The battle rap genre has been on the clock for a minute, and the crossroads are in the crosshairs. Is it a sport on the rise? Has it peaked? Has the decline begun? Those questions aren’t designed with a year or two projection curves. Those are pertinent questions that are to be dealt with now.
Paving the way early on with Season 2 of a collaborative effort with BET was the Ultimate Rap League’s “Ultimate Freestyle Friday,” but in a span of just 30 days, the global battle rap community was in a fevered pitch, as several of the most respected leagues in the industry culled top-flight talent for verbal warfare. Canada-based King of the Dot put on in Los Angeles, while Queen of the Ring and Rare Breed Entertainment held down New York.
Simultaneously, a monster was growing in the form of a reality show called “Road to Total Slaughter.” Announced in January of 2014, on MTV’s “RapFix Live,” the show, conceived by Slaughter House with backing from Eminem’s Shady Films and Electus Digital, was described as a journey into the hearts and minds of eight battle MCs (Arsonal, Aye Verb, Big T, Cortez, Daylyt, Dizaster, Marv One and Math Hoffa) as they embarked in a tournament to compete for a spot on what promised to be one of the biggest rap cards of the year, called “Total Slaughter.”
Slaughterhouse member Royce Da 5’9 said, “Everyone knows that these guys are great, if you follow it. So the goal is to not only put them, but battle rap itself, on this platform.” At the time of the airing, the main event battle was a rematch between the Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier,‒like rivals Loaded Lux and Murda Mook.
Since the announcement, momentum has led to a new battle being added to the card that could potentially cause a seismic shift in the music industry. Slaughter house member Joe Buddens, widely hailed as one of the finest lyricists the game has seen, was slated to match wits with his equivalent in the battle world, Hollow Da Don. July 12 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, it all came to a head.
All the ingredients needed to make a significant push were in place, yet an honest assessment will reveal that it fell short. Sound issues in the venue, combined with technical difficulties regarding the online stream, made for many disgruntled consumers. Paramount to that, however, was quite a few of the performances were underwhelming. Not just at the Hammerstein, either. At many of these events, the high level of consistency expected by the paying customers is not something that some performers respect. That’s got to change ASAP. Eyes are watching and opportunities are ripe. No shorts. No excuses.
Next up to showcase some of the best MCs the culture has to offer will be the U Dubb Network, with an event called “Annihilation,” Sunday, July 27 at Prince Hall,188 Irvine Turner Blvd., Newark, N.J. Slated matchups are “Total Slaughter” tournament winner T Rex vs. Shotgun Suge, Charlie Clips vs. O Red, Cherron vs. B Magic, JC vs. K Shine and O Solo vs. Tech 9. Check the uwbattleleague.com for tickets.
Over and done. Holla next week. Till then, enjoy the nightlife.