This past Saturday, Philadelphia’s premier battle league, Battle Academy did what many thought might be the impossible in this current climate of the culture: They produced a non-violent but quite aggressive Dot Mobb vs. Cave Gang card, Respect the Shooter. Over the last few months, most certainly after the URL Summer Impact Reloaded card, the two squads have been at each other’s necks. And while that event resulted in a free for all brawl, the hope with producing this event, on this league, was to bring closure with two principal players from the two elite battle rap crews, Tay Roc and T-Rex.
At the URL Summer Impact Reloaded event, a makeup event for the Murdaland and DarkLyfe battle not happening in Charlotte at the Summer Impact event, Cave Gang lieutenant, Brizz Rawsteen agitated Murda Mook by starting off his first round with an “F” to the Dot Mobb founder’s mother. Unbeknownst to Brizz, Mook’s mom had transitioned perhaps one or two months before the battle. During Mook and his partner Calicoe’s first round, excessive pushing [bumping] elevated this aggravation and ended the contest– but also sparked to an even higher level the friction between The Dotts and The Cave. Rex, who was a big brother to Tay Roc (a former Dot Mobb member), has been on a disrespectful campaign, basically instigating what everyone thought would be a violent confrontation. Yeah, the back story is long and complicated (people think it is about a chain), it is really about the crumbling of brotherhood once infected with toxic masculinity and ego.
Fast forward to this card… Battle Academy presents for you all to see in a healthy way, an opportunity for these two collectives of talented emcees to settle their differences, by using verbal dexterity and lyricism instead of fighting or worst blasting each other.
And in this case, a few folks got beat up badly but no fists were involved. The card was filled with rappers really wanting to rap and make a mark.
The first battle between Bre Woods vs. Heiron was lack-luster. And if the title of the card was Respect the Shooter and was supposed to indicate these rappers as the shooters, neither emcee warranted a lot of respect based on the lyrical misfiring of their battle rap gun (that would be their mouths).
The Baltimore rapper, Heiron could not remember his rhymes for most of the three-round battle. Luckily, he ended off the battle with at least a quality representation of his lyrical ability. This lets you know that basically, he had a bad day. You also can tell from some glimpses into his style, that he can rap… just somehow the cat had his tongue.
His opponent, Bre Woods, freestyled his entire performance.
And for the mere demonstration of this gift, his humor and his apparent “cool-withness” to Roc, some were impressed. Many more were not. His “off the domes” were repetitive, even in the same setups and bars. While the Philly crowd showed him love, it was clear that he would not have been able to hang with the freestylers that have made a name for themselves in the culture like DNA, Charlie Clips, Ill Will or even Chef Trez who had an excellent appearance on this card. However, he got the “W” because he had the crowd and he did not choke like Heiron.
Next up was a match that probably could be awarded battle of the night. It was just that good. Everyone knows that this has been a tough year for the Goonies representative, Jakkboy Maine. After his embarrassing losses to John John Da Don and Franchise, many have recommended that he put his head in the sand like an ostrich. We are so glad that he did not. He showed up and gave the crowd some of the magic that they have missed in his last two big showings. He had a haymaker playing off the bop-it toy that had even Roc in the back making the Jaz face. However, when his match-up, Dre Dennis stepped up to rock, he had consistent heavy-handed bars and energy that match Jakkboy blow for blow. What edged him was a) he went last and he was the last that everyone heard, b) he had a crazy rebuttal for the bop-it super haymaker, and c) it was a one rounders.
While this battle left people wanting more, yes even more of Jakkboy, everyone was satisfied with that battle they got. Again… the battle of the night.
This battle was supposed to be the battle of the night. I am such a fan of Profit… but he let me down going up against rapper, Prep.
Baltimore’s Prep took the stage by storm. If your memory of Prep is on a patch of so-so battles from a few years, you most likely have no idea who this guy is. This guy is a straight-up killer. This guy has the eye of the titan and came up US-1/ 95-I to Philly to commit a massacre on the Battle Academy stage. The assumption was that the military training of North Philly’s own hero, Profit would be enough for him to wage war on the 106th and Park UFF alum. Negative. Profit looked like a deficit next to the rhyme raging Prep. He looked like an amateur, not being able to get into his bag. Even his signature robotic move did not have its usual razzle-dazzle- most likely because Prep had such a hard bar in the middle of his round that made fun of it. Prep took this one… what a great showing and it was a redemptive win, reminding us that he really is the threat that he tells he is.
The next scheduled battle was supposed to be between K Walker vs. Jai 400. However, Jai 400 hurt himself and was not able to attend. K Walker still showed and spit his verse. Fans were pleased.
Coming up next was Cave Gang’s Chef Trez and Dot Mobb’s Snake Eyes battle. This one rounded was volatile from the start. Snake Eyes is already aggressive and pushed that beef narrative to the highest power. At the same time, Chef (who went first) was simply focused on beating the heck out of The Dot. The audience definitely did not want Chef to go first, everyone was waiting to see if they could get 3 of those things (him freestyling based off of three things the other guy said in his round). But that was not the draw of the cards. However, what was etched in the heavens, was Snake Eyes almost predictable verse that targeted the former Dots that are now Cave Gang. He had his words about Roc, but then went on to say a line about Brizz being missing from the culture and the crowd went crazy.
