Battle rap is a funny old thing. I’ve seen some live performances, but the majority has been observed in front of a YouTube screen, on the Don't Flop channel, watching battle after battle in a haze of rhymes, jokes and jeers. Word play does it for me. It was only when I found myself donned in a dressing gown past the midway mark of the day that the self-shame kicked in.
Maybe I overdid it, because I lost interest in the whole shebang for a good stint. But when local emcee Youthoracle started waving a new league under our Nottingham noses almost a year after I broke up with battle rap, I was tempted.
Youth, along with a few other battlers, decided to leave the current UK kingpin of battle rap leagues – Don’t Flop. The hand that waved goodbye didn’t hang about in popping the champagne cork because, soon after, Clash Money was born - a league dedicated to the welfare of battle rappers. Traditionally, people have used the art form as a stepping stone to record deals, but with the YouTube generation paying attention to battle rap videos as much as anything else, it’s anyone’s game. Unfortunately for Youthoracle, he's experienced some tight wallets.
“In my whole time at Don't Flop, I’ve made £500 at a stretch, which would barely cover my petrol. I'd like to see battlers paid properly. If your name itself is getting people through the door at an event, as well as online interest, you should be getting something out of it, as it all generates revenue. I am very thankful for the opportunity and the platform. However, the success is down to my own talent. If I hadn't done well, I wouldn't expect anything out of it. But I do.”
Youth wasn’t the only one feeling a little unappreciated. Mos Prob is a quirky battler with a more niche following who's done some interviews and blogging for Don’t Flop. Without realising how much it would blow up, he proposed to his girlfriend during a doubles battle and the video is now close to 2 million hits.
“If you’re in battling for the money you’re incredibly naive. But if you’re investing yourself in anything, that thing should be giving back in the way of fulfilment or at least acknowledgement," says Mos Prob. "If I wanted to put all my time and effort into something and not be given the time of day, I’d try to convince my wife I’m sexy. I asked Eurgh to give a small portion of the YouTube revenue from the proposal to a charity she and I support. I never got an answer. I don’t work on those terms. I’ve got a lot of love for the rest of the team and for the roster of battlers, they’re hugely focussed and talented. I’m just happier out of the loop.”
I was looking forward to seeing Mos Prob VS Chronikill at Clash Money’s first event – Rebellion. “I went for Chronikill because I’ve not really had someone all up in my face, I normally go for the more light-hearted battles,” says Mos Prob. Unfortunately Chronikill didn’t turn up, but the diversity of the setup is part and parcel of what Clash Money is all about.
Youthoracle has been stirring the pot by implementing a grime round, a hip hop round, and an a capella round. It went down a treat, proving a great way to break up battles, and the shifts in attitude were hilarious – grime was more aggressive and jokey; hip hop adopted a cool arrogance; a capella was more complex.
Throughout the day, there were performances from proper Nottingham old schoolers like 1st Blood and rising names like Gino, serving up myriad tastes of what Nottingham has to offer. The Irish Centre was rammed with hyped up lads having a laugh, an all-out festival of family member insults, dotted with tunes impossible to resist nodding your bonce to.
One of my favourite battles was the one between Double L and Aye Nizzy, where Double L dropped this brick: “My man says he’s raised by yardies. Yeah man, but hardly. Your dad works in a pub toilet like ‘Freshen up for poonani’.” The room went nuts.
The fact that this stuff, the daft and the seriously sick, has been placed in our back garden makes me happy. The Nottingham tree is growing. There was a serious turn out from local and further afield heads alike, with word play and an ever-expanding flow from southerner Unanymous to induce growls from around the room, destroying his skilled opponent Tali. Seeing Unan perform over beats was a first, and a decent surprise. In a battle against the ferocious Raptor, Dialect tore down the place too, with his token rumbling voice and stage prowess that shook the room to its core.
I can’t wait to see Unanymous VS Dialect in the main event at Clash Money's April Duels. Among beatbox and live graffiti battles, they’re assuming the roles of Batman and Superman - should be a proper laugh from two of the most revered blokes in UK battle rap. Speaking of Unanymous, the bleeder never went back home down south. He’s been treated so well by Clash Money and the city that he’s decided to stay put.
As for the main battle at Rebellion, Youthoracle VS Blizzard was hilarious. It’s clear Blizzard is at the peak of his game at the moment, and seeing him get more and more hyped throughout the battle just made you screw your face up alongside him. Mad flow, laced in brutality. In between some fat kid jokes, Youth managed to have a pop at the director of Don’t Flop, Eurgh, at the same time as taking the piss out of the famous Blizzard by chanting:
“’Undred pahnd. Eurgh only gave you ‘undred pahnd!”
I’ve got a feeling it won't be the last time I hear that phrase.
Blizzard going in
The creation of Clash Money can only be a good thing for battle rap. There are still many battlers who are working hard and remain loyal to Don't Flop, especially since they started paying people properly. So everybody wins. Their popularity will go untouched, but where a monopoly exists, Youth's taking a slice to give to the poor, proper Notts style.
Mos Prob reckons it's all ultimately about keeping things moving: "If you’re gonna call something a movement, it has to be a movement where there are different platforms participating, creating healthy competition. That’s why I’m behind Youthoracle in this. I wanna support the whole thing. I’m just moving forward."
He's got a point. Apart from cussing out someone’s mum and spitting bars, isn't that what battle rap is all about? Healthy competition?
“We’re building this league for all the guys that built the scene, that know what I'm talking about, that spent years contributing to a business to get nothing out of it but YouTube views. The guys that have slept in cars, scraped together their last pennies to travel across the country to battle sober on an empty stomach, and anyone that knows what it's like to do fifteen battles, get 1,000,000 collective YouTube views, and then get paid £15 to battle. £15. Literally. ‘Nuff said.” – Youthoracle
Am I the only one who wants to see Youthoracle VS Eurgh?
April Duels takes place at The Maze on Friday 10 April. Tickets are £8 and you can buy them here.
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