What it feels like to battle someone who wants to destroy your career [Article]
Original title shortened for formatting purposes. The original title of the article is: “What It Feels Like to Battle Rap Against Someone Who Wants to Destroy Your Future in Music” by Addi “Mindbender” Stewart. The article comes a day before the official World Domination 4 kick-off at The Opera House in Toronto.
Toronto, ON – I’ve worn many hip-hop Kangols. I’ve seen this insane and amazing art-form from almost every perspective imaginable, and it’s been a continually enlightening experience. People may know Mindbender from my so-called “MINDBENDER REACTIONS!!!” (peace to PVP) at the front of countless King of the Dot (KOTD) battles over the years, as I have listened to thousands of punchlines and bars from the hundreds of MCs who have stepped in the ring to do their thing.
In the last 5 years, KOTD has grown into arguably the world’s premier battle rap league. I have judged dozens of battles, weighing a variety of intangible elements as well as measurable impact from such factors as punchlines, jabs, set-ups, uppercuts, body bag bars, clever and witty wordplay, jokes, presence, power of voice and strength of spirit, entertainment value, freestyles and rebuttals, articulate enunciation, vocal projection, breath control, sense of showmanship and performance ability, similes/metaphors/alliteration other literary devices, social observations and clever media references, physical props, body language, hip-hop history knowledge, battle rap wisdom, HONOR and INTEGRITY, intellectual and poetic intensity, memorization accuracy, understanding of opponent, destruction of competition, chokes or stumbles, legacy/career momentum or underdog status advantage, courage to do something creative, and basic animalistic fucking hunger to eat mans food off they bloodclot plate right in front of their face. Those things are palpable in the air when you are near the infamous rhyming ring, right before a battle.
Drake & Organik co-host (w/ Gully TK) World Domination 4 – Aug. 23-24
“World Domination 4: The Olympics of BATTLE RAP” – EVERYBODY
But that’s what is in my mind as a win/loss-deciding judge, as well as a fan observing and listening in the audience, watching the two MCs square up against each other, face-to-face. Have you ever wondered what the fuck is going on inside their minds? I certainly have. And, since I’ve witnessed so much hip-hop history and done so much judging, I felt compelled to battle once or twice. Peace to KOTD for my first videotaped internet rhyme battle against Mista Conspiracy, and just last weekend I did my second battle against Grimace, for BeastMode Battles. So, I’ve been in the battle MC’s shoes too, needing to possess the same “murder murder murder/kill kill kill” bloodthirsty mentality. I obviously don’t have the battle career of legends like PoRich or Corey Charron, who could probably tell you dozens of secret little things that I never fathomed about battle rapping. But I know hip-hop culture and I know lyricism. So when I had to bring my best lyrical weapons to go to war with a known battle vet, this is what the fuck it was like. There’s kind-of two aspects to it, preparing my offence, and preparing my defence. ‘The Focus’ is the offence, and ‘The Fears’ are the defence. Let’s get dirty:
Gathering One’s Focus:
* I have never agonized more over any bars than the ones I have written in my 2 rhyme battles, and I have written and recorded about 13 albums worth of music as a solo MC since 2001. Let it be known to anyone who doesn’t understand: this battle shit is FUCKING SERIOUS! (And with Dizaster and Arsonal finally getting the rematch that’s been highly anticipated for the last 3 years, you gotta wonder how much pressure they have to choose the right bars for such a historic battle for the ages! Deciding which rhymes to go to war with is fucking EXCRUCIATING.)
* I wrote 13 pages of rhymes, and ended up spitting about 9 pages worth. The good stuff was good enough to end up on other songs, but not good enough to use in a celebrity deathmatch! (Now imagine what Pat Stay’s creative process was to decide what 3 rounds of executioner’s ammunition he would need to bring to the firefight to satisfy the fickle/loyal fans who have been waiting for this moment forever, and who want to believe Pat is worthy of the pressure he’s been under for so long as title-belt contender, finally ready to step in the spotlight for his first chance to destroy the current champion of KOTD: Arcane. Arcane, who is oddly underrated and under-respected as the battle rap champion, did the nearly impossible, and defended himself against Dizaster after Diz made history by smoking Canibus. Will he be able to retain the chain and hold his own against arguably Canada’s finest battle MC, besides himself? We gon’ see.)
* The psychology and the verbal training regimen that some of these battle MCs go through is inconceivable, and probably extremely intense. (Rhyming angrily in the mirror for hours on end has got to drive a person insane after a few days!)
