Dada Masilo

Oshea is Battling Scorzayzee for Clash Money

26 January 16 words: Bridie Squires
"A lot of people get pissed off when they get labelled a battle rapper but that doesn't bother me at all"

How did you first get into battle rap?
We were making music when I was about fourteen or fifteen – there were just people rapping in the school playground. One person would say they were a rapper at school then another would say “Well I rap as well.” Then a third person would come in, and next thing you know you have enough for a little competition. When we got older and we started having our own money, that’s when we started getting into the studio properly and stuff. At first, we just used to record the music over other people’s beats.

I haven’t heard too many Liverpudlian rappers. Got any suggestions?
There are quite a lot. The ones that are making more moves than most at the minute, there’s a rapper called Aystar he is signed to USG, K Koke’s label. There’s Bang On! he is signed to Big Dada. Lee Scott… he is from Runcorn but it’s practically Liverpool, it’s on the outskirts. Yeah, there’s quite a few.

What’s the hip hop scene like up there?
It’s good. The only problem we have had is that we’ve been crippled by kids fighting with each other. The police automatically lump the whole scene into the same thing. If a kid gets stabbed on the street in Toxteth and it turns out he is a rapper, the police then associate all the rappers in Liverpool with it, so they try and cut your events down. You can’t come out and say “We’ve got a hip hop or grime night”. You have to work around it and say you’ve got a spoken word poetry night, just to get away from them trying to shut the events down.

The last six months have been particularly slow because there’s been a lot of trouble with the kids, but the scene is still here. It was very big a couple of years ago but it seems to have died down a little at the minute. We’ve just got to wait and see, it’s very hit and miss here.

You were part of Don’t Flop from the beginning…
We had loads of freestyle battles from school and parties on a camcorder, so when YouTube came about we instantly uploaded them. I didn’t really know much about the World Rap Championships at the time, but when I uploaded them I noticed there were other people doing the same thing in different parts of the country. Cruger was doing stuff in London and Norwich, there was Chronicle doing stuff in Manchester, so we basically all came together and said we would start going from city to city.

I’d say Brighton was maybe the main hub of it at the start. That’s where most of the MCs used to come from. There was a lot of stuff going on in Sheffield as well – the first Don’t Flop was originally meant to be Liverpool VS Sheffield, but then more battlers were turning up from Blackpool, Nottingham and Birmingham. It just developed and got bigger and bigger.

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There are loads of different accents that come through, how do you think the scouse accent works for and against you?
That’s a tough one really. It can work for you, for the fact that it sounds quite aggressive sometimes. It’s very, very fast and I can understand how some people can just not understand a single word that is being said. There are no real gaps between words. It’s very hard to understand.

I know people who’ve said to me “I haven’t got a fucking clue what you just said,” and that’s just in general conversation. Sometimes I’ll be speaking to someone from London or somewhere, and I know they're pretending to understand what I’m saying but you can clock them in the eye that they have really missed something. They haven’t got a clue.

I guess it would work for you in some cases because your opponent would never be able to flip what you said…
Exactly. When I go against the Americans I make sure I try and come across as scouse as possible so they don’t know what I am talking about. It gives them less ammo to come back at me. They don’t have a clue what Liverpool slang is so they have less ammo.

What’s the main thing you get done for in battles?
It seems to work in roundabouts, it’s a strange one. One week everyone will be having a go at me for being fat, and that will go on for like six months, then it will stop. Then everyone will start having a go at my teeth for six months. I just seem to get a bit of everything from everyone.

Have there been times when it’s got a bit too personal?
Everything goes over my head to be honest, I’ve seen it with other people, but I’ve been doing it for that long that I don’t care what anybody says. People have said stuff that I have thought was a bit out of order, not towards me, but they’ve said stuff and I’ve thought “Oh, that’s a bit risky.” You know, along the lines of racism or death, so I try and stay clear of that.

Anyone can say what they want as long as they can handle people. If you are worried about anyone saying anything back to you, you shouldn’t say it. If you are willing to stand by what you say, say it, it’s up to you.

