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How the Fuck I'm Losing the Battle to Tyrese?
September 27, 2009 12:58 AM   Subscribe

Doomsday vs. Lyric (YT). From Rhyme Spitters 2006, a documentary of an annual Chicago tournament of freestyle emcee battles – completely improvised verbal battles between two rappers where insults are brought to a lyrical form that's often hilarious, often very politically incorrect, and usually NSFW. It's usually not taken personal by either party – in fact, it's not unusual in these battles to see a rapper smiling in appreciation of a particularly well-crafted insult that just came from their opponent. See also Rhyme Spitters 1, 2, and 4, each hour-long documentaries online at Vimeo featuring tons more battles.
posted by WCityMike (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to shit on any of the above MC's, they are all very skilled. But it is misleading to say that everything is 100% improvised. MC'ing is a fine skill, practiced and honed, and most battle MC's have.. not necessarily pre-written.. but a toolbox of phrases that they use and rephrase on the spot as the occasion demands. Sometimes things are 100% made up on the spot, but if you watch many videos of the same MC from various competitions you start to see patterns emerge. This isn't intended to deride the art, as it is an amazing thing to behold that requires quick thought and an amazing knack for words, but it is not as on-the-spot as many would believe.
posted by mediocre at 1:22 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


No offense, but I think you are shitting on the above MC's and you do intend to deride the art of MC'ing by pointing out that it is not "completely" improvised. This is like a microwaved, go-to argument in hip-hop; it's intent is to show disdain towards other individuals and, on a wider scale, to discredit the form in which they express themselves. It follows that taggers aren't really artists. And DJ's don't really create new music.

For that matter, can you name one example of popular musical improvisation that is not in some way thematic, or dependent on previously rehearsed elements?
posted by phaedon at 3:07 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


like a modern day vaudeville show really, innit?
posted by billybobtoo at 3:36 AM on September 27, 2009


it's intent is to show disdain towards other individuals and

Seemed to me like it was intended to correct the inaccurate statement in the FPP.

It follows that taggers aren't really artists. And DJ's don't really create new music.

No, actually it doesn't.
posted by pompomtom at 4:44 AM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


No offense, but I think you are shitting on the above MC's and you do intend to deride the art of MC'ing by pointing out that it is not "completely" improvised.

Yeah, and when you said "no offense", I think you actually did mean offense.
posted by creasy boy at 4:48 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Btw, thanks for this fpp, all I can watch now is that short video but it's awesome.
posted by creasy boy at 4:51 AM on September 27, 2009


Phaedon - If you knew anything about my history on MetaFilter, you would know that I am one of the sites biggest hip hop proponents. It is an art form I adore and cherish, but I feel a common misconception with battle MC's is the "100% on-the-spot" idea, which more often then not isn't necessarily true. It doesn't take away from the skill involved, it's just that it's like any other improv art, it involves a set of meticulously built and rehearsed set of tools that the artist pulls from.
posted by mediocre at 5:34 AM on September 27, 2009


Love this stuff, and the pre-preparedness makes it somehow better. I like to think of these guys preparing like chess-grandmasters, thinking "He's going to lead off with the fat opening, but I already have an effective counter for that, but how can I best parlay that into his weak spot: erudition?" and the other guy thinking "fat or hair? fat or hair? if he thinks fat I should go hair, because he's expecting fat, but he's probably expecting me to think that...SHIT 10 seconds I'm going fat"
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 6:02 AM on September 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


thanks for this
posted by lukievan at 6:12 AM on September 27, 2009


Having gone to an inner-city Chicago high school, I respect this concept. It's a way to compete without physical violence.
posted by LSK at 6:21 AM on September 27, 2009


It's usually not taken personal by either party

Usually.
posted by fire&wings at 6:26 AM on September 27, 2009


Mediocre:

Well, yes, but they are improvising within formal restrictions. To do that well, generally you have to understand the forms: Like a cook who knows how to nourish a bland dish, like a jazz musician who can weave around a theme, like a talk show host who deals with unpredictable human elements every night.

