Freestyle – To recite verse or prose that is without thematic or conceptual structure. Its subject matter is “free” to move wherever it pleases.
Off The Dome – To recite verse or prose spontaneously, essentially vocalizing what comes to your head at that moment.
I have long been frustrated with a specific piece of hip hop lingo. I hate the term “freestyle” being used in reference to a person that is going “off the head.” If we used the terms properly it could end a lot of nonsense.
For example, earnest rap fans looking to prove their authenticity often try and shout out freestyling emcees, “oh that freestyle was written, you can tell...”
Well, a “freestyle” can be written. A “freestyle” is a style … that’s free. That’s it. It’s not focused on, dear Mama, or a gangsta bitch, or bonnie and clyde, or Courvoisier. It’s about whatever you want it to be about, it is free form, and it need neither be spontaneous or premeditated.
Off the head, or off the dome, is when an MC is kicking lyrics as they come to mind … spontaneously.
Nas and Jay-Z have kicked a lot of freestyles in their lives. But you rarely see them go "off the dome." KRS-ONE, Eminem, Common all frequently go off the head as part of their acts.
Off the dome is basically a sub-category under the bigger umbrella of "freestyle." Very simple. So please, let’s try to use the terms properly.
Jor-El aka TAN aka Perspective Evolution aka The Eternal Now
aka Talcum Badsmell