Battle rapping is yet another pillar of the trendy hip hop culture. It’s a type of singing that is recited and performed in the presence of a crowd.
Battle rapping is fan driven, with a purpose of competitively using words rhythmically to impress a crowd of rap enthusiasts.
Battle rappers, also known as MCs, contest to win over verbal battles by rhyming spontaneously against their opponents. During these verbal battles, MCs defend themselves by using boastful punch lines and often brag using insults and belittlement to counter attack their opponents.
After the battle, the judges (which is also the crowd), decide the winner, per majority vote.
Battle rapping became popular in Botswana during the mid 1990s. It became popularized by one of the most famous battles, which was when Tupac Shakur challenged the Notorious B.I.G.
This was one of the most controversial battle rap contests that ever took place in hip-hop history. Both rappers got shot and died in their early twenties as a result of their ‘beef.’
In addition, Eminem’s movie 8 Mile brought the excitement of the freestyle battle to mainstream movie audiences.
Some of Botswana’s household rappers like Zeus, Scar, Oracle, Mr. Doe, Stagga and Apollo Diablo (Billy Blunts) started their successful careers by winning MC battles. There was even a time in the early 2000s when all the above mentioned artists used to perform on the same stage to hear who had the best freestyle verses.
As aspiring rap artists, they used to battle/compete on the Sprite rap activity jam every Friday evening on Yarona FM. The show was hosted by Robbie Rob, who is currently at Duma Fm. He was unavailable for comment.
Sliq Sta, a well known battle rapper, gives evidence that Zeus always had an upper hand than Scar.
“Rox, who has once been Zeus’s manager, will agree to this point having once been a radio presenter at the radio station,” he said. According to Sliq, scar has fewer fans than Zeus because the latter is even doing big in South Africa, which is true.
“There is evidence on their profiles on You Tube and Facebook if any one may be interested to find out.”
Apollo Diablo, another veteran rapper, says that Zeus raps better punch lines than Scar and he would like to once again hear them in a rap battle on Yarona Fm like in the old days. This was well before they began recording their top selling albums, when some of them were still secondary school students.
Battle rapping as a culture has always been a popular trend in Gaborone through the past decade. Secondary schools use this art form to establish bragging rights throughout the region.
The best MCs from each school are released to enter a cipher where they find beat boxers amalgamating to create melodies for them to represent their respective schools. The victorious school would be the one from which their representative MC causes the most lyrical casualties.
Last year, a Motswana MC, namely Cybil Nyte, a secondary school student, won a freestyle battle competition. He emerged as the best battle MC in Africa by broadcasting on giant Channel O.
Only a rap battle contest will give fans a chance to tell who the best rapper in Botswana really is.
In hip hop, rap battles aren’t necessarily intended to lead up to physical violence. Rather, it’s a platform for one MC to showcase his raw talent and lyrical supremacy over his counterpart.
The beef we witness today, which ends up in violence and bloodshed, is not part of the rap culture.
It has, in fact, led to the degradation of hip hop. It is used as an excuse for the decay of today’s youth. This has led to the negativity to which hip hop genre is associated with by those misled.
Many rap battles have come and went in between local rappers, including The Real Magosi and Magosi from Ramco Loco.
During an interview with Khabba Khabba of the real Magosi, he said they had once organized a rap battle with Magosi almost two years ago at O Zone Club but they failed to show up. This gave them an impression that they had chickened out of the battle hence the name real Magosi.