling is magic. When I was doing Guerrilla Bars people would call me the David Blaine of freestyling. He had his street magic show and I didn't know this at the time. I was a huge fan of David Blaine as a kid. I remember watching it with my parents and getting our minds blown watching everything from his card tricks to his street magic. He was the first magician to do a show where he said, don't focus the cameras on me, focus the cameras on them reacting to me. Show enough of me so we can see the trick, but mainly show them getting their minds blown because that's what's going to sell this. That part you can't fake. If I was paying people to react to my freestyles, it would be obvious, so it's those genuine reactions that sell it. It's all about convincing skeptics, whether it's in the streets with Guerilla bars or virtually with Omegle Bars.

James: How are you able to freestyle so fluently? In our previous interview, you had mentioned that it is similar to juggling. Could go more into detail about that?

Harry: I've started practicing juggling because I think it's so related to freestyling. I like juggling lemons in the kitchen. I'm not very good at it. I can usually get about eight successful rounds completed with three lemons on my best day.

It's certainly like juggling. There are so many aspects that go into having a successful freestyle. On the one hand, it has to rhyme. You need to have a very conditioned rhyming muscle in your brain. Essentially, there's a rhyming dictionary in your head that's customizable and always growing. It also has to be in rhythm.

There also needs to be flow, which is everything about the rap other than the lyrical content. It's the rhythm of the rap and it's the melodic shape. If you want your rap to sound like actual music, it has to be coherent. People are more forgiving when it's a freestyle as opposed to a written song.

However, I don't spew random gibberish. I'm trying to say things that essentially make sense and that's just scratching the surface. It is a very complex melding of different skill sets, each of which has to be practiced individually and mastered if you want to be able to freestyle consistently at a high level.

So long story short, how I'm able to pull this "magic trick" off so consistently is because I've been practicing it tirelessly for 18 years. I feel like I'm just getting started. I still have so much to learn.

James: How have you been able to perfect your bars when they are already on a high level?

Harry: My passion for practicing and improving has never gone away. It's gotten stronger. I didn't show a lot of people my freestyling at the beginning. There was a long period where only my friends knew what I was doing. We had a hip-hop group in high school that was very successful. We would have two hundred person shows. We had albums, mixtapes, and our merchandise. I also had a band in college, so I was trying to put myself out there musically.

When I graduated from college in 2012, I was focused on making a career as a jazz drummer. I didn't imagine at that time that freestyling would be the thing that would get me known. There's a lot that goes into that. There's fear, self-doubt, and insecurity. All these voices in your head say, you have a piece of paper from a university that you took out a loan to get. It says you're a jazz drummer, and that's what you are. You can easily fall into those kinds of societal traps.

Starting at the end of early 2017, when I started putting videos out and I realized there was an audience for it, my drive to practice only accelerated. People at that time told me I was at my peak level for freestyling. I was like, no way, man! I've been focusing on my drumming. Let me get back to you. Give me some time.

I love practicing. That's what I love about music. The fact that the more energy I put into it, the more I'm able to get out of it, and the more effectively I'm able to communicate through the art. I'm never going to stop practicing that.


James: What got you past those inner demons that told you are solely a jazz musician and that you shouldn't be focusing on rap?

Harry: I knew inside the whole time where my passions were the strongest because I love playing jazz. But I've always been a freestyle improviser at my heart. I think I just needed a push.

The first video I did at the end of 2016 was not for my channel because I didn't even have one at the time. It was essentially a favor for my friend Jacob Mann. He's a brilliant jazz pianist and composer. Everyone should check him out.

Jacob needed a creative promo for his jazz album. So I took one of the jazz compositions and remixed it into a hip hop beat. I freestyled over the beat as I was driving down Sunset Boulevard rapping about the changing scenery and Jacob filmed the escapade. I thought I was just doing a favor for him. I didn't think too much of it. A week later, I woke up from a nap, and my roommate at the time said, "You're going viral right now." I said, "what does that mean"?

Harry Mack - "Bounce House" Car Freestyle

I didn't plan it. I just did what I've been doing for years. I realized how there is an audience for it. It was enough to light that fire in me to say, it's enough holding it back. It's enough wondering, are people going to like it? What if people judge me? What if people hate me? What if they diss me on the Internet? People do that all the time. That's part of being a creative person when you put yourself out there like that. I believe sometimes we need that push. And for me, it was Jacob Mann. I always tell him, good looking out. You started this whole thing.

James: I'm surprised that you have people that hate on you because your content is so positive.

Harry: I have very few, relatively speaking. I feel proud to say that I have an extremely positive online community. As far as online communities go, it's kind of unprecedented how overall uplifting it is. There's always somebody that's going to come around and project their insecurities onto somebody that seems unreachable to them. It's all good. I'm blessed. I have a lot of support.

James: Regarding your visual freestyling, What percentage would you say relies on your surroundings?

Harry: It has changed over time. When I first came out with the videos, it was very visual and it required the visual component, such as my first viral video, Venice Beach Freestyle. You would never listen to that without the video because I'm rapping about the things I see in front of me. If you are not seeing any of that, then it becomes irrelevant to the listener. The visual freestyle shows people that it's a freestyle that's highly engaging and everyone can instantly understand what's happening.

Harry Mack - Venice Beach Freestyle (Part 1)

I eventually wanted to get to the point where I evolve past that and have the listener be in a position where they would want to listen to it by itself. I also realized, what do I do when I don't have rapid input in terms of constant new scenery or constant new words being thrown at me? I would find myself in scenarios like on a radio station, for example, if no one's going to throw words at me and I'm just in this kind of generic-looking radio studio, not to mention nobody listening to the radio can see any of it, then how can I connect?

I realized I wanted to be able to grab one to three pieces of information and expand on them. The practice changed from being able to incorporate a myriad of things that are being thrown at me constantly to giving me one word and seeing how far I can go stretching out that word. Can I build out an entire universe surrounding that one word by expanding my mind? That's what excites me now.

James: What's one thing about you that you wish your fans knew?

Harry: I still am afraid daily to do what I have to do as an artist. The fear does not go away. You just practice and learn how to march forward despite the fear.

A lot of times we see artists more famous than me that have or appear to have these platforms. We look up to people like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Nas thinking that they've got it all figured out. We think they're perfect. That they don't have self-doubt. That they don't have insecurity or fear like me.

I don't know those people personally. Maybe they do have it all figured out. But I doubt that any human being has it all figured out. We're all in this human experience trying to figure out how to be good people. We are all trying to have happiness and fulfillment in our lives. We want to reduce suffering in the world for other people.

I have fear, insecurity, and voices of self-doubt constantly. If you have an idea, if you're passionate about something, do it anyway no matter what you think. I waited until I was almost twenty-seven to show anybody what I was doing with freestyling.

I don't regret it because it's worked out well and I'm super excited to be where I am now. But I've been doing this for years and I wonder what might have happened if I just started showing the process a little earlier on.

James: What else can we expect from you next musically? Are you planning on going on tour or releasing a future album?

Harry: You can expect more content from me, whether it's recorded songs or video content for YouTube. I stream four times a week on both YouTube and Twitch that you can expect more of as well.

I'm working on music and as soon as it's safe to travel again, I would love to tour and connect with fans in other parts of the world. Fingers crossed we can get back out there and do that at some point. In the meantime, I'll be here grinding.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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