* Hype and anticipation, which only increases the pressure and focus on everyone’s expectations of your performance. Since you had more time to prepare and practice, people generally have a right to expect your pen game to be sharper than usual when it’s time to step the fuck up and represent. Considering how long it’s been in the making for Hollohan vs. Charlie Clips, I’m sure the entire battle rap world is like “Hollohan better resurrect the ‘Genius On Drugs’ days of his former KOTD championship moments…)
* Research. This is the thing that can take a battle in a million different directions. Do the MCs hit up their opponent’s Facebook/Twitter/YouTube accounts and start writing down all the personal information they can get as cannon fodder to put motherfuckers on blast? Do they start hunting down high school yearbooks and job resumes and credit history scores and old report cards and ex-girlfriends and looking for baby pictures and other crazy shit? Some do. Personally, I prefer when someone can destroy an MC with pure lyrical skill alone, and don’t need to reference the fact that dude’s mom maybe weighs 450 pounds. Who knows? Maybe she’s a better battle MC than you, still, ha ha! And yes, this is where I send peace to PH (formerly known as Pumpkinhead, cause I know him since back in the days when he was on Makin’ Records… he’s got a LOT of history an opponent can research!) because young guns in the rap game talk shit about “old dudes”, but how many of these young dudes will be strong enough survive and stick around in hip-hop culture to even become “old dudes”? Not many! And PH vs. Deffinition is certainly going to be one of the highlights of WD4, a clash of golden era battle rapper legend vs. new school battle rap legend. Good times!
* Pure words. This is a competition based on WORDS. Fists don’t matter; except for the knockout words those fists can write. I do believe those who listen back to Grimace vs. Mindbender will see a battle of two wordsmiths going samurai kamikaze on each other’s psychological structures. Rone vs. Real Deal will be a similar shocker, those guys SPIT. LEGIT. BARS.
* Reputation: there’s what you ACTUALLY are, and then there’s what people think about you and tell other people what you are. Whether what people say is great or horrible, this is the essence of ‘reputation’. And I didn’t have much of a reputation for battle rap before I did my battle, yet I do believe I did well enough that my reputation could extend beyond MINDBENDER REACTIONS!!! And reach into impressions and views for Mindbending battle rapping… if I wanted to spread war instead of love, ha ha. And as far as reputations go, few MCs have an international reputation like The Saurus. One of the most legendary battle beasts in rap history, he’s done it all, everywhere. When he goes up against the MC with the biggest YouTube following in the world, Loonie, it will certainly be a battle that elevates both of their reputations, regardless of the outcome (which should be explosive).
* And writing your best, classic, timeless, quotable, enjoyable, destroying-foes type lyrics to ultimately win your battle is obviously is the #1 focus, word to Kendrick Lamar, ha ha.
Battling One’s Fears:
* Choking, and losing an entire round’s worth of pre-written stuff because there wasn’t enough time to remember the lines that slipped out of my mind, and never getting to use them again in the one moment in time that the battle lyrics were meant to be used for! Nobody wants to choke. And for World Domination 4, choking in front of the world’s elite battle rappers, on Pay-Per-View, and on video that will be seen by hundreds of thousands if not millions of people? Fuck no way.
* Voice cracking, bad acoustics in the room, uncontrollable little things that distract the attack… Uno Lavoz and Tycoon Tax are the kind of guys I see take advantage of confusion and chaos in the room, and turn it into comedy and killer content. Well-known vets like Cortez and Purpose also know how to navigate the unpredictable, but we’ll see what random factors come into play when they all clash!
* Family being spoken about: I know Stevie Wonder said “everything is fair in love and war”, and obviously we know these battle rappers sometimes totally fucking go there… but personally, I don’t play that shit, and I chose not to say anything about none of my opponent’s families in either one of my battles. I feel sorry enough about permanently injuring a part of their reputation on internet video, ha ha. The family will feel enough pain after hearing my rhymes, why dis them? Still, at WD4: you KNOW someone’s going to make lines such as, “those look like Tom Cruise’s mom’s shoes” sound like it was a kiss on the cheek, ha ha. (What was Bis thinking, LOL. I digress…)
* Personal embarrassing facts from one’s personal life being exposed. (Maybe I didn’t digress, ha ha!) Still, the silent truth is: you’re only as sick as your secrets! And once they are captured and immortalized in a battle, then it’s out there forever, and your reputation and desire for personal evolution just has to survive longer than people’s memories of the most incriminating, previously-secret fuck-ups of your life… no big deal! When you become a battle rapper, you forfeit all possibility of your privacy being able to protect you. And god forbid you have some sort of standout feature on your body or clothing or in your life… it WILL be turned into a multi-syllable rhyme to slander your existence by someone who wants to put a magnifying glass on your life’s most private parts!!
