[Photo Cred: DatPiff.com ]
Sometimes, in order to move forward, we have to take a step back in order to learn exactly why we’re moving in the direction we’re going. So with this blog we’re going to take a look into the early beginnings of battle rap. (We won’t go back to Kool Moe Dee vs Busy Bee. At this point it’s a bit TOO far back but i’ll eventually touch on it later down the line)
Let’s start here…
If you’ve watched ANY recent rap battles you’ll notice a major difference from the one above. Where’s the logos? Multiple camera angles? Expensive venue? Sponsored clothing and jewelry? It may be hard to believe but at one point in battle rap none of that existed. Let’s delve into why.
The above battle took place back in 2003. Battle rap in this format was around since the 90s but began being filmed around 2000. Usually rap battles were done on the spot. No preparation, no cameras, no hosts to cut rappers off in between “rounds”. If 2 people who could rap happened to be on the same block or at a party at the same time word would get around. The 2 would then go to a staircase, a room separate from everyone else or outside in front of the building and just rap. It was all for the love of hip-hop. There was never any personal info put out there, no money exchanged (except rare occasions where the battles were judged), no super large crowds, just 2 people who could rap and they would rap for hours on end. The loser was usually the one who quit due to running out of rhymes. Due to the small crowds losing a battle didn’t really hurt someones reputation unless the other battler clearly out-shined them in every exchange. As they say you live to fight another day. There was always room to bounce back.
Let’s move forward to one of the first rap battles recorded live and put on DVD….
Once word got around that battlers such as T Rex, Jae Millz, Loaded Lux and a few others were the most consistent and were winning battles their names became bigger around the city. It got to a point where people in both artists camps would cross paths in stores, barbershops, and other places around NYC and plan for the artists to battle. The battlers would then meet at a designated location and battle. Being that the battles were planned it gave not only the battlers a chance to prepare but media as well. Multiple cameramen arrived to record the battles but for some reason SMACK was the only one to release the footage. That’s what started the trend of recording rap battles.
Notice how big the crowd is in the above battle? Any smart person will began to wonder, “If people are gathering for events like this consistently and the crowds are huge EVERY time, do they enjoy this enough to PAY to see it?”
That’s part 1 of the beginnings of battle rap becoming the growing culture that it is today. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon. I’ll go into the other outlets that began filming battles and also battle rap becoming a strong financial outlet for some of the most well known battlers.