BYU alumnus redefines lyrical boundaries

Ari Davis
BYU alumnus Romane Armand holds the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap. He is also the author of a new rhyming dictionary, “Book of Rhymes,” which will be released in March 2016. (Ari Davis)

BYU alumnus Romane Armand has stretched lyrical limits by setting the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap and writing his own soon-to-be-published rhyming dictionary.

Armand’s lyrical journey started at his high school in Massachusetts, where Armand’s friends say he began to display a knack for freestyle rapping.

Recording artist Sid Baptista, one of Armand’s college friends and “partners in rhyme,” the way Armand’s mind works is amazing in comparison with other rappers.

“He has always been a really gifted freestyler,” said Baptista, also a recording artist. “And I don’t use that term lightly.”

Armand continued to improve his skills as a freestyle rapper while attending BYU. He started writing his own songs by making lists of words and associated rhymes. He collected many of these lists over the years and came up with the idea to put all his work together into a book as a resource to make songwriting easier.

Armand began compiling his list of rhymes in a Microsoft Word file before bringing it to BYU communications professor Quint Randle to seek his advice. Armand said he approached Randle as a mentor, having heard about his career as a professor, musician and co-author of a book entitled “Making Money Making Music.”

“Just hearing a published author who wrote a book on music and who is also a songwriter say that (my idea had) merit really validated the idea for me,” Armand said.

After graduating from BYU in 2007, Armand got a corporate job with Wal-Mart in Arkansas and continued to work on his rhyming dictionary on the side. A few years later, he quit his job to pursue his passion as a songwriter, storyteller and entrepreneur. He began with a kickstarter campaign for his book.

Armand setting the Guinness World Record by freestyle rapping for 24 hours and 49 seconds.
Romane Armand sets the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap after closing hours at the Elite Hair Studio in Bentonville, AR. Armand topped the previous world record by seven hours with a freestyle rap that lasted for a total of 24 hours and 49 seconds. (Romane Armand)

Armand said the campaign was successful thanks to his supporters and a lot of hard work. He is now preparing for the Amazon release of his rhyming dictionary on March 15.

Armand’s 440-page “Book of Rhymes: A Laxative for Creative Constipation” features comprehensive listings of rhyming words, including both exact and slant rhymes.

Slant rhyme is a more inclusive form of rhyme that extends a writer’s use of rhyme beyond words with identical endings to words with similar endings, according to Armand. In this way, writers can find words in Armand’s book that rhyme with orange; these words include Florence, foreign and Warren.

Randle said this inclusion of slant rhyme sets Armand’s book apart from other rhyming dictionaries. He began using Armand’s rhyming dictionary as an aid in his own songwriting back when it was still just a Microsoft Word file. Randle now owns a published copy of Armand’s “Book of Rhymes.”

“Owning rhyming dictionaries and using rhyming dictionaries on the Internet, I know what they’re lacking,” Randle said. “(‘Book of Rhymes’) is at home on my desk somewhat tattered already because I use it a lot.”

As he wrote the “Book of Rhymes,” Armand watched in admiration as the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap grew to more than 17 hours. He said he wondered if he could beat the record as a way to “spread a little buzz” about his book.

Armand determined to “put away the record for good” when the book was almost finished, according to Baptista. Armand set out to break the Guinness World Record with a goal to freestyle rap for over 24 hours.

“I just thought 24 was a nicer number,” Armand said. “There was no way I was going to quit at only 17 or 18.”

Armand practiced, did some research, and made plans to break the record. He had to attempt the world record in a publicly accessible place, according to Guinness World Record rules, so he arranged the event to begin at a local barber shop after closing hours around 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Schumann Robert, Armand’s roommate at the time, was one of the witnesses of the event. He said it was amazing to watch Armand come up with new content and rhymes for such an extended period of time.

“Even if he felt like he didn’t have something that came to mind, he’d start rapping about something that was in his environment,” Robert said. “That’s the way that he would keep on going.”

At about 9:30 p.m. the next day, Armand finished the record-breaking freestyle rap of 24 hours and 49 seconds total. He said reaching his goal was a celebration.

“It felt like crossing the finish line of a lyrical marathon,” Armand said.

Armand behind the camera in Haiti, filming his documentary about "brain drain." Armand hopes to continue storytelling through filmaking in the future.
Romane Armand behind the camera in Haiti, filming his documentary about “brain drain.” Armand plans to continue storytelling through film in the future. (Romane Armand)

The record time far surpassed its predecessor and will be a hard record to beat, Baptista said.

“I just don’t know who’s going to try to break that,” Baptista said. “It’s bordering on lunacy to try, but that just shows how passionate he was about it.”

Armand has since found a new passion for filmmaking. He is currently in the production stage of making a documentary film about the ramifications that occur when a country loses its educated citizens, such as Haiti. This subject, sometimes referred to as “brain drain,” interested Armand, whose birthplace is Haiti.

After he finishes the documentary, Armand said he will come up with new ideas and continue to shoot new video as an “entrepreneur at heart.” As Randle described him, Armand is “a very creative and innovative guy with a big smile.”

Armand’s “Book of Rhymes” was made available to purchase on amazon in March.

Armand breaks the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap. (Romane Armand)

Kickstarter campaign for Armand’s rhyming dictionary, “Book of Rhymes: A Laxative for Creative Constipation.” (Romane Armand)

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