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

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!

Welcome to L.O.O.P Lyrics Out Of Perspective #1

According the Kanye West’s song “Mercy” was the number one song on the Mediabase Urban Radio chart for the week of June 17th – 23rd.  Mercy was played on radio stations across America 3,862 times which is a (+469) from the amount of spins in the previous week.  The estimated audience reached through the 3,862 spins is 27.357 million (27,357,000) which means an average of 7,084 listeners heard Mercy every time it was played during the week of June 17th– 23rd.

The song is not a new song based on the fast paced world of music and youth’s interests and desire for always having the “latest.”  “Mercy” is more than a couple of months old and when the song first came out my niece contacted me to ask me was being said in the beginning/chorus of the song.  She reached out to me because I am a student of Hip-Hop music and its impact on youth culture.  I am also an ordained Minister who often will break down the messages within music to reveal its complimentary or contradictory relationship to Scripture.  Often times a rap song will have a lyric that relates to a scripture and in some instances the song will actually quote the scripture.  The perspective or “point of view” being expressed can be misleading because the scripture is taken from a passage that the listener may be unfamiliar with and or the artists is using the words from the scripture to paint their own picture in their song.

I went to to look up the lyrics and to listen to the song.  The song starts off with the chorus which is an almost distorted screeching voice saying “Well it’s the weeping and a moaning and the gnashing of teeth.”  This line is part of Matthew 13:42 where Jesus is explaining to his disciples the parable of the tares.  To begin to understand verse 42 I will write out what Jesus states in verses 41 and 42.  Jesus tells the disciples “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire.  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” 

The parable of the wheat and tares symbolizes the distinction between good and evil.  The wheat represents those who have been planted by God and the tares represent those who have been planted by Satan.  The harvest is when God will send angels to come and separate the good from the bad with the good going unto the Lord and the bad being cast into a fiery furnace (Hell).  The sounds of the suffering of these individuals are described in verse 42.  These are the individuals who practice lifestyles outlined in Galatians 5:19-21 (read  The behaviors identified in the song will lead to being a tare at the end of the age as explained by Jesus in Matthew 13.

The song “Mercy” is a self promoting, materialistic song which is not new in Hip-Hop.  The lyric in the chorus is used to equate the fate of anyone who would challenge Kanye West and or G.O.O.D. Music.  Kanye’s verse also makes one think the lyric could also represent the hell the music industry would be in without his music.  We cannot allow a creative metaphor and or slang usage of a word or phrases distort the perspective of a term, phrase, or words that are scriptures in the Holy Bible.  Before you think I am being extreme in my critique remember this song was heard through the radio by over 27 million people in a week.  This doesn’t even factor in other forms of listening to music that are popular amongst youth and adults (.i.e. digital downloads and video).   Kanye also said “We formed a new religion No sins as long as there’s permission’”- No Church in the Wild

*Lyrics Out Of Perspective are an op-editorial series by Minister Timothy Jones.  Follow on twitter @tdj6899”