Disclaimer: For anyone reading this that isn’t a follower of the battle-rap scene (E.G. Most likely anyone here from following my blog before), this post is covering a battle-rap event and as such includes niche references and potentially offensive material. Any quotes from within the battles are not necessarily the real life views or opinions held by the battlers in question.
Disclaimer 2: For people reading this who DO come from the battle-rap scene or the forum, and you’re one of the one’s who comments on posts longer than a tweet about it being an ‘essay’ and too long, sucks to be you because I’ve never been one for short posts so strap in and let’s go.
Before I get into anything, the news broke during the writing of this post that battle rap legend Bender has unfortunately passed away, my condolences are with all far and wide feeling the impact of his loss, RIP. The team over at King Of The Dot the Canadian (And beyond) battle rap league, put together this wonderful tribute to him that you can view below this.
Shouts to Cork Hip-Hop artist Trigger who I’ve covered twice on the blog before. In the approach to this event I decided I would like some suitable attire to rep while up in Dublin, and the first person that came to mind to holler at was Trigger. Without so much as the bat of an eyelid, Trigger was sound enough to sort me the hookup on one of his shirts which was well cool. He even decided to go along to the event as well which was pretty cool, the more the merrier.
So, battle rap, eh? Most who know me have no idea I’m into it, but I’ve followed it with great interest since being introduced primarily to the UK and Canadian scenes in mid 2016. When it comes to the Irish scene, that’s something that only really came to my attention in 2018 through the Irish league ‘Rap Is Full’. Their top of the crop battlers Podge Dwyer and Terminal had garnered enough attention to fly over to the UK and represent in a few leagues. It just so happened that I discovered the league at a particularly special point in time, as their latest event ‘Last Words 2’ approached with a line-up of a quality to rival the kind of cards other international leagues are putting on, even after a few drop outs should have considerably lessened the quality of the card. I’d never been to a battle rap event before, so this was the perfect opportunity to begin. Boasting a strong card top to bottom, at the very peak of the card was a match-up between arguably the greatest American Battler of all time, The Saurus, and the greatest British Battler of all time, Oshea. I don’t know what strings the main man behind the league, Ruairi Hartigan, had to pull to make it happen, but safe to say it’s a legendary feat to put such a calibre of a match on Irish soil.
Rocking up to the venue on February 24th, at The International Bar in Dublin, it was a really surreal experience to see, meet and chat to all these people in the flesh that I had only witnessed in videos. Between the time before the battles and after the battles, I got to meet and chat to pretty much everyone possible, though I may have missed a few. I still can’t believe it’s a real memory that I got to spend a considerable amount of time chilling with The Saurus, even going for food with him, Terminal and Pedro at one point. He was as humble and down to earth as you can get, despite being a worldwide name. Given his status as ‘Mr Two Times Everything’ since he’s been there, done that and done it again for pretty much any accolade in the scene you could list, I said he needs to come back again now to be Mr Two Times Ireland, to which he agreed definitely needs to happen. If I list every person I met, had a chat with and recollect the great conversations that was had this post will probably be miles longer than it already will be, so I’ll just post the pictures that I managed to get taken and leave it at that. I do want to say one thing though, is that I got to meet Bagnall who did the video shooting for the event. That in itself I thought was a very understated aspect of how incredible this event was, with Bagnall being a stalwart figure in the UK scene as a veteran of battle rap event videography, and here he was in Ireland doing the same for Rap is Full. Shouts to everyone who made the event an absolute pleasure and that I met along the way. You know who you are. If you don’t, well at least I do.
Above photos by Kim Marie. Below are my own
Shapey Fiend vs Coleman | Sonny Phelo vs Carl French
Kicking off the battles for the day was a clash between Irish battlers Shapey Fiend and Coleman. This was a one rounder with Shapey going first. Bottle of Jameson in hand, he started strongly with good humour (TMP Best moment: “And now if you’ll give me a moment, one for me *Takes a swig of the Jameson*… And one for my homies *Pours a serving out onto the floor*”). Unfortunately for Shapey, he trailed off shortly after with his material eluding him, and after trying to style it out for a bit called time. Coleman was left with the opportunity to capitalize and take the reins of the battle, and he didn’t disappoint. With a strong round and consistent delivery, he finished the bout with plenty of strong tailored punches and schemes for his opponent. For my favourite part I’m gonna go with one of his more underrated schemes in the battle where he had a PUBG video game theme.
