WRITTEN BY: BRANDON THOMAS
I’ve listened to hip hop since I was in elementary school and I have seen firsthand how music
changed my thinking and even my worldview. When you’re part of the culture of hip hop you get
introduced to everything that comes with it. MC’ing was my favorite, but what caught my eye
even more was the dueling of words, yes the exhibition matches of verbal dominance, i.e. battle
rap. Being teased in school was the normal, but I did have one weapon in my arsenal. I loved
rhyming and at a young age I could do it well. So instead of stressing the night before school
about what comeback to think of I simply wrote 16 bar verses (sometimes 34 or more) before I
went to school. I understood that most people in my age range didn’t practice battling. Most kids
just liked the music, but didn’t create anything of their own. I used that to my advantage. You’re
probably thinking, so you worked hard at slandering kids? It’s not the act of slander you should
focus on, but what it stirred up in me as a shy boy who was too scared to stand up for himself.
The first time I confronted my bullies I was very nervous, but I still rapped nonetheless and
everyone exploded in an uproar of excitement. It was unfair because most of them didn’t know
how to rhyme well, but I used that to my advantage. It was a unique way of making fun of them
and it put me in a class by myself. Battle rap helped me to face my fears and to accept
confrontation when it was necessary. I only used this in self defense and for sport, but I never
used this to become a bully.
One of my early influences of this new found love occurred when I saw the classic match
between Cassidy and Freeway.
I was in complete awe of seeing Cassidy decimate the Roc-a-fella
artist. He was this young guy from Philly who knocked out a more well known artist with his
creative metaphors, expressive wit, and excellent display of punchlines. Cassidy said some harsh
things, but that’s the nature of the beast. It was after that battle that I knew for sure I wouldn’t go
back. The conviction that it built in me even changed my daily life. I was no longer hesitant to
stand up for myself in normal circumstances because of how brutal the battling sport was. I was
inspired to speak loudly about what inspired me or irritated me. Battle rap freed my thoughts and
helped me to communicate in a special way. It didn’t corrupt me or make me use my talent to
hurt others, but it did save me from impending embarrassment in middle and high school. Hip
hop has also had its negative effects on my worldview, but a thing called maturity and common
sense kicked in and I was able to reap the full benefits of the battle rap culture.