How has it been writing for Scorzayzee?
I’ve only had to write a little bit, because we are doing one written verse and then a freestyle verse and then a freestyle grab bag verse, so I haven’t really had to do that much for it. I’ve got basically half a verse. As of now, I’m gonna be preparing for Scorzayzee just to get my verse down perfectly for next week.

How familiar are you with Nottingham?
I've got quite a lot of close friends in Nottingham. Louis Cypher was at university here so the rap group that I was with as a young kid was basically best mates with their crew. I’ve known them all my life. I’ve known Louis since I was seventeen or eighteen. I’ve known Ty Healy from when we were younger and we were doing more gigs as the band.

We used to go to Nottingham once every two or three months. I think the night was called Fresh Produce – Emma Williams used to put it on. I’ve battled there a few times as well. I’ve done Clash Money before against Double L. I’ve done Don’t Flop in Nottingham as well against Ogmios. I’ve been to Nottingham a few times as well for the football. So I’m pretty familiar.

What has been your most memorable battle to date?
Probably Tony D. I know I lost but I still think that’s probably my best performance out of the lot. I think what makes it so good is that he was so good in it as well. I had other ones where I've thought I have been dead good but the other person hasn’t really been that good. Or it’s been a bit one sided so it doesn’t look good on the camera. That one in particular is probably the best toe-to-toe one I have ever had.

What comes first for you, battling or music?
The way I do it is, I just wait. I’ve got this gig tonight and then I’ve got one on Saturday, then I’ve got one on Sunday and then I don’t have any booked. So I will just wait for anybody to offer me something, if it’s a battle or a gig, then I will focus on that completely until the next one.

Do you do more battles than you do gigs then do you reckon?
Probably about the same, but obviously battling gets a lot more people watching and people associate me with it a lot more. A lot of people get pissed off when they get labelled a battle rapper but that doesn’t bother me at all. I openly admit that I am classed as a battle rapper more than a rapper who makes music, even though I do. I know that battling is what people associate me with more.

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How does the creative process differ with both?
I find writing verses pretty easy. With battles, you can’t take into account what the demographic and size of the crowd. You have to sort of guess. If you are battling in Newcastle on a Friday night, you know that the crowd is going to be predominantly white and predominantly pissed up, whereas the crowd is gonna be completely different in Hackney. You know some of the stuff won’t work. Same if you’re going to Nottingham or Manchester and battling at certain events. You have to be clever about it really.

Stuff that might work as a funny joke in Newcastle is not the same sort of stuff that’s gonna work as a funny joke in Brixton. Being serious will work when you’re in Liverpool but it won’t work in Newcastle – they’ll be like “Why’s he talking all this shit?” You just have to work it out, which gets easier the more you do it. I’ve got a better idea of how most places are gonna be now than I did when I started. I used to go to places and tell jokes and people would be like “Who the fuck is this? What’s this shit? He’s just a comedian.”

You do seem more geared towards the comedy element of it…
I try and stick with that as much as I can. In different crowds, I just have to think of how I’m gonna be funny with it. But really, it’s all the same in the end.

Have you got plans to shit on any more sharks in the future?
Hopefully. Amazingly, I got told yesterday that there’s a game coming out. Like an app game, which is basically Space Invaders, but it’s got one moving across the screen shitting on sharks. I think it’s come out today. Me missus tagged me in something earlier, I’m assuming that’s what it is. I’ll have to have a look. Somebody got in touch with Don’t Flop and asked them if they could do it. I think it’s called Super Shark Shitter or something. I’m ecstatic. I can’t wait to tell me mum.

Anything else you'd like to say?
I’ve got my new album coming out in March, my first solo one. All the others have been with the band. I don’t think many people realise I do music because it’s within a band and not under my name. I’ve got three or four albums out there already but this is my first solo one.

Catch Oshea battling Scorzayzee, as well as a live performance from Flowdan, at Clash Money at The Irish Centre, Saturday 30 January 2016, £15 tickets available here.

Clash Money website

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