Battle rap, bitch. It is absolutely everywhere at the moment. Whether it be kids quoting Lunar C at school, students reposting Mos Prob's heart-warming mid-battle marriage proposal or middle aged English teachers going viral for "coaching" teenage grime spitters; this shit has practically gone mainstream. Hell, I even made a uni documentary on the subject at the latest Stirling event (shout out the folks still waiting on that footage to emerge...).
However battle rap in Scotland continues to be a different kettle of fish to the scene south of the border. In England, Don't Flop now wield such a viral influence, even their lowest tier battles regularly break 20,000 views on Youtube. Though Eurgh, the controversial beardy kingpin himself, recently hinted that the company planned to return up here, it would be foolish to hold our breaths. With Badmouth Battles now seemingly dormant, there has been little opportunity for Scottish up-and-comers to prove themselves within this arena. Film footage is everything these days, and many of these events are not promoted properly or even filmed at all. Shout outs to Paraletic Universe (and all involved) then for actually setting up a battle event in the proper fashion, promoting it well and booking a venue as appropriate as the Newsroom.
The battles were largely a success, even if a couple of fights broke out and most in attendance dispersed before the post-battle entertainment. The crowd were respectful of the MCs, at least for the first few battles, and it was actually the frequently inflexible calling of "TIME" that tended to throw off the MCs. To break down the battles in order (and without showing any bias towards friends etc):
M1sterman v Revo
Despite their statuses as relative newcomers, this was surprisingly one of the matches of the day. Revo, one of the most lauded up-and-comers of the last year, was hungry for this rematch after a controversial freestyle defeat in Stirling. In many ways he continues to remind me of a Scottish Unanymous, visceral in the ring and difficult to stop when he is in full flow. M1sterman, however, stepped it up massively from his previous battles. Hyped and aggressive, he landed some heavy punchlines that even Revo didn't seem to even expect. The most memorable bar: "It's funny how you're always inside Jailz but never behind bars" or something to that effect. A choke from Revo in the first meant that M1sterman definitely edged it 2-1 but both legitimately killed it.
Zee v Jr the Juggernaught
Repping Dungeon Dwellers in Dundee, Zee was definitely the favourite going into this and was judged to have beaten first time battler Jr the Juggernaught. Despite being a Zee fan, I actually thought it was Jr that took this one for multiple reasons. Though practically unknown within the scene currently, Jr outbarred him plain and simple. I hate to use the term "pen game", but fuck me, this dude delivered multis, punchlines and metaphors to a level that several on the card simply didn't match. Earning as much crowd reaction from his set-ups, Jr's scheme-orientated style definitely suffered in this one minute format and he was cut off frequently. Because of this, Zee took the lead with personals directed at Jr's girlfriend and through all round presence. I would not say this was a robbery as Jr still lacks conviction, but he definitely deserves to be booked again.
Jailz v Kevvy Boi
A bit of a disappointment this one, with no disrespect to my SSU compadre intended. The "battle of Livingston" unfortunately lacked the bite it could have with Kevvy Boi choking in two rounds, and resorting to a "handwritten by Jailz" prop to win the crowd. Jailz perhaps came light, with one eye on his own event next week, but still took this 3-0 quite easily.
Dubious Content v Loki
Battle of the day? Although lacking in many memorable lines, there was a palpable sense that these guys were a tier above in quality. Another rematch, Dubious Content was judged to have tightly won this one but it definitely could have gone either way. Despite the political slant to his own music, Loki is a different beast in the ring, with a propensity to be as funny as anybody on a battle card. Dubious Content was more predictable with his angles but executed them well, particularly the inevitable "face jokes". I'll be looking forward to watching this one back.
Louie v Joker Starr
Well, well, well. It seems that Facebook and Twitter have already debated the logic in booking Don't Flop MCs when they are as disappointing as this, so I'll abstain from comment. At the end of the day Joker Starr definitely lacked content, he lacked memory and he did not know how to freestyle his way out of it. Louie also choked a couple of times here but won all three rounds by his ability to freestyle. Whilst it is factually true that the Hector Bizerk veteran has "never lost", he will possibly be disappointed with how this one turned out. As a main event, it did not quite deliver, and the drunken heckles of the crowd were also irritating.*
As a side note, shout out to Evil for winning the freestyle tournament in between battles. Beating out Revo, Onetzu and Elgreen, who all killed their respective rounds, he massively improved after his showing at Louie's Christmas Rapping (although he was blazed as fuck at that, so fair play). The freestyle events were received well and kept energy levels high throughout the event. In fact, Breaking Bars as a whole was a reasonable success but I was most impressed by the performances of the bottom-card battlers. Although Toy Control's Louie and Loki will undoubtedly still be seen as a tier above, I was more impressed by the new generation of Scottish rappers here than I was at any battle event last year (including Kelvingrove). Whether the likes of Jr and M1sterman will make themselves known as just "battlers" rather than all round artists remains to be seen, but Breaking Bars encouraged me that Scotland are starting to develop a roster of quality battlers of our own.
*Aye, to be fair, I was the cunt drunkenly shouting BLOOD IN THE WATER and SCOTLAND STANDUP every ten minutes.
Coming Up this week: Two more episodes of Just a Minute, a review of Subkonsious and A-Macc's new 24/7 EP (I'm getting there) and coverage of Jailz' event next week.