* Boldfaced lies becoming urban legends because of some clever phrasing or just some funny knockout punchline delivered and performed ruthlessly. Prodigy wasn’t wearing a ballerina tutu, but Jay-Z sure made the world think he did. It took damn near a decade for that image to go away. I don’t believe Arcane bought all his rhymes against Dizaster from Caustic… but that’s just me!
* Choking, f’real. Corey Charron makes skull-slicing rebuttals from lapses in concentration sound so damn easy, but they are NOT!
* Being distracted by someone in the crowd’s boo-ing/cheering/weird reaction/NON-REACTION to my brilliant-as-fuck battle bars, ha ha. Personally, I feel 100 Bulletz gets his incredibly intricate rhyme life destroyers slept on, but we’ll see when he battles JC.
* Being too nervous to stay sober the day of the battle, and drinking/smoking/snorting/shrooming/etc. something to “take the edge off”… when that “edge” is supposed to be the razor-sharp edge of the weapon of my soul that I’m about to use to slice someone’s head off with my words alone, ha ha!
* Fucking up the planned delivery of one of your personal favorite lines. Battle rap is the essence of “you only get one shot/ do not miss your chance to blow/ this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo!”
* Choking, cause it can’t be said enough. Loe Pesci is a ridiculously talented MC… but he’s still cleaning his battle reputation from a few chokes from years ago.
* Getting BODIED, not just losing by one vote or one round. Peace to Soul Khan, battle rap misses you.
* Living with yourself after you know you didn’t prepare and practice hard enough for the battle. (Don’t be that person.)
* Some kind of corruption swaying the judge’s votes, and the wrong decision gets made (PoRich vs. Sketch Menace caused so much damn madness! Don’t start arguing about it again now, ha ha!)
* Gimmicks over writtens. This is subjective, but some people take the art of performance to great places… while some people try to make up for shitty lyrics with smoke and mirrors toys and trick distractions. (Daylyt might pull out an outfit unlike any other this time though, so you never know what will work in the moment of truth and reconciliation!)
* And how many times can I say “choking”?! It’s better to freestyle some hot garbage nursery rhyme bullshit than to just blank out and say nothing! That’s when you literally turn yourself into a bodybag for your opponent to appropriately beat the living fucking shit out of your illogically silent ass!
* The list of fears can be endless… but once you train yourself enough, you realize that as long as you do your very best in the battle, then you can do nothing else but fight for your fucking rhyming life when Organik says, “Rapper to my right, introduce yourself!” and, “World Domination 4, it is on ____, let’s go!”
So that’s some of everything that goes into a battle, and that’s some of what goes through one’s head when they have to stand in that square circle, face an opponent that wants to permanently humiliate and obliterate you and your future dreams in music and life, and what it takes to defend yourself from such an verbal attack, and deliver to their face your own sweet battle rap version of utter fucking hell on earth. That being said: I am excited as fuck to see WD4!
And I’m ESPECIALLY excited to see Bonnie Godiva vs. Young Gattas. A ladies battle, word the fuck up, we need more of those!
Peace to HHC, KOTD, OVO, the city of Toronto, and everyone involved in World Domination 4. This shit is going to be LEGENDARY.
Speaking of legendary: imagine if Drake stepped in the KOTD ring to battle Common or Kendrick Lamar… holy fuck that would be the best shit ever.
Who knows what’s going to happen at WD5? I’ll see you there!
But first, WD4: the five-year anniversary of King of the Dot.
Congratulations to Travis, Avi Rex, PVP, Gully, Docta Doom, Scott Jackson, Philly D, Sean S, Avocado and everyone in KOTD.
Addi “Mindbender” Stewart
Written by Addi “Mindbender” Stewart for HipHopCanada
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of HipHopCanada or its affiliates.
Be sure to check out the official KOTD website, KingOfTheDot.com. Tickets for World Domination 4 can be purchased at http://www.kingofthedot.com/events and Pay-Per-View access can be purchased at KOTDTV.com.
Twitter: @KingOfTheDot | @OrganikHipHop | @Drake | @MindbenderMind