Jay: One of Richmond's premier battle rap leagues, Southpaw Battle Coalition, is having a sixteen-emcee tournament to see who will walk away with a two thousand dollar grand prize. This tourney to determine the league's first world and River City champion has a variety of different emcees from SMACK URL's J Morr to world slam poetry champion Breeze The Poet to past RVA Rap Elite champion King Fizzle, New York's own Leek Bucks, and music artists like B.A.S.I.C. and Ro$$etti. The visual below by the face of the league Radio B gives a chilling introduction and explanation of the importance of this sixteen battle rapper tournament which the first round will start this Sunday.
What makes this tournament interesting are the different themes and styles that can play important factors in each bracket. Some examples are:
Inexperience versus experience. Some emcees have only one to three official battles under their belt while Big Jinya is the most experienced with twenty-five official battles.
Slam poets versus emcees who strictly focus on writing in battle rap situations or specialize in songwriting.
Regional colloquialisms can play into effects for relatability and understanding of slang and references when a battle happens in person along with how the emcee's verses translate on camera for people to watch after the battles occur. Think of regional cultures facing against each other such as the eastern Virginia cities like Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth in the 757 area versus Richmond and New York styles.
Southpaw veterans versus veterans from other battle rap leagues like League of Champions and Bring Ya Barz Battle League.
Thomas: Following a year of quarantining, giving the emcees a period to reflect on what they find important and push their pens, this tournament couldn't have come at a better time. While covering the face-off event, I could feel intense energy from all in attendance. Every emcee had a fire in their eyes as if it was already battle day. After learning about the experience gaps in some of these matchups, namely Breeze the Poet versus Bakarii Kennedy and J Morr versus Robalu, the matchups have gotten even more interesting. The anticipation of watching a composed and confident veteran versus a fresh face to the sport with nothing to lose is very high. In the words of many of the emcees that I got a chance to speak with, "nobody has an easy road to the finals."
Conversation w/ Ro$$eti
T: After looking at all the brackets for the first round, how are you feeling about some of these matchups?
R: The matchups are crazy man, everybody here can rap. All of them are going to be good. As for me right now, I’m just focusing on my opponent. I’m not trying to look past them, I’m just trying to go one by one by one. This whole event is fire, it’s something that’s going to get more eyes on everybody. We’re all helping and each other out, and I’m fucking with it.
T: Absolutely. Lastly, in your battle with King Fizzle at the end of last year, during your second verse, you talked about Fizzle being a guest in the house of hip hop, which echoes a sentiment repeatedly voiced by Lord Jamar. With hip hop being the zeitgeist, how do you feel about people from outside the black community gravitating toward hip-hop culture in mass in this way?
R: I don’t have a problem with it at all, I feel like hip-hop is for everyone. It was just the way that Fizzle worded one of his posts that I didn’t really care for. He worded it as if everybody built hip-hop, and it wasn’t like that. It was ours and we allowed everybody else in, you know what I’m saying. So, people are definitely allowed in and are more than welcome to come. During that battle, I felt that I needed to highlight that moment and make him understand why that wasn’t alright.
Watch his heated faceoff against poet and emcee Jordan Bailey below
Conversation w/ Will Jung
T: After looking at all the brackets, how are you feeling about some of these first-round matchups?
WJ: Everybody has a challenge, bruh. I don’t think anybody has it easy. Everybody’s talking their shit inside and outside of group chats, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it’s definitely going to be an uphill battle. I don’t think anyone has an easy road to the grand prize. Some people “think” they do, and going to be a problem. We all rap, and we all have some experience. Bakarii is probably the only one that has a couple of battles under their belt, but outside of that, everybody’s just here to rap, man. Everybody’s here to rap.
T: In your battle with Woosah on Survival Games, you rapped about how white people's prejudices are often perpetuated in gang culture as a way to call black people to unify against our oppressors. With battle rap being a sport in which people talk heavily about gun usage and other forms of violence, do you feel about using this platform to take that stance in such a confident way?
