JayBlac, a Philadelphia rap battle host and commentator with a deep appreciation for all things hip-hop, is inextricably linked to the art of battle rapping. Battling was an early fascination for him. He and his friends would watch rappers battle each other. They would then take what they learned and practice on each other.
Speaking on his own exposure to the art, Jay said he and his closest friends “got pretty crazy” and “did damage to each other.” With this particular connection to the sport, it’s easy to see what led to his relationship with The Ultimate Rap League. Last month, URL hosted their live Kings vs. Queens 4 event via Caffeine, an interactive streaming platform with over 20 million users. The streaming giant is home to sports and gaming content, but one of its biggest draws comes from a partnership with URL.
JayBlac, one of Caffeine’s most prominent battle hosts, sat down with FM to talk about the event, as well as the many sides of battle culture—the good, bad, and the ugly.
Diversity And Visibility On The Scene
Sometimes there’s a bit of a clash between progress and authenticity, especially when it comes to hip-hop. But Jay believes the field is pretty diverse. “You have battle rapping all different countries. Any race you want to see battling, you have it,” he said. “Even in the UK. You come from a certain background or religion; trust me, they have it. You’ve got Jews, you have Christians, you have a certain type of walk of life that you experience, and you kind of want to root for your side of the team.”
And in terms of gender, the Kings vs Queens event proves women can hold their own. “Throughout this culture, the men and women are divided in terms of battle rap,” Jay said. He explained that you might have men vs. men, women vs. women, or a mixed battle, And though many people come to see the men only, they end up finding that there are just as many talented women.
After this event, when it was all said and done, I think a lot of the ladies garnered way more respect. And some of those guys, it went down.
Recognition On The Battlefield
However, battling still isn’t the most mainstream part of hip-hop. With battle rap being a little more of an “invisible” side to hip-hop, it can be hard to get the appreciation you deserve. Jay thinks battlers are definitely appreciated, just to a certain extent.
“We appreciate what the leagues do for us,” he said, “We do get our names out there for the most part.” However, “I feel like they’re not appreciated who they want to be appreciated by.” He mentioned artists like Jay-Z, Drake, and Joe Budden will chime in occasionally. However, it’s not as often as some MCs would like. He compared the reaction to battle rap to basketball, saying people have no problem shouting out their favorite player. Though he doesn’t want to tell anyone to do it, he admitted it’d be cool to see people do that with their favorite MCs.
Rest in peace, Pat Stay, but once he passed, he got a lot of love from huge celebrities. That would have been dope if y’all did it while he was here.
No Holds Barred
Some of hip-hop’s greatest rappers started off battling, and Jay believes those individuals have an advantage. “DMX, Biggie, Jay-Z did it, Kendrick Lamar—they’re not scared of anything…they know when to take shots back at people.” He added that battling experience “gives them a competitive edge to perform better than anyone else out there.”
As for artists looking to get into battle, Jay says the art form isn’t for the weak.
Have very tough skin. This is not Lollipop Land; this is not Disney World. You will get spoken to. This culture is savage. Get ready to be hit in the mouth verbally. Whether that be on Twitter or in the ring for a battle. There’s nothing soft about this. Be ready for war. Whether you want to be an MC or a fan.
Highlights from Kings vs. Queens 4 are available online. The entire stream is available as well. JayBlac has a wide array of content. You can find his Caffeine content here and his YouTube content here.
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