Rap Battles

Posted: May 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
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freestyle battle (or rap battle) is a contest in which two or more rappers compete or “battle” each other using improvised lyrics.

In a freestyle battle, each competitor’s goal is to “diss” their opponent through clever lyrics and wordplay, with heavy emphasis being placed upon the rapper’s improvisational ability. Many battles also include metaphorically violent imagery, complementing the “battling” atmosphere. It is considered dishonorable or shameful to recite pre-written or memorized raps during a freestyle battle, because it shows the rapper to be incapable of “spitting” spur-of-the-moment lyrics.

A live audience is key, as a large part of “winning” a battle is how an audience responds to each rapper. Appointed judges may be used in formal contests, but in most cases the rapper who receives the largest audience response is viewed as the victor.

Battling is generally believed to have originated in the New York scene in the late 1970s.  One of the earliest and most famous battles was in December 1981 when Kool Moe Dee challenged Busy Bee Starski.  (See attached video).  Busy Bee Starski’s defeat by the more complex raps of Kool Moe Dee meant that “no longer was an MC just a crowd-pleasing comedian with a slick tongue; he was a commentator and a storyteller.”

Battling has been mostly an underground phenomenon since the early nineties, partly due to rap lyrics becoming considerably more complex in terms of rhyme scheme and meter.

In the early 21st century, freestyling (particularly freestyle battling) experienced a resurgence in popularity of sorts as successful freestyle battle competition TV shows were shown by both BET and MTV. In addition, Eminem’s movie 8 Mile brought the excitement of the freestyle battle to mainstream movie audiences.

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