Monday, October 11, 2010

Ashy Or Classy?!? - "Freestyle" Rap Battles.

As a hip hop purist, I spend a lot of my rare spare time online watching rap battles. Nah, I'm not talking about contrived "The Label Made Us Do It" BS like 50 vs Rick Ross, Eminem vs Nick Cannon, or Jim Jones vs Fabolous, I'm talking about the underground genre of "battles" usually only seen in person or online. If you're unfamiliar with this uhhh, artform, it's essentially just two people playing the dozens in front of a crowd of instigators. It's not like that made-for-Hollyweird scene in 8 Mile, because there's usually no instrumental being rapped over, and getting a record deal is seldom the end game. Nope, this is all just about gaining a level of fame in a very small circle of the underworld. Or in this case, The Internets.

I don't really co-relate the ability to battle rhyme with being a "rapper". Rapping involves putting together cohesive song concepts, condensing messages into 16 bars and a hook, an ear for what's radio friendly, and the ability to work with diverse producers. This, by comparison, is like streetball vs the NBA. Similiar skillsets, but entirely different sports.

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More often than not, these "battles" delve deep into sexist, homophobic, violent, racist, even xenophobic rants in which nothing but the N-Word (used against a black person by a non-black) is out of bounds. The battler who comes up with the wittiest, funniest, most personal punchlines and elicits the most audience response (usually in the form of "Ohhhhhhhs!") is usually the winner. The question is, what exactly do they win?

Here's a few of my favorite recent battles. Please, be forewarned that the following videos contain some extremely unsettling language. If you're at work, please, please, please put on some headphones first.

E-Ness vs Iron Solomon

QB vs Miss Fit

Rich Dolarz vs D.N.A.

I hate sounding all analytical and whatnot, but damn, it's hard watching this sort of talent going to relative waste. All of the folks pictured above have an incredible ability to improvise on the fly, to go on 10 minute streams of conscious rants without stumbling over a word, and to perform in a pressure packed situation. So what exactly are they doing with these incredibly awe-inspiring talents other than spitting a bunch of violent ignorance?

Forgive this pointless rant, which is know is clearly not for everyone in AverageNation™, but if you're familiar with this whole "artform", chime in below.

Question: Ashy Or Classy? Are battle raps an amazing display of lyrical dexterity, or just an amazing display of hateful ignorance? Are battle rhymers wasting incredible talent on nothing? What sort of profitable, legal hustle could you apply these very same skills to and improve your lot in life?

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