I don’t know whether it’s a side effect of watching every major battle released by every major league on Earth between 2007 and 2014, or whether battle rap is genuinely falling off, but some days I’m just not feeling it any more.
Has battle rap become the same evil empire it set out to kill? Look at most newcomers, break down what they’re actually doing and you’ll see a strict formula. Battling is so choked right now that if your first couple of performances are whack, you don’t get another. You have to use what you know works in terms of technique and delivery.
What we’ve got now is this endless cookie cutter, with the same three or four styles clashing repeatedly against each other. You know what you’re going to get when Angry Roadman battles Nerdy Whiteboy or URL Gun Rapper battles Sarcastic Backpacker.
The joy of shitty rap battles
Lately, I’ve found myself watching a lot of tryouts. A lot of Ground Zero, Battle Royale, No Coast, Dirtbag Dan’s league whatever it’s called. Leagues sitting pretty on 500-600 views per battle. Gods know there’s a lot of terrible stuff on there, but I’m actually enjoying it more than most recent releases from the Big Three.
I’m bored of seeing the perfected versions of the same old styles, I want to see the genesis of these styles, or maybe even something totally new. I want to watch a battler’s first shitty performance because, if I care enough about what they’re trying to do, it gives me some context to watch their next, non-shitty performance.
Battle Royale recently gave us Traja D vs Palmer K.I.D. Traja D stuck out, not because he was brilliant. The battle deserves every last one of its 126 views and not many more, but he’s clearly focusing on elements he finds personally interesting and performing the way he feels a battle should be performed. Is it working? Not yet, but it’ll be decent when it does.
Let’s look closer to home. Liv Wynter is, by any stretch of the imagination, an atrocious battle rapper. Her material is dire from a technical point of view and her delivery is up and down like a tart’s knickers, and yet… there’s something different, almost likable there. I’m more looking forward to seeing her next battle than I am Craft-D who resoundingly beat her with a more polished but forgettably safe performance.
The battle rap charity shop
I guess what I’m saying is that if you watch, say, one battle a week, you definitely want to be watching the good ones. But if you’re the kind of person who keeps up with every release, keeping an eye on those obscure battles can add a bit of perspective.
There are always going to be guys like Ogmios and Carter Deems whose strength lies in the ability to always say something new. For the rest of the battle culture’s denizens, it’s possible (if you’ve got the time and inclination) to find enjoyment where you thought there was none.
If Lux vs Hollow was a Brioni suit, the battles I’m talking about are the shit you find in a charity shop, they’re a discovery that wasn’t handed to you by people looking at YouTube figures and grinding the culture down into ad revenue. After all, aren’t we all trying to arrive back at that point where we watched out first battle and thought, ‘damn, this is something new, I could get into this!’
…Or, ya know, you can just laugh at some of the worst battles ever released.