“It’s the P-l-a-y, just here to say hi
Askin you may I, tell you ’bout the day I
Picked up a microphone, a pad and a pen
The legend of the Tramp begins”
One of my most enjoyable memories of a rap battle was from the House Party movie where Play and Kid aka Kid and play battled on the mic at their house party. This to me was what rap used to be about, it took two main aspects of the street culture, dissing and rap and put them together and in skillful art form termed as Battle Rap.
After most Rap concerts I ever attended outside on the street a Rap Battle would be underway with a crowd of onlookers gathered round to here the most skillful MCs toast and disrespect each other with the most disrespectful lyrics they could imagine. These rap battles were mostly freestyle and the content of their opponents was the inspiration of their following verses. With content including “Yo’ Mama” disses, put downs of your opponents weak lyrics or delivery and boasts of your own skills.
Rap battles are fascinating and very skillful, the artistry is gripping and the poetry is often envious of even Shakespeare himself who I often wonder if perhaps he would have enjoyed or even been a battle rapper.
Battle rappers aren’t often famous recording artists like the Jay-Z’s and 50 Cents of this world and don’t want to be, the two are separate aspects of the same Rap culture. Battle Rap is often Rap in its earliest and most raw form. A rap battler is famous in his own rights within his community and the battle rap scene. MTV used to host a show where battle rappers were able to spit (rap) their skills and reach a further audience, I remember Jin from back in the day on MTV who was extremely well known for his battling, he has since relocated to Hong Kong if my research serves me right.
In the Battle Rap arena it doesn’t matter what colour your are or what you look like it’s all about the lyrics you can deliver that will win over the crowd and defeat your opponent. Obviously there are some prejudices if you are a a white guy or “non black” which is only to be expected, but if you can hold it together and overcome your nerves for long enough to prove your skills in the arena then you will be quickly accepted.
The booing and the oooohing!
This is the rating system, if you are terrible the chances are you will be booed emmediatly which makes it very hard to come back from for the duration of the battle, silence is an obvious rating of a good artist but just a poor lyric or delivery and the sound everyone wants to hear and make is the oooooooh followed by laughter which is a testament to your lyrics and delivery being strong enough to deliver a powerful punch to your opponents ego. The more ooooh’s you get during a battle rap the chances are you will be the winner of that battle by the end so long as your opponent doesn’t manage to throw in a knock out lyrical punch after you just before the end.
There should be no offenses taken during a rap battle as heated and aggressive as it may feel at the time, after all it is still just art and should be fun. A rap battle should be about mutual respect which sound crazy considering you just spent the last 3-5 minutes saying horrible hurtful things about each other and often your family members. But if you can;t take the heat you should stay out of the arena.
I hope this artistry doesn’t become a dying form but continues to grow, while managing to keep it’s raw art form, I know I will continue to support it by attending as many as I possibly can. If you’ve never had the chance to witness a rap battle I encourage you to see the movie 8 mile for a taster or if you see any listings for Rap artists in concert pop along to the venue and the chances are you’ll witness a rap battle before or after the event right outside, no tickets required.