Battle Rappers Need Teachin'

Why can’t they make decent albums?

The Battle Rapper: Poet. Soldier. Wordsmith. Battle rappers have the occasionally astounding ability to come up with couplets on the spot, designed to do only one thing: destroy their opponent. Somehow, these guys are able to get up on stage or in the middle of a crowd and improvise, usually acapella, a few stanzas of disses that rhyme; essentially playing the dozens in pentameter. Naturally, a select few of these guys are given record deals. And why wouldn’t they get deals? If they can make up compelling and suspenseful rhymes on the go, they should be able to get in the studio and knock out an album with ease, right? So far, with Eminem as an obvious exception, no battle rapper has been able to translate their skills into substantial record sales. Why is this?

I have a theory: None of these guys can can become successful because they lack the ability to make songs that people can relate to. Day after day, their focus is on their craft. Practicing ways to put rhymes together on the spot means spending a lot of time in your room (or mom’s basement) rewinding your instrumental beat tape and challenging yourself to keep up; seeing how long or how fast or how dope you can be in 60 secs worth of time.

You can’t do that day in and day out for years and then go into the studio and make a song that someone can feel. I’m sorry, you just can’t. The best you can really hope for is to make some of that hackneyed gangsta shit. But really, if you spend that much time studying anything, you’re a nerd. Battle rappers are the biggest geeks in the game, aside maybe from producers. But it’s not the beatmakers job to make you feel anything; the guy on the mic is the one that has to reach out and touch you. Battle rappers don't have this charisma because the very thing that makes good at what they do ultimately destroys them.

In addition, these rappers are too mean to make a splash. You think someone like Arsenal or Tech 9 can make a song that appeals to the teeny set? Nah, right? These dudes get theirs by separating themselves from the other guy. I’m not you, and you can never be me. How many people are going to plop down 15 bucks to listen to that for 70 minutes?

Take Serius Jones: Literally a beast in the battle circuit, yet he is still basically at the level of a myspace rapper as far as his level of success is concerned. When he steps in the ring though, he’s a winner; I wouldn’t want to be on the business end of his lyrical barrels.

Eminem, if 8-mile is any indication, spent a lot of time before blowing up engaging in battles. What made em stand out, besides being white, was the original and honest content of his music. Like a lot of rappers, he came from nothing; however he also had a confounding relationship with his mother. He made people stand up and pay attention. Biggie Smalls was able to freestyle his way into a legend status by making songs about getting played by girls and wanting to commit suicide. Em and Big were also able to make conspicuously good pop songs.

I don’t honestly know if battle rappers crave commercial success; after all, It has got to be difficult to be find a high akin to dismantling your opponent during a live performance. You just don’t get that rush by sitting in the lab churning out love songs or club joints to make it on the radio.

Things always seem to work out best when everyone just stays in their lane.

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