And eventually, improvisers build up experience with certain sets of decisions. Thelonious Monk and Johnny Carson are both always themselves, even though the circumstances are always new.

It only seems natural that MCs develop distinct patterns, patters, and personalities as expressed in them, even while improvising.
posted by voronoi at 6:30 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shakespeare used stock phrases.

He also 'drew upon well over 21,000 words, probably a wider range than any other writer'.

I could say more, but I think I will not.
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:42 AM on September 27, 2009


I like this format. I hadn't seen this tourney before, and you don't usually see the next rhymer just come right in in rhythm after the last guy finishes rapping. No battle rapper spits entirely off the head, but if anybody thinks its easy to do, or more specifically to do in a crowd of hip hop fans, you're mistaken. With some practice I think anybody could get the beginnings of it though. That's what is great about hip hop. No fancy lessons to take. No thousand dollar instruments or instruction that only rich kids in the suburbs can afford. I would say like Nas that all you need is one mic, but you don't even need that. Just you, your creativity and a drive to rhyme.
posted by cashman at 7:58 AM on September 27, 2009


ill!
posted by fuq at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if you don't have it in you, cashman, it takes a LOT of practice and work just to make something pre-written sound decent. I can't imagine the endless practice and bomb (in a bad way) performances it takes to become a good battle MC. Hell, my mic skills are sub par at best and it takes significant studio magic to make me sound decent and on-time but I could never ever imagine jumping on stage and battling ANYONE. Except me and Juicy have a battle song, but it is pre-written as any fight Kid & Play battled.
posted by mediocre at 8:42 AM on September 27, 2009


Dammit I meant to put this link in the Kid & Play battle snark above..
posted by mediocre at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2009


I am a Deadhead. Never liked rap or hip hop. I watched the short video. I respect these guys a lot. Sure, they have some stock rhymes I am sure, but they were truly talented and just like Bob riffing off of Jerry or Phil riffing with the drums, these guys were riffing off each other and working with each other.

When I get the time, I will watch some of those hour long vids. Thank you for turning me on to this. That's what its all about, right?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:46 AM on September 27, 2009


Well, yes, but they are improvising within formal restrictions. To do that well, generally you have to understand the forms: Like a cook who knows how to nourish a bland dish, like a jazz musician who can weave around a theme, like a talk show host who deals with unpredictable human elements every night.

Understanding the form and having a go-to stock of tropes are completely different.
posted by kenko at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2009


Phaedon - I hope you see that I am not deriding the artform, if anything I am heaping praise on the artists for their hard work and talent. Kenko, he is deriding the art form.
posted by mediocre at 9:16 AM on September 27, 2009


Mediocre, Phaedon etc you spit some intelligent lyrics, but speaking frankly as a member of the cipher your rhymes are wack. You would also gain my support more if you denigrate each others sexuality and ethnic origin more.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:24 AM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Kenko, he is deriding the art form.

I can't tell if you're telling me that voronoi is deriding the art form, or singling me out as an example of someone deriding it; neither really seems to be the case. Anyway I certainly didn't intend to say anything derisive, and if it's the latter, I'd like to know why you think so.

Voronoi seemed to be saying that improvising within formal restrictions simply amounted to what you said MCs have—a toolbox, or what have you, and as a result of that &hellp; well, I wasn't sure what was supposed to follow from that. I mean, obviously you have to understand the form to improvise within a form. But the conversation thus far was about how purely improvisatory the performances really are.
posted by kenko at 9:31 AM on September 27, 2009


My apologies if that wasn't your intention. Your use of the word trope seemed to be dripping with derision, but I may have misread it.
posted by mediocre at 9:40 AM on September 27, 2009


Huh, weird.
posted by kenko at 9:41 AM on September 27, 2009


Mediocre ... you spit some intelligent lyrics

Yeah, "Kapn's only attracted to cardiac attackers/Geriatric theatrics to smother your grannie asscrack/Fantastic tactics to cum in your grandmas butt" is chin strokingly erudite.
posted by mediocre at 9:44 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why's anyone still commenting in this thread after DRAGONSI55 BLEW OUR FUCKING MINDS?
posted by roll truck roll at 10:10 AM on September 27, 2009


Man, you guys suck at rap battling.
posted by empath at 11:04 AM on September 27, 2009


So I'm watching the fourth one and I don't get why this elfamail guy keeps advancing.
posted by kenko at 12:01 PM on September 27, 2009


No but kenko, the latter half of my comment: If you approach the same format enough, you're going to get used to certain responses you make, which become your tropes, and then it's a matter of executing them well enough and appropriately enough that they don't sound like empty tropes.