Well… it might have landed even harder if Brizz was not in the building.
Almost like Jesus cracking the sky, Brizz floated down from wherever he was, pushed onto the stage and posted up with his crew. He took all the wind out of Snake Eyes sails. It was like a wrestling match, and Brizz marched from the second-floor balcony area all the way up to the stage and basically did a “Can you tell what The Rock is cooking?” look, adding to the clear win to Chef.
ENESS battled Franchise and both artists took the battle seriously and showed up, creating a debatable battle. Philly’s Eness wove his experience into a solid coming out party for the newest Dot Mobb member. Canada’s own Franchise looked like he was fighting for his life, cleverly spitting in a more contemporary style of battle emceeing. And that is what this was a style clash that produced two fan favorites, both hoping to get more big stage appearances.
The battles did not stall, which made the day go by quickly. The Battle Academy staff were everything, showing how this yet but two-year-old league might be the small league of the year.
Just consider how just bringing brought Ave and Bill Collector together for a match up.
Bill Collector and Ave demonstrated to the audience that punching and gimmicks only go but so far, you really have to create a recipe that steps in both lanes to please fans. During their battle, the two seemed to push everything that they had into the contest. For Ave, that means he constructed rhymes that dissected Bill Collector and his performances like a surgeon. For Bill, it meant that he found humor in the differences between the two artists– exploiting his obvious advantage of being a hometown giant and playful lyrical samurai. But even his superduper scope did not have its usual effectiveness with the focused Norfolk bully in its scope. Experts at what they both do, this preference battle leaves many in a debate.
What was not debate is that Rex and Roc brought an eerie unsettling when they came to the stage.
The Battle Academy successfully got everyone who was not Dot Mobb or Cave Gang and pushed them off the stage to give way for the clash of the night. If you look at the PPV (that is still available), you will see that the junior artist engaged in what can be seen as a right of passage when they put him face-to-face with his senior in the culture: Rex is arguably one of the idols that inspired him to start in the sport. Roc with his naturally high pitched squeal barked on Rex with the unction of a teenaged boy who has found his authoritative voice. And perhaps this is what all of this really is about… Roc, who started as a man-child in battle rap, growing up and finding his own voice, his own brand, his own authority, and his own crew.
The growing pains, that was played out throughout the battle, has been difficult for both sides to realize and accept.
For Roc, it was about growing up and seeing that his idols weren’t perfect and that they too walked in the same insecurities and character lapses that he secretly does.
For Rex, it was about acknowledging that as elder statesman that he has the responsibility to always walk in that- but not always revel in it. Rex had to grow to respect- kicking and screaming- that those folk he opened the door for had every right to walk through it and win… with or without him.
On stage, that came to life.
On one side, you saw the changing of battle rap guards.
Left of the stage, there stood the mountain sculptors. Those who through their rhyme books, etched on the limestone steps outside of some Harlem pre-war buildings, chiseled inch-by-inch that platforms that we get to watch this 45-year-old art form (yes, battle rap is that effing old) evolve. That would be Dot Mobb. On the opposite side, you have the new breed and that would be the Cave Gang. And those guys stand there bold enough to not just hike up the mountain but take dynamite and blast large chunks of the rocks- pushing them further towards the peak of this rap Mt. Everest.
The battle for Rex was not his swan song like so many bloggers and critics are saying. Cause, believe it or not, homie showed up to battle and was successful at giving us that old classic Rex feel. But with it being just a one rounder and Roc just being so epic, he lost it. Still, this battle was not really about winning or losing…
In a very sensitive Virgo way, it was essentially the theatrics of one man passing to someone that he loves a badged of validation, a badge of bosshood. It is the shit that allows Andre Harrell to beam at Puff Daddy… that was my son and now he is my brother. It is that shit that allows JAY-Z to look at Kanye, with all the psychosis that is there and say, that is my brother but now he is my peer. Alas, it is the same that allowed John the Baptist, who was the effing bomb when he walked the earth and taught the people, to moved out the way for Jesus.
Battle Academy allowed for Rex to manifest his own John the Baptist in this battle by letting this action state, “I indeed baptize you with water… but He who is coming after me is mightier than I… He will baptize you with… fire” (Matt 3:11).
Roc definitely baptizes you with fire when he rhymes. I hear you… and it’s not sacrilegious [Loso] if you put it in context.
Rex baptized two generations (maybe even three depending on who you ask) of emcees into the drowning waters of battle rap. His lyrical-might has brought to salvation many rappers who were cluelessly trying to figure their way in this new commercial form of battling. And Roc became his disciple, as Jesus to John, and eclipsed him. But his eclipsing, even in this particular battle, was not like he was blotting him out. Roc is now just planted in his authority- and must be prepared to be in the same painful spaces that his old head was once in… oh damn… Rex and Roc are more similar to John and Jesus than we thought.
And maybe Stizz and his crew over at Battle Academy saw that.
Perhaps BA produced the battle not only for the monstrous level of press and esteem that it brought but to truly be the restoration and salvation to the culture that it has been crying out for, by healing the rift between the two brothers and showing them that this is all bigger than them. That Rex, in his rightful capacity as one of the most iconic battlers ever in the culture (probably more important than both Lux and Mook), has the duty to let Roc shine and be in his own glory.
Battle Academy might in this way… consider changing their names to Battle Salvation.