Saturday, February 15, 2014

Battle Rap 101 #1: Bars & Styles

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WELCOME to a new segment here on my blog! While I desperately try to resurrect "The Arena" I figured I'd drop some knowledge on you all since I do care VERY much about battle rap and I have quite a bit to say about it. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the culture is talking past it's self and we really don't have a solid grasp of what we're talking about to begin with. So a courtesy to you and myself, I'll putting out a text form a previous video I made and expanding a few things within that video. WELCOME TO BATTLE RAP 101!

Battle Rap is a mental chess game, a debate and court case all rolled into one. Every battler is attempting to prove themselves to be superior to their peers. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes one battler superior to the other. One of the major problems is that there is (unfortunately) NO definition of the words "Bars". All throughout battle rap, Battlers and Fans are shouting "WE WANT BARS!", "MORE BARS!" ect. ect. But what EXACTLY are "bars"? Bars are MERELY defined as "a line in a hip-hop song". In the same way a stanza is a group of lines in a poem. So as a courtesy for The Battle Rap Community I'm going to list 5 Basic Types of Bars.

1) PERSONALS
This commonly misunderstood as mentioning someone's personal life (e.g. their dead homie, wife/girlfriend, ect. ect.) in a battle and while that's not untrue, Personals are actually just a series of bars that are ONLY applicable to your opponent. Personals are used to indicate to the crowd that you know your opponent on some level better than the crowd. Personals are meant to make the crowd question your opponent's credibility (in regards to their street credibility, personal integrity and so on so forth) There are 4 sub-types of Personals.
  1. Indirect Personals: These are semi-personal bars that relate to your opponent indirectly. For example, if you're battling an opponent who is large, mentioning they're large is personal, but a lot of people are large and therefore you're not making waves by acknowledging their girth. Basically any physical trait your opponent has that is common place is an indirect personal.
  2. Direct Personals: These are personal bars that CAN ONLY be applied to your opponent and NO ONE ELSE! It's basically a bullet with their name on it. If these bars were spit against anyone but your opponent they wouldn't make any sense. These can included but are not limited to: quoting their previous battle, addressing an incident involving your opponent, referencing something they said, respectfully addressing their dead homie (e.g. Cortez vs. Hollohan). The more Direct Personals you have, the better you know your opponent. Therefore it's adamant to study your opponent. FINE PRINT: Direct Personals DO NOT HAVE TO BE TRUE! They merely have to be convincing enough for the audience to believe.
  3. Comparative: These are personal bars that fall into the sub category of "Self-Affirmation", but basically these bars are designed to compare yourself to your opponent to explain why you're better and why they suck. The basic design of these bars are as followed "You did X,Y, and Z, I did A,B, and C". The more personal failures you can discover about your opponent, the better this will be.
  4. Name Flip: Using your opponent's name against them is a genius way to battle and an easy personal to exploit. A Name Flip is taking an opponent's name and using it in a manner that is disrespectful. This can be done if your opponent has an unfortunately stupid name or a name that's an actual word. Since Name Flips are easily exploitable they aren't exactly looked upon with favor, therefore something clever must be done with it in order to give it major impact. (e.g. "You're not 100 bulletz, you're the same bullet 100 times!" - Thesaurus. Thesaurus vs. 100 Bulletz)
2) FILLER
Filler are just a series of bars that can be applied to any battler and are just basic generic bars that are meant to generate impact and reactions OR to help connect to Personals. Here are 3 sub-categories of Filler.
  1. "I Fucked Your Girl...": Any battler can come up with a scenario in which they're making sweet, savage love to your significant other and express it great zeal and youth abandon to boast their sexual prowess. These bars are not clever and not interesting and fall into the juvenile category of battling. While it's safe to use these bars if the girl in question is known, the ultimate impact of these types of bars are pretty low. Variants include "Your Girl Is So Ugly..." ect. ect. and you can also replace "girl" with "mother" and the impact is pretty much the same.
  2. "I'm Gonna Kill You and Here's How!" a.k.a Gun Barz: While spitting a series of bars about how vicious your are and how massive your arsenal is can energize the crowd, lingering on the subject gets boring. These bars are used to expression aggression and prove to your opponent that you're BIGGER, BETTER, STRONGER, TOUGHER than they are. When used conservatively they can have a nice impact, when used liberally they loose all impact.
  3. Self-Affirmation: These are series of bars used to elaborate on how amazing you are, while they can be used to big yourself up, no one wants to listen to you drone on and on about how great you are. Self-Affirmation is used better when expressed Comparatively; otherwise it's just basically "I'm great because X,Y and Z"...and that's okay for one round, but stick to Self-Affirmation in songs only!
3) FREESTYLE
Freestyles are a series of bars that are spur of the moment, unwritten, unrehearsed. They can be an observation on what your opponent is wearing, something your opponent said in a previous round or just a random series of bars that just popped into your mind at the right moment. Freestyles are a lot like hot sauce, too much can ruin a meal but just the right amount can add some extra kick to it. The best use of a Freestyle is;
  1. Rebuttal: When your opponent drops a killer line on you, it's in your best interest to counter with a killer line that dulls the impact of the line used against you AND uses the impact of their line against them. Truth of the matter is it doesn't even need to be a killer line that's used against you, just a line that you can say better against them. 
4) JOKES
Jokes are just as they are, JOKES. Meant for laughs. Jokes are mostly Filler, but CAN be used for personals and so on BUT usually they're not. There are no subcategories for Jokes, since Jokes usually revolve around basic observation (e.g You're fat. You're dark-skinned. You're light-skinned. You have dread locks. ect. ect.).

