Wesey reminds us precisely why Battling in rap is still relevant today…
The art of Hip-Hop has gone through some changes over the years, from hanging on the street corner in the mid 80’s with a boom box bigger than some go-karts, and break dancing that would make Michael Jackson jealous. Yes, New York was THE place to be if you were a dancer, artist, DJ and of course a Master of the Ceremony.
Yet one aspect of Hip-Hop seems to be shadowed by the now global fascination of the 16-bars and forever evolving art of the MC, and that is the era of the battle MC.
It was summer in the mid 80’s at the Apollo Theatre in New York City and history was about to take place with the first rap battle. Busy Bee, a comedy rapper who would take a bit of your rhyme and a bit of his rhyme and entertain the audience and Kool Moe Dee, a rapper’s rapper who stood for strong lyricism and not only defeat the opponent but to humiliate them. The birth of the track ‘Suicide’ was born and this is hailed as one of the greatest battles of all time but certainly not the last.
Battle rap has generated some of the strongest MC’s of our generation; KRS-One who famously defended the South Bronx in a highly anticipated beef with the Juice Crew. DMX who battled Nas previously, Notorious B.I.G, and one of the most prominent battlers, Eminem, whose role in the film ‘8 Mile’ showed the grittiness of the warzone.
I know what you’re thinking – yes it’s great for rappers to get on and be unified within this art which we have lost too many soldiers too. But when you have Lil Wayne and Jay-Z taking digs at each other indirectly, it saddens me that we can’t be treated to the lyrical power of ‘The Takeover’ or ‘Ether’ because let’s be blunt, controversy sells.
Yet there are still MC’s who take pride in being a battler MC specifically in the UK over the years, events like The Jump Off that has helped create superstars like Professor Green and build a platform for others has MC’s shredding each other to a packed out audience, it’s like feeding time for the lions at a circus. These are the roots of Hip-Hop that are forgotten: there’s more to this genre than fast cars, bitches and selling records. What about respect? You can’t put a price on that.