The next battle was Sonny Phelo vs Carl French, and the general consensus after this battle was that it exceeded expectations as an undercard battle and was a genuine contender for battle of the day. It was a 3 rounder and Sonny Phelo went first. Straight out the gate he came into the clash with strong material and was getting good reaction from the crowd, including The Saurus himself reacting heavily to good bars. Each time he ended a round I was thinking ‘What a tough round to follow, he’s surely won that’. But following each round was a round from Carl French, and it quickly became apparent he meant business. He started on a real hard hitting note as he explained his near 2 year absence with losses close to home he suffered, lifting a picture pendant of his friend hanging openly around his neck and saying “This one’s for you bro promise you I wont lose”. From there he was flawless with solid punches, schemes, jokes you name it. In his second round closer he produced the most quoted room-shaker of the event. With pinpoint perfect timing and delivery, he built up the intensity of a scheme of real life stuff climaxing when he said “Do you think I’m bluffing man? DO YOU KNOW THE MUFFIN MAN?”. I’m gonna go ahead and award Carl French with the meaningless accolade The Merch Perch’s Performance of the Night.
Pedro Vs Balor | Darkly vs Kinell
After a break, it was time to get into the first two international matchups. First up was UK battler Pedro facing off against Irish battler Balor. Pedro is well known in the scene for his crazily unpredictable and inventive humour and multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, highly energized performances, and freestyle ability. On the flip side to that, it’s also not always sure how hit or miss he will be and how much he will actually write for a clash. Balor has been steadily proving himself time and again in the Irish scene as a force to contend with and it was only natural that he would be due an international battle after his showings so far. This is a battle that delivered on the potential it had in so many ways. Balor came with a lot of hunger and proved he could stand toe to toe with international opposition, putting on a fantastic showing up against Pedro. Pedro on the other hand seemed to turn up with just as much hunger and fire in his belly to prove his doubters wrong, with an incredible showing and solid material. His showing can be summed up in one line from the general reaction afterwards: ‘He actually wrote 3 full rounds’. Balor even threw in a freestyle to close out his third round, giving us a rare opportunity to say that someone freestyled more than Pedro in a battle. TMP moment of the battle: They both had so many quotables, but Pedro’s jokes are so outside the box and second to none, with his line “He tried to do a bump and sniffed his house key” sticking out to me.
The previous battle was a tough act to follow, with the energy that Pedro brings to a stage putting the crowd into a different gear altogether. Irish battler Darkly took on UK battler Kinell, with the former going first. With a very strong pen-game for punches, Darkly came with great material, but he was just missing a bit of impact in his delivery that would have carried his material across stronger and was slept on massively by the crowd. It’s hard to say what might have improved his performance, whether it needed just a dash more confidence in the delivery or if it’s just the timing of certain lines that was off. Then you have someone like Kinell standing opposite him, who oozes the battle rap charisma that controls crowds effortlessly and the bout looked a lot more one sided than it actually was on paper. Kinell is also a battler with very strong potential and high ceiling for what he’s capable of, but has also been hit or miss in what side of Kinell you’ll see when he hits the stage. On this occasion, we saw him in his stride putting on one of his best performances I’ve seen so far. He balanced his material perfectly between jokes and clinically breaking down his opponent with personal angles. TMP moment of the battle: Kinell came with such a plethora of brilliant quotable moments that it’s hard to choose, but I’m going to go with the moment he said RIP to Dolores from the Cranberries, referenced their song Zombie and then finished the scheme with “he thought he stood a chance here but it was only in your heeeaaad”.
Row-B Vs Gwame | Dialect vs Podge Dwyer
Entering the final stages of the card before the headline of the event, we were treated to a big clash between two respected names in the Irish scene, Row-B and Gwame. This was a fire battle with both battlers putting out incredibly solid performances with everything you could ask for. Punchlines? In abundance. Freestyled rebuttals? You betcha. The back and forth across the three rounds was constant, perfectly crafted material and an incredible pen game from both. Row-B quickly showed that he had some very tight rhyme schemes to rival Gwame at his own biggest strength. This is a battle that was incredibly close and I can’t really call a winner, as it changes each time I rewatch it back. TMP Best moment: The respective third round closer’s from both. As friends battling each other, it was only fitting that after three rounds back and forth they had their mutual showings of respect to finish. Row-B stylishly finished by producing a can of coke out of nowhere and handing it to Gwame saying “As I said me and Gwame are actually friends, so give my bro a can of coke, cause I just murdered someone that I love, now next time give me someone that I don’t!”. Meanwhile when Gwame finished his round he addressed how he could have personally broken Row-B down “Can you imagine what I know, but that’s not for them to know, that’s the kind of shit a loser disperses, whether you take that path or not says a lot about you as a person. And you didn’t so fair play” It’s too obvious to award this to The Saurus vs Oshea, so I’m giving my other meaningless accolade of TMP Battle Of The Night to Row-B and Gwame.