5) MISCELLANEOUS
These actually fall under the category of Filler BUT these are much more unique than just your garden variety filler. The GREAT things about these types of bars is that they can be used to spit Filler or Personals and can be used in a Freestyle. These add ability to your bars and are the extra "hot sauce" (if you will) to make your bars better than the other guy's.
  1. Prebuttal: A Prebuttal is a rebuttal that isn't a rebuttal but rather an opening gambit to address something that your opponent most likely WILL address. By addressing it BEFORE your opponent, it allows you to get the upper hand and take the impact out of your opponent's bars. 
  2. Scheme: A Scheme is a series of bars referencing something else that can be applicable to the battle, this allows the battler to talk about two things at once without saying so. Example: "My last battle was with Thesaurus some people say I lost wait (lost weight), that's a big stretch (big stretch), did all that running last year and still found a casket to fit Ness (fitness). Ya bitch be on my dick, if you take it personal, train her (trainer), or she'll be long gone. Beef is something you can try, 'cept (tricep) when I pull up it's a must, he'll (muscle) get hit with these 4 arms (forearms). Ya'll know him as Suge but since Jim (Gym) backed out on the card he owe (cardio) for ya'll dishing that purse out so to save ya'll rep I showed up so this whole event could work out (workout)" - DNA. In that scheme DNA was discussing Shotgun Suge's inability to show up to battle Charron while AT THE SAME TIME referencing various words associated with working out and concludes the scheme to make that intention clear, while still discussing the topic at hand. Schemes are effective because anyone paying attention who gets the scheme will be impressed and anyone who doesn't get the scheme will still be able to acknowledge the rhyme. And once the scheme is understood it adds that much more impact to the bars. Another definition of Scheme is that it can also be a series of bars leading to one big punchline. 
  3. Wordplay: Wordplay is when a battler uses a word or words that have a double meaning or in a different context that can imply a different meaning altogether. Example: "It's simple mathematics, you never carry a nine!" - Pat Stay. Pat Stay was battling Math Hoffa. Math Hoffa is a battler known for discussing gun use and Pat Stay was using wordplay to claim that Math does not carry a 9 (as in a 9 millimeter) while at the same time discussing Math. While Schemes and Wordplay MIGHT seem similar wordplay is only limited to words and the use of words while schemes are referencing to things.
  4. Gimmicks: Gimmicks are more than just props and antics, gimmicks are a series of bars that are repeated for various effects. Example: Conceited's "Slow it down, I just dissed you!", Hitman Holla's "Fuck it, I'ma remix it!" and Pat Stay's "He mad right now...". Gimmicks can be rolled out in any battle and against any battler. Battlers use this to show cleverness on their part and it's often a trap set against their opponent to enthrall crowd support. Since the crowd has heard the gimmick before, more than likely they'll participate when the gimmick appears. When a battler uses a gimmick successfully it can garner crowd support.
  5. Multis: Multis are a series of bars that contain one word (or more) that are rhymed repeatedly. Example: Bender's "Sorry Player". Multis are used to showcase lyrical ability and their proficiency for how well they utilize the words. NOTHING is worse than a FORCED Multi. Therefore if a Multi is executed flawlessly, it will prove how good of a rapper you are.
Now that that's settled, I'll now be addressing the different STYLES of battlers. I already made a video in regards to this topic BUT I think I can do a MUCH better job than I did before. So if you're not interested in watching the video, please skip it and check out the article below.