Maybe a better analogy lies with a vernacular dance form, like, say, swing dancing, where you have a set of tricks, but you're always using them with a partner, so there's still improvisation going on, it's just a different level of decision making. It's not "what do I do," it's "in this permutation how do I apply what I know".

Does this make sense?
posted by voronoi at 12:04 PM on September 27, 2009


Of course we have many excellent battle mc's in the UK.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2009


This thread is hilarious, but the rhymes, as noted by my colleague Not Supplied, are sub-par. Let's fix that with some Slurm V science from my main man Sparx:

#! to the perl in the usr/bin
all you others paying rent in the luser bin
ya won't win, you know it
I got flow, you overflow it
like stack under attack by some hero
you outta whack I'll sit back
watch you divide by zero
so run back to yo momma for security
Got nothing left on my test for my purity
MC Slurm-V

My words just fit so take a hit from the #|
If hair was rhyme you'd be fine, just like Michael Stipe
Still you try to deny
that the nerdcore crown is mine
Waste my time, with your rhyme, just by being on-line
You hurtin' like the victim of computer crime
ID theft left you bereft of personality
So you're trailing in my wake cause of causality
MC Slurm-V
posted by Sebmojo at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bet zombie Victor Borge could rap a mean VI rap.

i #!?
No you esc :q!
i Before you esc dd
i Because you esc :s/you/your
a sister could bring better flow than you
esc :wq!
posted by xorry at 5:38 PM on September 27, 2009


Opps! Forgot the Victor Borge link.
posted by xorry at 5:43 PM on September 27, 2009


mediocre: "But it is misleading to say that everything is 100% improvised. MC'ing is a fine skill, practiced and honed, and most battle MC's have.. not necessarily pre-written.. but a toolbox of phrases that they use and rephrase on the spot as the occasion demands. Sometimes things are 100% made up on the spot, but if you watch many videos of the same MC from various competitions you start to see patterns emerge. This isn't intended to deride the art, as it is an amazing thing to behold that requires quick thought and an amazing knack for words, but it is not as on-the-spot as many would believe."

Yeah, but all improvisation is like this.

No one can actually make up things out of thin air, either on the spot or with years of forethought. Ideas are necessarily built out of other ideas, or observation of ideas. When you make something up out of "thin air," you are making it out of concepts that you learned from other places. That is the nature of creation; any place it may have seemed to you that some work was made from whole cloth, it is solely because it was created from a context that is is different from yours: different upbringing, different experiences, difference influences, interests, prejudices and so forth.

I'm going a bit deeper here than you intended, but the difference is only a matter of degree. A bit part of improvising well is to offload the harder work of creation to time periods in which are not limited. A good battle MC will have studied others, decided for himself which insult approaches are most viable for his style, come up with a list of synonyms and close resemblances to make it less repetitive, will gravitate towards those descriptions he finds most damaging, and so forth. This is not a weakness of their technique, but a strength; it is impossible to do it the other way consistently.
posted by JHarris at 5:46 PM on September 27, 2009


The key idea of the theory is poets have a store of formulas (a formula being 'an expression which is regularly used, under the same metrical conditions, to express a particular essential idea') and that by linking these in conventionalised ways, they can rapidly compose verse.

(I love this!)
posted by Squid Voltaire at 5:03 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, now I watched all these, and I was kinda disappointed with how the fourth one went out. It was literally just a solid wall of fag jokes at a few points, and I feel like it was elfamail's fault, like his style of battling just dragged down the whole competition.
posted by creasy boy at 12:22 AM on September 29, 2009


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