Up next was Leeds rapper Dialect vs Irish battler Podge Dwyer. This was a highly anticipated clash between arguably the biggest export in the Irish scene right now against a veteran on a fresh wave of motivation hitting god tier status in his recent battles. I had seen Podge constantly practicing his rounds throughout the day, and without hearing a single bar of it, it was clear he was ready to put on a show with the intensity of his material and delivery evident even from his walking around reciting it. The same could be said of Dialect when I stumbled across him practicing his material on the stairs before the battle. The battle kicked off with both putting out very strong first rounds. However starting his second round, Podge did something we haven’t seen from him before: A freestyle rebuttal. And a damn good one at that, taking the edge off of some of the angles Dialect had come with perfectly. Meanwhile Dialect’s second round started brilliantly, with him bringing some of his trademark Grime element to it. However he had a stumble in the latter half of the round and after trying to grasp it back for a bit, had to let the round go unfortunately. Podge went into his final round pumped that he might have a chance to beat Dialect (He was confident but under no illusions of his underdog status in this battle) and continued with his intensity. Dialect recovered from his second round mishap in his third and got his material out, although he had some stumbles towards the end he avoided a choke. With the handicap of the choke in the second, Podge arguably won that battle 2-1, but it was a debatable close bout either way. TMP best moment: There’s a few moments from Podge that were amazing (His breakdown of Dialects Grime sequences in his battles, his ‘You make cushions for your girl to make bread on the side’ joke, and his ‘other ways Dialect has been leaving earth’ scheme coming to mind) but I’m going to go with this killer punch he threw. “..Heading towards legendary status, admittedly I’m not quite there yet though. At the moment I’m just half man half GOAT but to you that’s the devil incarnate!”
The Saurus vs Oshea
Finally, after an incredible event packed full of high quality battles, we’re down to one. GOAT v GOAT, Legend v Legend, Unstoppable Force vs Immovable Object. The Saurus is the epitome of battle rap consistency. If you’re someone in battle rap, chances are you’ve inevitably faced up against The Saurus or are on the radar to do so at some point. Oshea is that unpredictable, joke-heavy character that can absolutely own a room full of people while insulting them at the same time. We’ve seen two variations of Oshea recently. He had a battle against Zain Azrai which is arguably one of the worst ever showings he put out. However more recently he’s come to rectify that and battled Raptor Warhurst on Premier Battles and gave one of his best ever showings, redeeming himself. Both battlers are incredible freestylers, so that was definitely something we could expect intertwined. Oshea kicked off the first round in pure hilarious fashion with a freestyle about Gwame looking like Wolverine and then brought up Carl French’s Muffin Man room shaker from earlier. Not one to be one-upped, The Saurus made sure to rebuttal the Muffin Man line too, making Carl’s impact on the event completely certified. The love these two have for the game was evident with how much effort they put into the quality writing and performance for the battle, and how much they were enjoying each other’s rounds. The Saurus could be seen during most of Oshea’s rounds, creasing and laughing his ass off at the angles that he had brought for him, and the same in reverse. One of the arguably best moments of the battle came in a freestyle rebuttal from Oshea. Saurus said he was being 3-0’d by alcoholism, and Oshea flipped it saying he’s not being 3-0’d by alcoholism, it’s a debatable 2-1. One of my favourite schemes from The Saurus was his multi-layered meaning using Stephen King novel titles to break down Oshea’s run as title-holder in Don’t Flop many years back. When all is said in done, they both came with such an incredible battle that it’s almost impossible to call a definitive winner between them, both came away from it with the W on this one. This battle and all the others are currently watchable on a Pay Per View at this link, otherwise you’ll have to wait for them to hit YouTube to view.
The after party held another three great undercard battles between some of the newer additions to the scene. They all impressed, though I need to see them some more and they are currently not available to watch on the PPV or otherwise so I await that opportunity. Seanie Mac took on Hughie Boom, Scabman the Scauldy (Formerly: Kez) took on Tommy West, and Intimidation took on JPEG. There was a bunch of live performances put on, with Dialect headlining with his Grime set and putting on a fantastic show. That’s about it for this post, it’s 3000 words long which is probably far longer than ye wanted to read! Til next time. -Seán