If you love Hip-Hop, you understand that there are levels to this sh*t.
You can be an MC, mastering the art of moving the crowd or being the mic controller. You can also be a rapper, one who understands the industry and how it works, producing rap songs that fit into a particular kind of programming. A rapper can also be defined as some who gets busy stringing creative words that rhyme, in a fashion that people get the vibe and love the song. Or, you can be a lyricist. The type of entertainer that values words, and constructs the poetry of them in such a way that the listener is enveloped with ooooohs and aaaaahhhs.
Battle rap as an industry that takes all three, and melts them into an aural cornucopia bursting with skill, passion, and flavor. No other platform nurtures and showcases this top-notch talent like the well-oiled SMACK/ URL battle rap league. URL’s most recent card, Night Of Main Events 9 (NOME9), was the kind of lyrical smorgasbord that MCs, rappers, and lyricists alike take pride in indulging.
And a few of the battlers on the card shined, while others looked tarnished. Check out how the fans reacted to the most elite battlers go bar-for-bar.
The first battle was John John Da Don vs. Jakkboy Maine.
This long-standing grudge match was a prime example of a battler not being cooked enough to be the main course meal. Jakkboy allowed his emotionality to shift significantly his standing as a rising star on the “world’s most respected stage.” The pressure was on. After all, he initiated the battle by poking the bear inside of JJDD.
Not because he is not talented, but because he as a battler is immature (not quite developed enough for the big stage). And John John knows that stage, he thrives on that stage and through his Bullpen rap league (a league that JKBM was once down with). On Bullpen, JJDD nurtures others who are willing to follow behind his leadership and make a name for themselves in this competitive rap space. This battle launched the night, showing that there are levels to this rapping stuff that these young whipper-snappers with a fire pen, some exciting moves and social media fan base may not understand. JKBM… did not understand until standing under those big lights and standing in front of THAT particular vet.
The next battle was between Newark’s Shotgun Suge and Canada’s Pat Stay.
This was another example of how levels come into play in battle rap. In this case the levels are manifested in an extraordinary style clash. Smack White himself acknowledged that this battle was (at least in the building) was a preference battle, executed by two skilled performers on a master level. Shotgun Suge might have elevated his game for this contest and by pairing up against the former King of The Dot champion, many thought that Shotgun Suge would out-classed. Nothing could be further from the truth. This battle showed by over and over again that the Newark spit-kicker can’t be taken lightly ever. He came to rap. He came to bully. He came to win (and depending on who you talked to he did). Pat Stay also transferred all of his crowd-controlling appeal to invite the audience into his wonderfully wonky and talent-specific world. For every bomb that was dropped by Suge, Stay found a way to weave is cool and collective manner into something that only Stay can do… a jokey jokey laced with bar-heavy intensity. There were levels to both of their offerings.
After Suge and Stay, Ave and Arsonal took the stage.
THERE IS SOMETHING NEW ABOUT AVE.
Over the last few months, something has clicked for this Virginia native, making his personality and grown-man swag stand out more than ever. Everyone knows that he can rap… we all know that… why else would he be a part of the Cave Gang team if he couldn’t… but many would admit that he was not main stage exciting.
>>> awkwardly points to the K. Shine battle at Strike 2.5>>>>
But that was last year, almost another lifetime ago. This Ave, with his punching self, brought his new showmanship to NOME9, and basically leveled up on veteran (and debatably Mt. Rushmore contender) Arsonal Da Rebel. When we talk about what levels are in battle rap, you have to address the elephant in the room. And that is that there is a difference between rap styles based on your lyrical generation and heritage. Arsonal, who just bodied Champion of The Year Geechi Gotti on a previous card, could not stand strong against Tay Roc’s Sergeant.
The K. Shine and Rum Nitty and the Tsu Surf and Geechi Gotti battles showed that there are a multiplicity of performance styles that not only elevates the art of lyrical combat, by enhances the experience for the audience. K. Shine and Rum Nitty were excellent opponents, bringing the best out of each other. It is hard to talk about K. Shine without talking about performance and showmanship. As one of the leaders of NWX and The Source‘s 2018 Battler of The Year, K. Shine brings his Harlem grit to the fight outperforming anyone in front of him. Nitty is known for bars. Like Ave, Nitty has recently adjusted to the bigger stages with confidence and intensity. Despite his chokes, which may have cost him the battle for battle rap enthusiasts, he had his work cut out for him opposing the ex-Dot Mobber. But K. Shine was in rare form. When Nitty pushed to one boundary, K. Shine up the ante. Fans teetered back and forth over who won the competition. The answer is simple: The Culture did.
Tsu Surf and Geechi Gotti also was a barfest.
Two style clashes were at play in this performance. East Coast confidence met with West Coast swag to dominate the stage. Two crip brothers, Neighborhood vs. Nutty Block, Motherland vs. a Battle Rap Farm, fans were divided from the start about which way it was going to go. But once Tsu climbed off his surfboard and truly invested himself into the battle (you know considering he is on tour and recording with the likes of Mozzy and Chris Brown), he surgically snatched the hopes of a body from Gotti. Surf never sweated. Surf never looked uncomfortable. And even with Gotti’s crew mobbing the stage in support of their hometown hero, Surf backed by his Jersey homies seemed strong enough to stand on his own. And he took everything he could to rip out any momentum pushing Gotti to stardom. Fans who paid their tickets to see The Wave in person got their money’s worth. To that end, Gotti still was cooking… it just was not enough to survive Tsunami. He took to that stage with the showmanship that only the Newark native could, overwhelming it and unfortunately Gotti, much like the 2004 massive Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands. JERSEY!!!!
There is not just one battle of the night, but three: Shotgun Suge vs. Pat Stay, K. Shine vs. Rum Nitty and Tsu Surf vs. Geechi Gotti.
Lastly, Loaded Lux and Aye Verb both performed on various levels and exceeded expectations. Both rappers understood the competition was rooted in more than just contest but was the culmination of years of conflict. Verb represented the underdog finally addressing the champion that has been in the spotlight for so long, and who remains in the way for this quest to be a legend. Lux represents battle rap royalty, who in the spaciousness of his vocabulary, brings the next level of intellectuality reserved for god-tier emcee. To reiterate there are levels to this… the question is, does Verb step up to match this divine plateau? Verb does transcend to this level of Mt. Rushmoredom. While there surprisingly, it is not his “SHOWTIME” that keeps him flying in the company of the battle rap god… it was his craftiness with words. Showing fans that he too is (in his own words) special… This bout is not as impactful if you are looking to it only to find a winner or a loser (you won’t because there is much more at play here). The real impact is the making of room for Verb in a conversation that he has previously been denied existence in.
NOME9 proved again, that there are levels to this rap sh*t and that URL keeps pushing those boundaries to let fans get glimpses.