Scenes From Battle Rap's First Ever Pay-Per-View Event
The world of battle rap hit a new milestone Saturday night as Total Slaughter, the first traditional terrestrial pay-per-view in battle rap history, was held at Hammerstein Ballroom. Promoted by Eminem's Shady Records, the event was the biggest platform rap battling has had to date, headlined by Queens' battle icon Hollow Da Don squaring off with Joe Budden, the closest thing to a mainstream artist to step foot in the battle rap arena, and the rematch of one of the all time great battles in Harlem greats Loaded Lux vs. Murda Mook.
Photos Chaz Kangas Things get so real at these rap battles, fam.
Those skeptical of battle rap as an artform and business capable of such an event are likely unfamiliar in what an industry this once-niche medium has become. As post-8 Mile freestyle battling fell out of vogue in the mid-2000s, the pre-written a cappella battle format popularized by leagues like Smack/URL and King of the Dot have seen the fanbase continually grow. As the venues grew, so did the recognition with artists like Jay-Z, Diddy, and Busta Rhymes openly professing their battle fandom.
At this juncture, battling is more visible than ever. Fuse even aired a four-part battle reality show Road to Total Slaughter leading up to Saturday's event. The show featured eight of the world's top battle MCs living in the same house and competing in a single elimination tournament for a spot on the Total Slaughter card. The finals of which, boasting battle stalwart T Rex facing the always controversial Daylyt, also took place on Saturday.
But like seemingly everything battle-rap related these days, the fans seem split -- there were some disappointments and some technical issues.
Oh, and a rapper showed up dressed as comic book character Spawn and spent his third round stripping himself down to his boxer briefs and simulating coprophagia.
Still, it was a successful event and a good night for battle rap.
The layout at Hammerstein was absolutely perfect with an octagonal stage in the middle of the floor allowing the packed house to witness the performances from everywhere in the venue. Hammerstein looked to be at least 85% full, a feat considering Total Slaughter was competing locally with the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and an Ab-Soul show that night, not to mention a live WWE event at Madison Square Garden two blocks away.
The notable names on hand were a strong mix of hip-hop greats and battle icons. Hosted by Sway and officiated by DJ Kay Slay, the battles were judged by organized battle mainstays Poison Pen and Grind Time founder Drect, as well as mixtape innovator Kid Capri. Between the battles, Slaughterhouse member Royce da 5'9" and Hot97 personality and outspoken battle critic Ebro provided commentary. Also on-hand were longtime battle advocates Busta Rhymes and Fabolus, hip-hop royalty DJ Kool Herc and Fab 5 Freddy as well as generations of notable battle rap competitors from Craig G to Jin to Syanide.
The first real shock of the evening occurred when the event started right on time. Battle rap events are incredibly susceptible to obscene delays, especially events, like Total Slaughter, of such magnitude. The last monumental New York City battle event, last September's Summer Madness 3, began with a three-and-a-half hour delay despite being Smack/URL's biggest event of the year. SM3 was also riddled with technical issues in literally every battle and ended early due to an outbreak of violence. Between that and the punch thrown following the main event of King of the Dot's BOLA5 event in Los Angeles two weeks ago, the pressure was on for Total Slaughter to go on without a hitch.
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