Friday, 23 June 2017

Rattle Bap

For those who don’t know, a Battle Rap is a verbal joust in which competitors try to best each other with clever put-downs, boasts and wordplay.  This is delivered in rhyme and usually has the familiar rhythmic patterns of rap music, although it is not always accompanied by music.  It is decided either by the crowd in attendance, and/or by the duly appointed judge/s.
(Rattle Bap is a pun on Battle Rap which I used in the title purely for my own amusement.  Sometimes, in a long-running series of writings, one just needs to put in something purely for oneself, doesn’t one?)

This is one of the traditions established in the early days of Hip Hop, and like most of those forms of expression, is now recognised worldwide.

A few years back, I was invited to this type of duel for the very first time.  Challenged, if you will.  The Challenger was a young man of my acquaintance, who, as far as I am aware, was not (at the time) an accomplished, experienced, or even precocious rapper/MC.

Without wishing to speculate on the young man’s motivations or psychology: it started as a boastful joke, and his mates noised him up about a battle between us, until he asked me about it several times.  Having had enough, I simply told him that if I was challenged, I would have to respond to the challenge, one way or another. 
So, he challenged me and I accepted – and prepared to meet that challenge.

In a battle, anything is a target – good friends can say disgraceful things about each other in battle and still be friends after.  Nothing is taboo.  I’ve seen a mate of mine battling against someone he knows, who concentrated mostly on some very very racist and offensive attacks that would have been totally unacceptable in any other context; maybe even prosecutable…but that’s the whole point – you can say anything.  It’s real Free Speech.  That doesn’t mean there are no consequences, it just means MCs in that arena can say anything in the heat of the moment and their opponent is expected to come back at them just as hard – or crumble, and lose the battle.  They are really the only two options.

Like a lot of the original elements of Hip Hop, these kinds of battles (whether between crews or individuals) were a creative way of settling disputes and replacing/discouraging violence with friendly(ish) competition. 

The battle was to take place at a show we were both playing at The Thunderbolt in our native Bristol – outside (a capela), between the band’s sets (right after The Challenger’s set, and just before my set with GrayDog, in fact).  The landlord of the pub was hosting the battle, and after we explained to him what a battle is, we agreed on two rounds and went at it.

Oh, and my opponent’s favourite song was A Little Respect by Erasure, and he used to play it a lot at his early solo gigs.  The relevance of this vignette will become apparent.

So, here’s what I did on the day…..




First off, I gotta be careful what I say – cos
It all ends up on his Facebook page the next day.
So post this: You better rap better than you sing, mate.
Don’t worry, you’ll lose the puppy fat someday,
Hope you’re enjoying puberty, by the way…
Come to think of it, what is your age, anyway?
Have you ever seen a girl naked –
One that didn’t have a pop-up advert covering her tits?
I know you failed your exams, kid, but it’s just good practice,
When you quote someone, to acknowledge your sources,
Otherwise you’re just biting
I’m not often telling people what to do, but….
Is all this about some girl at school that don’t like you?
You got nothing to lose, I got nothing to prove.
All offence and withering contempt is very much intended…
‘Cos this shit here is just theatre – And not the good kind, either:
You on some amateur, A level student thing – oh shit,
Sorry, you didn’t get to A levels, did you?
So you’re still on GCSEs
And yet, you challenged me, like Billy Big Bollocks.
I’ve got the looks, the brains, experience and talent,
And you’ve got…glasses.
I never ran away from a challenge,
And Tubby here invited me to say my piece
So he gotta deal with the consequences
I’m not here to sneer and cause friction,
But we need to talk about your addiction to my diction,
It’s a fiction, you keep takin the piss, but we’ll see
How many of my songs you play badly,
At your next gig - if there ever is such a thing,
We’ll see how much you nick my gig banter and lyrics.
Tonight you might get a couple of bitch slaps in
But when the student is out shouting and jabbering,
The master is busy mastering.
I should finish, ‘cos this is a bit embarrassing.
Truth is, I shouldn’t be battling this kid –
Cos I believe we shouldn’t criticise children in public.
We can talk later, if you’re ready for some learning
But for now, shut the fuck up while grown folks are talking.



I believe education should be free,
That’s why I came here today to let you pretend to battle me,
Short jokes?  That’s funny,
No one’s ever noticed my height before,
You must be a uniquely observant and witty
Chronicler of the human condition…no, wait, that’s me.
You’re just like every gobshite that went to school with me.
You talk fast, but I think much quicker
I suppose you’ve had fun slagging off your hero on twitter…
It’s not a battle, it’s a massacre, I come as the teacher,
The adult world’s ambassador, I’ll batter ya
With these rhymes I’m really spoilin yer,
I know you won’t get some of the references,
But you can look it all up on your computer later.
Experience is a perfect teacher,
And I’m here to teach your flabby ass some humility.
You are weak in the execution of your talent
That Chemical Bomb song is your best one,
And you didn’t write it.
I’m an educator, so I stay on message,
This medium is a blessing, and I’ll be
Right here watching and takin the piss.
You’re in the right place, like an alcoholic, so
Keep on coming back,
And I’ll keep on showing what you lack, young paduan.
I’m surprised you can rap with your tongue up my ass –
Oh, that’s right, you can’t.
I used to sing: “When I grow up, I wanna be a drug dealer”
But he’s singing:
“When I grow up, I wanna be Clayton Blizzard” –
and that just ain’t happenin.
[Singing] You’re so in love with me,
You’ll be forever green – with envy
That you were not born me – you weren’t even born Dizzy
(That’s Rascal, not Gillespie, for anyone as old as me,
In case you’re wondering), So…
You have tried rhyming
But, Billy, please,
Give a little respect To yourself…..


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