WJ: There is an art to battle rap, and I do believe that gun bars are a part of the culture of battle rap. I don’t dislike anybody that uses them at all because, you know, if they’re clever they’re clever. I’ve referenced a gun in a clever way in some of my battles. I don’t use them but, there’s a clever way of going about doing so. I think that sometimes there’s a surface level of gun bar use that every battle rapper uses, you know it’s the “four jammin’ go blammin’, I ain’t scar-” you know it’s just like, yo fam get creative with that shit. Break down how a gun is used. I’m just all about the art and the creativity of it. So the stance I took, was because of my opponent being so gun-bar heavy with no substance behind it. I can look at a guy like Rum Nitty, “Gun Line King” is how he refers to himself, but there are also metaphors, similes, word breakdowns, word flips, name flips, all that other stuff combined. I just love rap and love the aggression. If it comes to that, we knuckle up but I’ve just never been a gun guy, man. That’s never been my shit, but respect to everybody whose m.o. that is. I was just using that against my opponent, and um, yeah man fuck white supremacists. At the end of the day, fuck racism and all of that. That’s the type of time we should be on as Black people, unified, whether you have a gun or not. That’s the type of time we should be on. I love white people but fuck white supremacists. That’s just what it is.
Watch the short Will Jung Interview below and hear his thoughts on battle rap and the tournament below
Conversation w/ King Fizzle
T: After looking at all the brackets, how do you feel about some of these matchups?
KF: The matchups are hard, the way that they structured the brackets, whoever did that they knew what they were doing. They knew what battlers would match up well together, which styles clash, and also they did it so that nobody has a clear straight path to winning the whole thing. Everyone has a challenge, everyone has that one emcee on the bracket that they’re looking at like “Yo, that person is dangerous. When I cross paths with them it’s going to be a challenge.” The brackets are looking good, I like the way this tournament’s looking.
T: While researching for our interview, I went through your Instagram and saw that you posted a freestyle about a couple of books that you like. You had a section in which you were talking about this book from Bruce Lee titled Tao and Jeet Kune Doo. Given the air of aggression that usually comes with battle rap, I was wondering how it is that you channel what it is that you’ve learned from paying attention to Bruce Lee and reading his book into your own writing?
KF: Wow, that’s a really really great question. There’s something I say pretty frequently, it’s that “I write different because I read different.” I’m always absorbing information. I’m always learning something. I feel that if I’m not then I’m wasting my time. When I’m sitting down writing my rhymes or preparing for an opponent, I’m pulling from all different areas that I’ve studied, along with my own personal experiences, and I’m putting that together to formulate an attack or argument against my opponent. So if I learned a word that comes from that area of study, of course, I’m going to use that word as a weapon against my opponent. With the way in which I approach my opponents, they're not going to have the same pool of knowledge that I have to battle with. That's what makes me unique and dangerous. When everyone's rapping about the same subject matters, everybody seems to blend and become very cookie cutter. To separate yourself from that, you have to know yourself, what you specialize in, and bring that to the table. Bring your uniqueness to the table. So I consider that I know about things that my opponent doesn’t know about. I know about subjects that they haven’t even touched the textbook on. That's how I see it. Martial arts are a big thing in my family. I come from a family of fighters. My father was a fighter, my brother's a fighter. I've also studied some martial arts, so I have a deep appreciation for combat sports. In a way, this is a combat sport, a lot of things are parallel. So that's what it is.
Conversations w/ B.A.S.I.C.
T: So, with all the battles you’ve seen, after looking at the brackets how are you feeling about the matchups for this first round in the tournament?
B: They’re going to be some very interesting battles, a lot of energy, a lot of hostility. Some interesting videos sticking out to him particularly. I'm looking forward to all of them, seeing what everybody brings to the table.
T: Now, one question was specifically about you how you have been operating; So I saw that the acronym for your name means “Be About Success in Controversy.” Understanding how tumultuous of a time this year has been not only because of a pandemic, but within the black community, I’m wondering how it is that you have been living what your mantra means to you throughout this time?
B: Well, it's been keeping me afloat, to be honest with you. I’ve been learning how to find myself, my strengths, and find the reasons why I’m here. This experience has been helping me out, it’s been keeping me afloat. So, I’m trying to stay focused.
T: Absolutely, and do you feel that this mindset has informed your writing going forward?
B: Absolutely. I don’t have anything to hide, all I’m trying to do is beat my last performance. So if I focus on that, I can never lose.
Talk with Breeze The Poet
Jay: What is your favorite matchup on the card?
