Our society loves competition, from football, basketball, boxing and beyond, we want to participate in it or cheer on our favorites. The same is true within hip hop culture.
Years ago you could find groups of enthusiastic young people circled together taking turns showing their verbal prowess. Eventually, among countless assertions of superiority, these would-be MCs began to take direct aim at each other in an attempt to prove who is truly the best…and battle rap was born.
Personally I love hip hop, but many who are not familiar say things like “anyone can do that”. Far too often critics look at hip hop culture and make snap judgments based out of ignorance. You see (predominantly) young black men and hear rapid fire speech peppered with profanity and chalk it up to ignorance. You see aggressive movements and actions and immediately fear violence. In their ignorance they completely miss the skill and intellect necessary to call yourself a MC, a rapper.
Battle rap is the bare bones of competition. It does not matter how fast you can run or how high you can jump. No fancy sneakers or high-tech equipment will help you. A battle rapper goes into the ring by himself, his weapons are his voice and his mind. This is not a place for the timid or the weak. There is no escaping the heat of the battle.
I have watched various battles on YouTube from leagues based out of New York, Canada and elsewhere, but lucky for me Columbus has an active battle scene. On April 30th I was finally able to witness battles live and in person, thanks to a Shotz Fired Battle Rap League event, in association with Who’s Hot Battle Grounds.
There were 5 battles set for the night between MCs from Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton. I found out about the battles by following the league information on Facebook (SHOTZ FIRED).
One of the things that originally annoyed me about battle rap is that there were no judges, no declared winners. My initial reaction was “WHAT!? How do we know who won!?”..but then I noticed the discussions…the opinions. You see, there is no end-zone to reach for points, no basket or nets. You do not get 2 points for a punchline, 5 points for a clever rhyme scheme or 2 points for stage presence, it is all subjective. After I thought about it a while, that was one of the best parts of it, you got a chance to debate the outcome and hear other people’s opinions which allowed you a chance to recognize what appealed to different people. For instance, here are two of the battles from that night (please visit SHOTZ FIRED BRL on YouTube to see the remaining battles)…who do you think won?
Watch “Stich em up Vs King Ox” on YouTube
Watch “Freddie-D vs Bo55avellI” on YouTube
It was a great night for me, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Seeing the battles live was a completely different experience than watching them on YouTube. The energy in the room, the varied reactions from the crowd, similar to being at a ballgame versus watching the game at home, there is a definite difference. The event (BYOB, Bring Your Own Bars) was held in a small section of a warehouse. It was a long building with a door every several feet indicating the different businesses that were housed inside. It was easy to spot where the battle was, the door was open, the lights were on, there were a few people outside, and the gentleman with SECURITY across his shirt was just inside the door. I entered through the outside door, met security, paid my cover and went through a second door that opened up to a space with a few chairs along the back and a stage at the front. I found my way to a seat in the back of the room where I could observe all the happenings. The flyers noted a 7pm start time and the first battle got underway around 10pm (which was perfect since I arrived around 9:30pm). Initially I believe I heard mention of a 3 minute time limit for each round of each battle (with each battle consisting for 3 rounds), but shortly after round 1 of battle 1 that time was extended to “unlimited”. Between battles music played and many people went outside for their own personal intermissions, but after 10-15 minutes the next battle was set and began. Of course I stayed until all 5 battles were done, leaving the venue at approximately 2am.
Now, let me address some concerns. I posted several pictures from the event…
…and I got some immediate reactions like “where are you?”, “be careful!”, “are you the only woman there?”. I chuckled at first, but then I realized that people are actually nervous about going to the battles. I am a little disappointed that so many people seem to get nervous at the sight of a gathering of black men, but let me just give you my take on it.
I attended this event by myself, and I did not know anyone there. No one bothered me, and no one was bothering anyone else for that matter. I am not some brave soul, I am just a fan of rap that does not let the sight of young black men frighten me. Plus, I was not the only woman there, there were several females in attendance. Some people have seen Facebook videos of some guys in the park or on the corner “rapping” and it comes to blows, but this was not some random gathering, this was a planned organized event with men that take this seriously. Even though battles are based on competition, the participants and the audience showed appreciation and respect for the people, the craft and their skill. Those from Cleveland and elsewhere showed respect to Columbus and Columbus showed respect in return. If someone was impressive, the crowd showed them love, regardless of where they were from. There was no trouble or issues, I felt completely comfortable all night. If you are a rap fan, and especially if you are a battle rap fan, do yourself a favor and experience it live, trust me, there is nothing like being there for The Heat of the Battle.
I would like to thank A.R. Green of Shotz Fired for the experience, I look forward to the next event.
…and as always…stay tuned, because you never know what you might get when AndreaSpeakz