Regular readers know I love hip-hop. It’s my favorite medium of entertainment and despite the fact that I get frustrated with the content and imagery at times it will forever be my favorite. My love of hip-hop doesn’t just stop at the music but it extends to battling too. Now hip-hop fans are used to the concept of battles on wax where diss records are exchanged between artists who are competing but what I am talking about is street rap battles.
Street rap battles have always taken place but with the influx of technology they are now recorded and spread throughout the web, shit there are even professional street battle rap leagues. SMACK DVD in the early 2000s, to my knowledge, began the trend of recording and selling street battles between unknown artists. The battles would be added to a dvd entitled S.M.A.C.K (Street Music Arts Culture Knowledge) that featured interviews and other interactions with well known rappers. S.M.A.C.K was used to help the careers of many of today’s artists like Jae Millz, Nicki Minaj, Maino, Cory Gunz etc when they were just local New York artists. Rather they were battling or just kickin’ a freestyle or just doing an interview S.M.A.C.K. gave them an outlet to get their face in the streets across the nation. Here in Detroit it was hard as hell to get S.M.A.C.K. dvds we had to wait for the hustler’s from New York to come to town and even then we had to hope they had a few of the dvds to sell. It didn’t take me and my friends long to become more enamored with the battles than the rest of the dvd. It was interesting to see DMX do a street interview uncensored, drunk, high and whatever else but watching those battles was the real treat. It seems that alot of people agreed and the original S.M.A.C.K dvd format was dropped to focus on the battles.
S.M.A.C.K. dvd disappeared for awhile and was restarted as URL (Ultimate Rap League). URL stages rap battles in the same way boxing events are staged. 2 guys are chosen to battle, they negitiate fees, search for venues, have a production team and the whole nine yards. Despite having better production, contractual agreements and the battles now taking place in venues URL has kept the street feel it had back when it literally took place in the streets. However URL were not the first to make that jump.
For a short time there existed another battle rap league called the Fight Klub. Fight Klub took place in venues and had rules such as time limits, that S.M.A.C.K didn’t have at the time. Fight Klub was wildly popular for a time, so popular that it was picked up and given time on MTV2 as a episodic television show. Unfortunately that didn’t last long and the Fight Klub ultimately folded and was taken off the air.
Street rap leagues started popping up everywhere there were multiple that popped up just in New York. Soon there were rap leagues all over the country that had the basic set up of the original S.M.A.C.K dvds. With the birth of youtube these leagues were able to stretch their talent all over the country by doing this some of the talent of those other leagues began getting spots in URL.
I like to think of URL as the WWE of battle rap leagues. Wrestling being another one of my guilty pleasures i can recognize how both were able to become huge in their respective fields. WWF raided smaller promotions and signed away the talent to exclusive contracts and the promoted the promotion as the best in the world. URL is very similar. URL does not have exclusive contracts which means that talent most known for being in URL can take their talents to smaller leagues and compete with that leagues top guys and make more money. The biggest way URL has become the WWE how street rap is because URL is considered even by competitors (and it’s actually URL’s tagline) “The World’s Most Respected Rap League”.
I will post some of my favorite URL/S.M.A.C.K. battles as well as a few from their competitors to give the reader a sense of how the street rap game has changed and evolved into a business.
Hitman Holla (St. Louis) vs Arsonal Da Rebel
(Newark) (2010) an example of what URL is today.
Jae Millz (Harlem) vs Murda Mook (Harlem)
great example of what URL was during the S.M.A.C.K. dvd days. I can remember waiting for these dvds to come out monthly.
Iron Solomon vs Jin Tha Emcee from the Fight Klub. This shows how popular and culturally diverse battle rapping has become. Solomon a Jewish guy versus Jin a Chinese emcee. A great battle.