10 months ago
Ricky Brown has a way with words.
The artist formerly known as NoClue captured the Guinness World Record as the fastest rapper in 2005 by spitting out an awe-inspiring 723 syllables in 51.27 seconds.
To put that math in perspective: In an article breaking down some of the speediest rappers of the aughts by FiveThirtyEight—which oddly, left out NoClue—the fastest guy on the list was Twista, who clocked in at 280 words per minute. Per this equation, each word has roughly 1.66 syllables, so Twista managed a respectable 465 syllables per minute.
Or roughly 258 fewer syllables a minute than Brown.
The story of how Brown came to break that record—and what he needed to accomplish for recognition Guinness—is downright inspiring and worth a few words of the written variety.
Born and raised in Seattle, Brown grew up around music. His grandfather sang in a gospel band, The Singing Galatians. The future rapper remembers being introduced more to “the whole experience of music” through his granddad’s time in the studio and on stage. At the time, he wasn’t thinking about a career in music. But one thing his grandfather did tell him that stuck with him: “[He said,] ‘I remember singing and practicing until I started to cough up blood.’ To me, that always stuck in the back of my head, like, ‘Wow, that’s how much it meant to him and that’s how serious you have to be,'” Brown tells RCL.
As far as where he ended up on the rap spectrum, Brown’s tastes skew towards the West Coast and Tupac Shakur, whom he considers the “most influential rap artist of all time.” Somewhat ironically, the late Shakur took his time with his words compared to his young acolyte (see below).
Fast-forward to just after his 18th birthday, and Brown found himself in a bit of hot water, the type that landed him in jail. He remembers thinking to himself, “This is not where I want to go.” So still behind bars, he hatched a plan: As soon as he was a free man, he was going to do everything in his power to take down the Guinness World Record for fastest rapper. “I actually practiced inside of jail,” he says.
And he kept his promise. As soon as he got out, he hit the ground running, doing all the required research, buying a Guinness book (to figure out who he was up against), contacting and securing a professional speech therapist, filled out and sent Guinness all the paperwork, and followed all their rules and guidelines. (He admits that the entire process as a “nightmare.”) “Then I had to literally wait a year for them to review everything,” he says. So in all, it took Brown about a year and a half to even get to that day when he made his world record attempt.
Interestingly, Twista was the speed champ in the early ’90s until another rapper, Rebel XD, came along and beat him in 1998. Brown then showed up in ’05 and “pretty much destroyed [Rebel XD’s record].” Not to be outdone by an upstart MC, Rebel XD then turned around and recaptured the record—but according to Brown, his more established rival “cheated” and was disqualified (see his controversial ’07 run below).
“[Guinness] took it back and gave it to me,” says Brown. He’s owned the title ever since. (At press time, we couldn’t find the record on the Guinness World Records’ site, and Brown says the company has since done away with the challenge, adding to its intrigue.)
What exactly does it take to break a Guinness World Record in rap? Brown explains that “you have 60 seconds to rap as many syllables as you can.” The rules stated that you needed a professional speech therapist present, as well as a musical engineer to capture the verse on digital tape. “I wanted to rap more syllables in less than a minute,” he explains. For the record, the official time was 51 seconds, but Brown says he did it in 48.
After he finished, the experts on hand then took the recording of his rap, slowed it down, and the speech therapist pored over the results, counting every single syllable to “make sure I was actually pronouncing words,” says Brown.
The verse, which he called “New West,” actually had to make sense, too (watch a video of the finished song below). “You couldn’t rap about gibberish or repeat the same word over and over again,” he explains.
But Brown didn’t rest on his laurels (even after landing his own Urban Dictionary entry). He’s expanded his horizons considerably, launching a highly successful video production company.
And he’s recording new music—not as NoClue, but as Ricky Brown. Almost falling into rhyme, Brown says, “I felt like NoClue was more of like the past me, the rap-fast me, the hard-headed me, so I wanted to go back to the original me—like, this is the real me.”
In terms of that “rap-fast me,” the newly rechristened Ricky Brown says he has to sometimes hold himself back a bit. “It’s actually harder for me to rap slower than it is fast,” he says, with a laugh.
Listen to Brown’s latest single, “Slow Dance” below.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife