Sunday, January 23, 2011

Battle Rappers: Let's Talk Numbers!

The battle rap community is growing. Views are rising and it's audience is changing. There was a time that in order to gain recognition, you had to travel the country. Now with the help of youtube, a battle rapper can become "famous" rapping in his backyard. Rappers like, Murda Mook, Serious Jones, Loaded Lux, Young Miles and X Factor were in the first wave of battle rappers to benefit from youtube. Even before youtube was the place to be SMACK DVD's were being SOLD and distributed nation wide.

While all this was going on I was against what I had ignorantly deemed "rapping for free". I turned down SMACK & Fight Klub invitations left and right. Why? Because I thought I was above the organizations? Nah.  At the time I was being paid by major television networks to battle in front of millions and rapping "for free" in a record store didn't seem like a good business decision--at the time.  If I had to make that decision again today, I would do the same.

"Men lie, women lie, numbers don't."  Jay Z made this statement so popular that he should have been credited as a co writer on Yo Gotti's chart topping  single "Men Lie, Women Lie" that had the club scene on fire last year.  Now that battle rap is on the rise again, views are up and stars are being made!  But are they really?  Does 100,000 views mean 100,000 people watched your battle? How many times do you watch your favorite battles? A few times over right?  Do the math.  Saying 100,000 views equals 100,000 fans is like Kanye West saying he sold 10 million copies because the million people that purchased his album have listened to it 10 times.  Maybe Jay Z was wrong.  Maybe numbers do lie.  Well at least repeat viewing implies that there is some sort of interest in what the viewer is watching. 

As battle rappers we need to smarten up. Getting paid to show up and rap has always been a perk I enjoy, but what about the EXTRA money out there?  How many battle rappers have sponsors?  People that are actually willing to pay YOU to represent their product in YOUR battle.  I know there's a handful of us that do, but there could be more. If you're one of the battle rappers fortunate enough to get 500,000 views maybe you can try hiring someone to seek out sponsorship. I'm just saying, aren't we playing this "game" to make money?  Before the "true hip hop heads" jump down my throat (pause), I do this for the love, but why not get paid for what you love to do? i.e. Kobe Bryant.  The NBA pays it's players and reap the benefits of their talent.  The exceptional players end up with endorsement deals that triple their income and help build a brand i.e. Michael Jordan.

The battle rap fan base is pretty small in comparison to the rest of the world. Some of the things we go crazy about in a battle are only usable in the small yet growing audience that we rap to.  Example: "Stolen Tapes" If you are not a die hard battle fan you probably don't know or care why the crowd went crazy when I pulled out that tape during the 'Marvwon/Quest MCODY vs Soul Khan/Dirtbag Dan' battle. (7:48)

Soulja Boy made it evident that twitter followers and youtube views don't necessarily help sell albums. So why the hell are some of us so hung up on views & followers? Well that's easy.  Its all some of us have to talk about.  Anybody with a friend following or a page impression program can get followers & views.  Not accusing anyone, just saying that it's fairly simple to pull off.  There's a reason 50 Cent, Bow Wow and Soulja Boy brag about youtube views. THEY MAKE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MONEY PER VIEW. Hell, 50 allegedly made a few million the other day just tweeting. What makes him so special is that he has an interest in more than one specific area. If you take rap away from him, he'll not only survive, he'll succeed.

Although I love and respect battle rap, I also understand that there is a world outside of it. I've been fortunate enough to have had show's aired on MTV, BET, Showtime and to have starred along side actors such as Clifton Powell and AJ Johnson to name a few. The world outside of battle rap is VERY real to me.  I urge any emcee in this battle scene to explore the options in and outside of our close-nit communities of battle rap enthusiasts.  I am grateful for the opportunities outlets such as SMACK and Grindtime have given me as well as my fellow battle emcees, if they shut down tomorrow, I'll be OK.  I "held out" from battling a while back for what I now know to be the wrong reasons, but it actually helped me much more than I ever could imagine.  I learned how to utilize and in many cases I discovered my other talents.  I'm concerned that with some of our "biggest stars" holding all their eggs in one basket dying down just as battle rap did a few years following hype of the "8 Mile" movie.

Take advantage of opportunity, don't let it take advantage of you.


  1. I think there is a balance that needs to be maintained between mainstream enterprises and underground endeavors if you want to have commercial success and still wear the "underground" label that is a necessity in battling. I'll be completely frank and honest with you, about a year-two years ago I had no idea what you were trying to do with your career. I saw you on MTV, reaping the benefits of commercial success, then I saw you a few months later in Mt. Clemens rapping in an empty venue. There's no doubt in my mind that you could fill some big venues across the United States, possibly even world-wide, but you seemed to be losing street cred in Detroit. Then I saw the Grindtime battle with you and Marvwon, and I knew that you must have had the same concerns that I did at that point. Event though Royce The 5'9" has been signed, and has seen loads of commercial success, there is no doubt that he has earned the right to keep the underground label, and he can still sell out shows in Detroit. There are a number of things that an underground artist can do to achieve the level of success they want without alienating the fans that helped them get where they're at. Maintaining a presence in the battle scene, no matter what the cost, is a good example. For whatever it's worth, this article shows that you at least understand that now.

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