STYLES
Before I discuss the 4 STYLES of Battling, I think I need to discuss SKILLS or PRESENCE battlers NEED to have:

Delivery: "It's not what you say but HOW you say it!" that's the mantra for the delivery and if what you say is infused with passion, strength and confidence you can making damn near anything sound intelligent or convincing. As a battler it's their job to say whatever they say with as much conviction as they can muster. This is also your vocal handshake. If what you say has no passion then the crowd won't interact with you and the judges won't care.

Cadence: Just like delivery ONLY different. Cadence is how you go about saying it. For example, there is a certain rhythm to telling a joke, you don't rush through it, you build suspense and your vocal inflection (or cadence) should inform the crowd where the punchline was in that joke. Same rule applies to battle rap, if your cadence is sloppy, the crowd won't be able to accurate identify where the punchline was and a lot of your punches will be missed and bars that should have impact won't have it, because your cadence didn't inform them that that was the bar that was supposed to hit.

Vocal Projection: Battling is a speaking man's game and the object of the game is to make sure everyone can hear you clearly and loudly. Therefore you must be loud and commanding in how you battle. You don't have to shout, but your words need to have impact. Therefore raising your voice above the average speaking tone is key. Plus a loud voice demands attention. You could be rapping some of the illest bars ever but if no one can hear you, you might as well be saying nothing.

Body Language: Battling isn't just about how you sound when you're battling, it's almost about how you carry yourself when you are battling and when you're not battling. When you are battling you should be animated to a point. Gesticulation are usually common but getting your whole body involved is a MAJOR plus. How you stand can communicate to the crowd and your opponent just how confident you are in your material and yourself. Also being animated puts more attention on you, which as a battler is something you want. Performance art is all about making yourself as BIG as possible and since battling is ALL about dominating your opponent, body language is one of the easiest ways to do that. When you're NOT battling, body language is STILL VERY important. When your opponent is battling you and you roll your eyes, or shake your head and do a negative gesture, it communicates to your opponent and the crowd that they're getting to you. However, if your respond positively to your opponent it communicates to the crowd and your opponent that while you're confident enough to give them credit when they say something nice BUT you're still in control. HOWEVER, you cannot respond TOO positively, otherwise it looks like you're just being silly. The best use of body language when NOT battling is to merely disengage entirely, maintain a neutral expression and focus on remembering your material or zero in on any bars you can flip.

Crowd Interaction: Battle Rap is a Sale's Pitch and anyone making a Sale's Pitch knows that you have to sell to the customer! In this case the customer is the crowd and the judges. When battling you don't wanna spend all your time addressing your opponent, you wanna take sometime out to address the crowd. Addressing the crowd and doing it well makes them feel in on what you're saying and allows them to personally connect with you (therefore feeding you energy). It's also key to know which bars should be directed at your opponent and which should be directed at the crowd. Most Comparative bars should be directed to the crowd because you're asking them to make a judgment between you & your opponent, therefore making the case to the crowd gives them the opportunity to relate to you and feel acknowledged.

Crowd Control: When energy goes through the roof and you manage to spit of series of bars that were just INSANE, it'd be in your best interest to stop rapping for a brief moment to allow the crowd to react. BUT if you have good Crowd Control you can communicate to the crowd that the best is yet to come and when you finally react the punchline their waiting will be worth it. Bender vs. Syd Vicious is a key example of this as Bender exploded into a vicious multi and you could see the crowd buzzing with anticipation for the punchline and Bender was able to complete his multi flawlessly and the impact was that much better. A VERY bad example of this is Chilla Jones vs. DNA. Chilla Jones continuously paused while battling but his pauses were ill-advised and clumsy and looked as if he was feeling his own hype rather than the crowd providing a reason for him to stop. Hitman Holla used Crowd Control in his battle against John John Da Don, as he managed to bring the crowd to silence without even rhyming. Pat Stay is also well known for bringing the crowd to silence with a hand gesture. When you're battling you MUST be aware of the crowd and how or if they will react. Some bars you planned to get reactions may not get them while others will, in either case you can't act as if you expect a reaction, otherwise it'll just look awkward.

Direct Address: Battle Rap is a debate and one of the key factors in a debate is the cross examination, where both sides get to ask each other questions in regards to their position. In battle rap the direct address is addressing your opponent with a series of bars aimed directly at them and them alone. Big T's famous "Now Surf, how you do that?" is a prime example of a direct address since Big T is demanding an answer from Tsu Surf. Direct address doesn't have to be a question. Most direct addresses come with personals, since those are the most effective. Knowing which bars can be said to your opponent and which bars should be said to the crowd and add impact to whatever bars you have.

