Greg Moore is getting ready for a duel. But instead of using a weapon, he’ll use poetry to lyrically disarm his adversary.
Moore, 30, who goes by the stage name Boog G, manipulates internal rhyming, word schemes and puns into a barrage of stanzas – some of which can be extremely colorful and harsh. All this work is to prepare for his three-round duel this month in the local Bloodsport Battle League.
It’s about the entertainment value. I want it to be something the audience wants to see. I want to make them think – I’m not just creating something insulting, Moore says. If you can’t entertain your hometown, then how are you going to entertain the world?
The Bloodsport Battle League is part of a new generation of battle rappers who are using YouTube to build a buzz and establish a fan base without any major label backing. Battling, which is the origin of rapping, has revived an era where creativity was at the forefront, except now the number of viral views is the new street cred.
The battle culture is growing, and everybody (with Bloodsport Battle League) is really helping to do that. You now have a lot of guys on the hip-hop side now coming on to the battle scene, Moore says. Most people do it for the attention and get their brand name out there. It can be difficult to get that attention.
Bloodsport Battle League co-founders and local battle rappers Javar Roley Hamilton, 33, and Daniel Alias Brown, 30, created the league a year ago to establish a platform that other rappers can use as a launch pad into larger, national battle leagues. Their last battle event of the year, titled The Last Supper, will culminate Nov. 23. The event will feature a year’s work with rappers from Michigan and Ohio who will arrive in the city to battle against local rappers. Moore, who has been battling for a year, will be competing in the main event. Hamilton is also scheduled to battle.
I told myself I only wanted to battle to get the league off the ground. We didn’t know how many battlers existed in Fort Wayne when we first started. Now, I try to sit one out, but people call me out and my competitive nature kicks in, he says, laughing. I just do it solely for the love of the culture and the sport. I am more of a realist; I’m not looking to get signed. I’d rather give other people opportunities.
The Battle League began when Hamilton and Brown were scheduled to battle each other two years ago for the now-defunct Midwest Battle League in Gary. Their battle was unexpectedly canceled, and the two made the decision to continue on with the battle in Fort Wayne.
We just talked and thought we could set up something for ourselves. The response was so good to our battle that the light bulb just went off – we thought we could make something out of it, Brown says.
In one year, the league has hosted 10 events with crowds of 50 to 100 people. The league’s YouTube channel, BBL260, allows more than 140 subscribers to tune in online to watch the battle videos once they are posted. That doesn’t include the worldwide audience who may watch the videos through the YouTube’s search engine. Brown says that for many rappers the increase in fan base has been a benefit to projects outside of battle rap. Hamilton says that BBL will release a mix tape featuring local artists who battle through the league on Nov. 23 as well.
We don’t have many promoters that give us a chance to showcase our talent, Moore says. And with talent showcases, the promoters we do have would have to pay out of pocket. So battling really does help.
Even though social media has played a significant role in the current state of battle rap, Brown says that the genre was never off the radar for people seeking it.
For any rapper or MC who truly knows the elements of hip-hop, they know that battle rapping has been an element of it since the beginning, he says. I think it has become more mainstream because now more people know about it, but it has always been a part of it – it has always been a part of hip-hop for me.
For the millennial generation, hip-hop is as ubiquitous as today’s pop and rock genres. Hip-hop’s worldwide influence has spread faster than many newfound genres. The culture, a mix of break dancing, graffiti and music, were all born out of the block-party scene in the urban tenements across New York boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx in the late ’70s and ’80s.
At that time, the DJ, who sonically manipulated popular records with a set of turntables, was the star. The DJ would designate his crew to interact with the crowd as the masters of ceremony – MCs for short. Over time, the MC routines became more intricate, and as the culture grew throughout the city, the competition became fierce. Improvising insults and retorts eventually became known as freestyling, and battling was born. Crews would meet up to see who was best.
It’s the purest form of hip-hop. If you turn on the radio, it’s all bubble gum pop records. You don’t have to have talent to be rapper now, Hamilton says. When you battle, you have to quickly put words together and perform. You have to convince people that you’re the best and entertain them. It’s based on pure talent, and that’s what hip-hop is about.
Hamilton says that after the battle this month, he and Brown will close out the year with an award ceremony for the league’s rappers in December. The two will also be preparing for another large battle in Indianapolis in March. This will be the second time that the Battle League will sponsor an event outside Fort Wayne. As for the future, Hamilton says that he wants the league to continue being a steppingstone for local artists.
I would love for it (Battle League) to become a big thing, but with that, there’s so much drama – more money gets involved and egos get involved, he says. We are a small league; we are trying to help these guys get to a league that’s bigger than us. If the BBL ended today, I would be happy with what we’ve done, 100 percent.