Quickest & sickest: flowing fast with Ocean Wisdom
The Brighton rapper who nearly ended up in the record books without even trying.
It’s easy to figure out the appeal of fast rap. Even when the chat is gibberish, a well-deployed skippy flow acts like a shot of sonic adrenaline, charging the air with an energy that’s potent enough to raise the deadest of crowds into frenzied excitement. But it’s a tool that's even more effective when it's deployed tactically as part of a great MC's arsenal of skills.
I decided by the time I'm 20 I'm going to be one of the sickest.
Ocean Wisdom is one such talent. He made headlines recently for his assured double-time skills when it was spotted that the 932 words on his single Walkin' were delivered faster than the 1560 on Eminem's Rap God – a song which until recently held the Guinness World Record for Most Words In A Hit Song.
More recently that record's been snatched by Harry Shotta for cramming 1771 words into his 2015 neck snapper Animal. Ocean Wisdom's camp have yet to receive the final word from Guinness but unless the record gets revised to Most Words Per Minute In A Hit Song it seems like a long shot. Still, this doesn't make Walkin' any less of an achievement. “I didn't intend to break the record,” says Ocean Wisdom. “I wasn't really trying to rap fast per se, I was just doing my style on the beat which happens to be fast quite a lot of the time.”
I was always inspired by people that rap faster. Like Dizzee Rascal, Kano
In practise what this means is that Walkin' is impressive enough in isolation but the true weight of its awesome power is only felt hearing it alongside the other 16 tracks on his Dirty Dike-produced High Focus debut album Chaos 93. For most of the album's 75 minutes you barely notice the speed of his flow because you're too busy trying to keep up with his deluge of ideas.
With barely a pause he jumps from personal trivia – like the moment in Imaginary where he talks about hanging out with Jordan 'Rizzle' Stephens (of Rizzle Kicks) at the age of 14 – to witty observations like the bit in Splittin' The Racket where he reveals “my dad looks like 2 Chainz in the future”. Elsewhere, there are deeper insights such the confession in Mazin' Hazin' that “I rate rap that's irate/I rate peeps that clock that it's all about the mindstate”.
It doesn't feel fast, it feels efficient and effortless, an explosion of thought from a mind raised on MC culture of all shades. “I rap fast because the upbringing I had was a lot of reggae, ragga,” he says. “From early I was always inspired by people that rap faster. Like Dizzee Rascal, Kano. I got excited when they used to switch it up. I always thought if I was going to be a rapper that's a tactic that I would use, I would change the pace to keep the excitement up.”
His current level of brilliance is the result of a combination of inspiration and hard work. “When I was 11 I used to do these really fast percussion beatboxes, I got obsessed. I used to do techniques all day, tongue twisters – say “gubbedygubbedygubbedy” as fast as I could for a minute or two to try and get it faster and faster.”
I used to do techniques all day, tongue twisters
“I used to do four hours a day minimum and I used to write two, three, four hours a day. Because I refused to get a 9 to 5, and I realised if I'm going to make money off of this then I have to actually practise for this amount of time. I decided by the time I'm 20 I'm going to be one of the sickest.”
It's his ambition to be the sickest rather than the fastest that puts him in a league with the heroes that inspired him on the way up, the reason why he shot for “Most Words In A Hit Song” rather than just the “World's Fastest Rapper”. The hit bit. As he says: “It means the song has been successful enough for people to actually listen to it. A really rubbish rapper could write more syllables and try and say them faster than me, that doesn't mean anything. It's about being able to do it and make good music still.”
Ocean Wisdom's not the only lightning-fast rapper out there – read on to learn about five ultra-fast hit songs..
Ocean Wisdom appears on the Rhymantics showcase on October 9 in Liverpool as part of the RBMA UK tour. Buy tickets.
The RBMA tour visits four UK cities – Liverpool, Glasgow, London and Leeds – throughout October. Other highlights include:
- Lectures from Dizzee Rascal and Krept & Konan
- Jackmaster taking over a coin-operated launderette
- DJ Harvey’s first Leeds show in over 25 years
- Hip-hop provocateurs Young Fathers in conversation
- A showcase from Atlanta’s Awful Records
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