Breeze: If I had to give you two, I'm interested in seeing what Jordan Bailey is bringing to the table. I haven't heard much from Ro$$eti so I'm not too familiar with him, but I'm interested in hearing from Jordan. Jordan is family. Jinya and Waturz battle is about to be STUPID. They gonna be talking. They both got that energy where you look down on a [redacted] type shit. It's about to be nasty.
Jay: What are your thoughts on the tournament-style bracket and how it could uplift the Virginia battle rap scene?
Breeze: Look at [RVA] Rap Elite. That platform is a similar tournament format and it's doing amazing things for the city. It's bringing Richmond to the forefront as far as "Yo, we can RAP and we can get the fuck down". With it being outside of the battle rap realm where it is "bars on beats", people will think, "Yo, these [redacted] can rap". If you pay attention, some of the same people seen in Rap Elite are in this tourney and they can show different audiences that battle rappers can make music. I feel like it's an extension [of Rap Elite]. It's going to expound upon what Rap Elite has already established and big up to Radio for that. That's what we need out here.
Watch his faceoff against the young battle rapper Bakari Kennedy below
Talk with Habeeb
Jay: What is your favorite matchup on the card?
Habeeb: My favorite right now in the first is Robalu and J Morr because Robalu is my brother and I want him to make a great upset. I also want to see a great battle. I feel like if both show up, both can really shake the tournament with their battle and Rob can break the bracket. I hope that turns out to be a really amazing battle.
Jay: In the past, you battled Preme, Breeze The Poet twice, IGB, Jordan Bailey, and Ro$etti. Ro$$eti and Bailey are facing each other in the first round. What do you see the outcome of that battle being?
Habeeb: I've already anticipated that I have battled five people in the tournament and I have material for all five people that I didn't get off in those prior battles. Jordan was an one-rounder, so I have plenty of material that I didn't show, Ro$$eti is another, and along with the others. I'm excited to potentially come across those battle rappers and for those that I've battled in the past, it can get real dangerous in our upcoming matchups.
Watch his faceoff with New York battle rapper Leek Bucks below
Talk with J Morr and Big Jinya
Jay: What is your favorite matchup on the card?
Jinya: The newer people because I wanna see them do under pressure. Its hard for me as a vet to do this shit [with twenty-five battles on the resume], so I want to see what these new guys would do. It could be an advantage for them. They don't got shit to lose like a Will Jung.
Morr: All of them are not really good. It's a tournament, its just a bunch of random names put together all with one common goal: to win two thousand dollars, you feel me?
Jay: You have several SMACK URL Battles on your resume. Who in the tourney do you see being on a URL card in the future?
Morr: Jinya. You know who's really good? Habeeb.
Jinya: Habeeb is next on the bracket for me. I hurried up and wrote for the first dude and I know I had to prepare for Habeeb because he always wanted to battle me. So I know he's gonna try to destroy me.
Morr: That's how I feel about Breeze The Poet. He's on my side of the bracket so I'm like, "If he beats the first dude, I'm like GOD DAMN BRUH, that's the guy I don't wanna- you know what I mean?"
*points at Jinya* Before we get to each other, you're gonna have to battle Habeeb or Face and I'm going to have to run into Breeze.
Jinya: You got Preme on your side though.
Morr: Shit, I forgot about Preme. Confidently, I can beat Preme. But Breeze got an element of battle rap that I don't have.
Jay: A slam poetry background?
Morr: MAN. If he zones into that all the way, he gonna utilize that element that I don't [have]. He got the potential to win the whole tournament. That's what Jinya said about Habeeb. Those are the two underdogs to us that we look at where we may have to worry about them if we battle them.
Watch the short interview clip of Richmond's Own J Morr below and hear his thoughts of the tournament
You can catch the rest of the faceoffs on the Southpaw Battle Coalition YouTube channel and find all the competitors' Instagram pages on the Southpaw Battle Coalition Instagram page. You can find Southpaw Battle Coalition on Facebook and follow the face of Southpaw on Twitter @RadioBlitz for more updates.
You can order the tickets for the event HERE.
Follow the writers Thomas on Instagram @thomas.rhj on Instagram and @oko_wicasa on Twitter. Jay Guevara is @justinhisprime on all social media.