The Sport of Hip-Hop: The Battle

TheSportoftheBattleBy Timothy Jones for #HipHopEd

The two MCs pictured above, to the left, Busy Bee and to the right, Kool Moe Dee, are credited with participating in the first MC Battle in 1982.  Over the past 30 years the MC Battle has been implemented in various forms from individual versus individual to crew versus crew.  Hip-Hop as a culture also embraced the aesthetic of the battle in the other creative staples of Hip-Hop as well (DJ, Graffiti, and Break Dance).  If you study the landscape of the South Bronx in the 1970s which is the decade that what we call Hip-Hop today was born (1973 to be exact) you have to acknowledge the gang culture that dominated youth culture.  Within gang culture competitions were settled violently and were seemingly never ending.  The Hip-Hop Battle provided an outlet for youth to compete in a manner that was non-violent and actually had a semblance of structure.  As the development of the standards of excellence was established in the Hip-Hop arts, these standards were used as ways of determining who was the best or the victor in any battle scenario.

There is research out there about the benefits of youth competing in organized sports.  Young people develop self discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and confidence just to name a few character benefits of sports.  It is easily accepted in our society because of the role that sports plays in almost every fabric of our lives.  For those of us who were blessed to grow up alongside of Hip-Hop we witnessed the attributes that have been identified as the benefits of participating in sports, being achieved by those who participated in Hip-Hop Battles.  In the inner cities you had the neighborhood youth who excelled in the various Hip-Hop Arts receive the same accolades that top athletes received for staring on their high school or neighborhood all star team.

This article is not a piece to outline the history of the battle within Hip-Hop, but to introduce and reintroduce to some positive aspects of the Hip-Hop battle and it’s similarities to other more acceptable modes of competition.  The goal is to open the minds of educators to incorporate the concept of the Hip-Hop battle in its various artistic forms into the classroom as method of developing and promoting communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking amongst their students.   To help present this theoretical approach, think about the academic based battles ranging from spelling bees, science fairs, multiplication/math competitions, and a game show called jeopardy.  Oratorical battles in the form of debates are used to help distinguish the best candidate for the President of the United States in a similar fashion as the audience decided who won the legendary battle between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee.

Over the years the Hip-Hop battle has helped sustain, rejuvenate, and expand the artistic standard of MCing and Dance.  The following is a resource of a collection of Hip-Hop MC Battles that range from the initial battle of Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee to the battle at the end of Disney’s “Let it Shine” (Don’t laugh J).  You can use the videos as resources for professional development to educate yourself on the Hip-Hop battle and some you can show to your students to get the energy flowing in the classroom.  If you are familiar with the history of Hip-Hop there are some classic battles that I did not include in the playlist.  I didn’t want to have a list of videos of songs that served as the weapons used in the battle.  I wanted to focus on reports about battles, and footage of actual in-person battles.  Here is the link to the playlist http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLP47NQEbZOS2vBNdn0t_GMBHUJ5LGF0Ms

I would be remiss if I didn’t end this piece by making a clear distinction between a “battle” and “beef.”  In the spirit of Hip-Hop, the best way to explain the difference between two is as follows:

Beef is when the battle goes beyond the wax and needle

Beef is when the battle spills out amongst the people

Beef is when the battle ends inside a building with a steeple

Beef is when the battle uses weapons that are lethal” – OpTIMuS

Make sure our students understand the difference between a battle and a beef so that the benefits of battling never give way to the burdens of beef!

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