Fargo hip-hop musician shares 5 funky tips for freestyling through a pandemic

Hip-hop and rap artist Cold Sweat breaks down what it's like to write, perform and release music at a time when there’s no gigs because of COVID-19.

Back in March, Cold Sweat posed for a photo to announce his plans for recording a new album, this time with a band to back him up. While the pandemic has shifted some plans, the songs are still being produced and will be released in a series of forthcoming singles. Special to The Forum

FARGO — In March, hip-hop emcee and DJ Ryan Tetzloff, known as Cold Sweat, was announced as one of nine local musicians and bands who won grants to record albums and launch projects.

His plan was to record an album with a live band for the first time, mixing his recognizable voice and snappy lines with the energy of his bandmates. That didn’t happen — or hasn’t just yet.

“It’s harder to get all the pieces (of the band) in the room together with this whole thing,” he says, signaling to the floral mask covering his face. “It’s making people not want to get together as much, so it's thrown a wrench in our plan.”

Since he started with the band, Cold Sweat has been working with fellow Fargo musicians Jason Boynton, Eli Davis, Keaton Will and Matty J for a year now, adapting his focus on samples to harness the power of a live band.

“It was basically to get away from sampling — that’s where playing with the band came from. Once this grant opportunity came up, it was the right time to record it,” he says about the grant he was awarded by The Arts Partnership and Jade Presents.


Since his first show in 2012, Cold Sweat has now performed in 13 states and foreign countries like Spain, Panama and Canada . He’s learned a few things while trying to release music during the pandemic while dealing with the impact of COVID-19 just like the rest of the live entertainment industry.

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No need to rush

Without any gigs at bars, questionable festival potential this summer and people wary of gathering in crowds, a musician might find themselves paralyzed these days.

But for Cold Sweat, he’s taking the time to put extra care into the details, adapting the album into a series of singles dropped with video and the whole package.

“In normal times you feel the pressure to release things and be more content-oriented, but it is like the whole world’s stopped right now. So we can release when we’re satisfied with what we are creating.”

And as far as procrastinating goes, he’s found it is better to just “start now.”

“As I’ve got a little older, I’m better off doing little by little,” he says.


Use downtime to learn new skills

Another tip the musician shared was to use this off period to learn something new — in his case learning to play bass.

“I’ve had one for almost two years now and never took the time to learn it,” he says about his attempts at learning the bass during quarantine. Now, he says he can’t get enough.

“Over the past months I’ve been playing it all the time. I like jamming with people to learn and practice,” he says.

DJ and emcee Ryan Tetzloff, who goes by Cold Sweat. Special to The Forum

Improve through self-sampling

While Cold Sweat develops new music for the album, he’s working with bandmates to develop songs over long distance, recording separate parts of songs like the drums, bass and piano, and overlaying them into a cohesive song.

“It's like a web, you know, but it's quite easy,” he says about using the cloud to share parts of songs.

Rediscover old projects

In a recent video posted to his Instagram, Cold Sweat walks along a beach in Panama. The video is accompanied by a funky beat that was once lost in “digital purgatory” but reemerged earlier this year.


Dusting the old track off and posting to the internet, “Funk Down” has a flavor that crosses into many of his songs. The song is a collaboration between himself and Barbaiza, a producer and music composer from Spain.

Stay positive

As a final tip to creating music in what could be looked at as a difficult, if not impossible, era, Cold Sweat keeps up his passion for the art by staying positive.

Oftentimes, that positivity grows out of writing a new song or finding a new beat.

“If somebody’s playing something really cool, we’ll just stop and say, ‘That's it, play that back,’ so right now that's how we're writing music.”

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit

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