 Now it's time to address The various Styles of Battle Rap. Keep in mind that ALL GOOD battlers doesn't subscribe to one Style and will alternate between styles during battle. For example, Bender & Dizaster would be classified as Techno-Aggressive since they both engage in intense body language & vocal projection while at the same time showcasing complex and impressive lyrical ability. Hollow Da Don would be classified as a Techno-Roaster, since his reliance on Personals and ability to make his opponent look foolish is made much better by his ability to weave words and freestyle. Pat Stay would be classified as an Aggro-Joker, while he has great body language and excellent vocal projection his bars are more geared towards making people laugh and being funny. Therefore with the examples I present, I am NOT saying that the examples only use that style, I am merely saying that that style is most dominate in every battle they do.

1) AGGRESSIVE
Aggressive Battlers MOSTLY rely on Filler & Miscellaneous Bars. The Aggressive Battlers focus more on Vocal Projection & Body Language. An Aggressive Battler's main objective is to show themselves to be BIGGER, BETTER, STRONGER AND TOUGHER than their opponent. They do this through vocal and physical intimidation to throw their opponent off their game. Aggressive Battlers are often described as "Bullies". Aggressive Battlers are known to have very HIGH ENERGY and to be EXTREMELY Animated. Most Aggressive battlers DON'T use Personals and if they do they're usually Indirect Personals, Name Flips and Comparatives, but nothing with any real bite. Examples: Arsonal, T-Rex, Aye-Verb. K-Shine, Shotgun Suge, Cortez, Tsu Surf & Hitman Holla, Hollohan, Unanymous.

2) JOKER
Joker Battlers MOSTLY rely on Jokes, Filler & Miscellaneous Bars. The Joker Battlers focus more on Crowd Interaction, Direct Address than anything else. Their main objective is garner crowd support while at the same time making their opponent the laughing stock of the battle, taking their opponent out of their element and turning the crowd against them. Jokers will use their opponent appearance, their voice, the way they dress, act, the way they rap to garner laughs from the crowd. Jokers are often laid back in their approach to battling, taking their time to build their punches and using Crowd Control and their Cadence. Examples: Uno Lavos, HFK, Tricky P,O'Shea, Chedda Cheese, Henry Bowers, Pat Stay, Marlo, Shuffle-T, Bill Collector, 360, Nils M/ Skills.

3) TECHNICAL
Technical Battlers are the MOST fluid in their ability. They MOSTLY rely on Miscellaneous (Schemes, Multis, Wordplay), Freestyles and Indirect Personals and Name Flips. Their main focus is Crowd Control, Delivery and Cadence. Their main objective is to bombard their opponent with lyrical ability while simultaneously impressing the crowd. Technical Battlers are the most dangerous in the ring because they're unpredictable in terms of what angles they might use and how they might say it, not to mention their ability to Freestyle and willingness to use it makes them difficult to prepare for. Technical Battlers are EXTREMELY confident in their material and therefore their Body Language, Crowd Control & Delivery makes that clear. NOTE: NOT ALL TECHNICAL BATTLERS CAN FREESTYLE! Examples: Charron, DNA, Thesaurus, Charlie Clips, 100 Bulletz, Hollow Da Don, Daylyt, Ness Lee, Pass, Real Deal, Big T, John John Da Don.

4) ROASTER
Roaster Battlers are similar to Jokers, but while Jokers rely on making people laugh at their opponent, Roaster Battlers are hellbent on making their opponent look bad. Roasters are easily THE MOST direct battlers and heavily rely on Direct Personals to get the job done. Roaster rely on Crowd Interaction and Crowd Control to get their point across. Think of them as lawyers. Lawyers talk directly to the jury and Roasters talk directly to the crowd. By doing this Roasters gain crowd support while simultaneously torpedoing their opponent's credibility as a threat, a person and anything else they claim to be and to make them feel or look stupid. The thin line between Jokers and Roasters is their point of focus. Jokers are very general in their battling while Roasters are VERY specific. Because of their laser like focus and ability to relentlessly mock their opponent, preparing for them requires are level of self-knowledge and knowing your own weaknesses to defend against them. Examples: Kid Twist, Fresco, Rone, Conceited, Hollow Da Don, Iron Solomon, Murda Mook.

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