Netflix bills Baz Luhrmann’s web series The Get Down as a visit to the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx of the late 1970s. But it’s too excessive and glam. If you’re looking for real evidence of one of the pillars of hip-hop, go to a battle.
Hip-hop flourished because those urban youngsters who started the whole shebang challenged each other in contests, pushing their breakdancing, beatboxing, rapping and DJing skills to greater heights to claim victory.
A rap battle is raw and combative stuff, but also creative and entertaining (they are featured in Eminem’s movie 8 Mile).
Keegan “Kali” Russell of Seaside is trying to keep it alive locally via Central Coast Chamber/Chamber Battles. After three years of lying dormant, CCC is putting on a battle this Saturday in Marina.
“My goal is to develop talent to a level where they can proceed to go on to bigger leagues,” Russell says in an email. It’s happened before.
Pacific Grove produced battle rapper Pete “TheSaurus” Morris, who battled some of the best in the game like Dumbfoundead and Illmaculate, and won the World Rap Championship twice.
The rappers this weekend come from Seaside, Marina, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago. They include Miggi vs. A.N.T., Archon vs. Barron Lee G, Bart Pimpson vs. Chew (Chewbaccs), and three other cards.
The last time the league put on a battle, in 2013, it was after hours at the former Curly’s Barbecue (next to the Weekly) in Seaside. It’s viewable online, billed as “Two of the most lyrical emcees in the 831.”
Those MCs were Miguel “Miggi” Garcia and Matthew “Draztik” Matter, facing each other like two predators.
Draztik: “I’ll put the X to your chest like you’re a spot on a treasure map/ You’re Malcolm’s dad, an actor, you’re only playing like you’re Breaking Bad.”
Miggi comes back with verses that use his hoodie as metaphors: “A bodybag is when you get zipped up for trying to fuck with my hood with no strings attached.”
And it’s so nimble that even Draztik grasps Miggi’s hand and gives him dap.
Rap battles are torrents of creativity, intent on entertainment as much as humiliation. But in the end, they’ve got love for the culture, and in many cases, for each other.
Rules prohibit physicality, and the crowd will shush each other out of respect for the words. But CCC goes a step further to show the love at the core by putting on a newish strain of battle rapping called compliments rap.
“You have two rappers saying the nicest things they can to one another,” Russell says. “It’s not something you see on a regular basis so they’re fun to watch when available.”
Not everyone has the constitution for this; count yourself lucky if you do.