Battling is a fundamental aspect of emceeing, one of the four essential elements of hip-hop. An underground ritual that rappers engage in to develop their wordplay skills and increase their stature, battles are often pressurized situations, in which the rappers ad-lib against other MCs, spitting rhymes off the top of their head.
With studio equipment and enough time on their hands, anyone can craft compelling rhymes and beats in the privacy of their own cave. Battling, on the other hand, is what happens when you strip all that away and leave an MC with nothing to rely on except his talent and wit. (If you've ever seen 8 Mile, this concept is familiar.)
If anyone in Denver knows about battling, it's Dent. Dude's been in countless verbal jousts over the years. So it's no surprise to find that he's the mastermind behind this week's fittingly titled Put Yo Money Where Ya Mouth Is battle, where the Mile High City's most ferocious wordsmiths will be throwing down for a $1,000 purse. When we caught up with Dent, we asked about the clash and why battling is an essential part of the game.
Put Yo Money Where Ya Mouth Is preliminary round, with Fresh Breath Committee, SP Double, Mane Rok and DJ Unison, 9 p.m. Wednesday, February 17, Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut Street, free; finals, with Supernatural and DJ Unison, 9 p.m. Saturday, February 20, Walnut Room, $10, 303-295-1868.
Westword: What inspired you to put this battle together?
Dent: I'm an advocate for the Colorado hip-hop scene. I've been a part of it for many years and seen people come and go. I've earned my stripes and paid my dues in the battlefield. I remember how it felt comin' up, being so hungry to inDENT my name on people's brains with my words, that feeling I felt!
There were venues and people throwing battles back then creating that road for me, but really no one nowadays is creating those platforms for up-and-coming MCs to showcase their skill.
I wanted to bring back that battle element to the scene. I thought cats were getting too comfortable being in their makeshift studios, forgetting about the art of the rhyme, where it's from and where it's going. The battle has always been in hip-hop culture. So I know there are a lot of dope, hungry, basement-dwelling MCs out here that get no recognition.
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Saw a tweet from you the other day in which you marveled at the idea of an MC who doesn't battle, saying that's like a b-ball player that can't do a layup: It's essential. Why's that?
I grew up in a day and time when hip-hop was not on the Internet. We had no studios to go to. We were graf writers bombing the system! You needed to be in the streets, at house parties, freestyle rapping to get your rep up. The more house parties you went to and the more rappers and crews you ran into at those, freestyle ciphers always thought they were the best or witty with words. Either way, you had to battle to prove yourself at some point. It really separated the rappers from the MCs.
For more of our interview with Dent, visit Backbeatblog.com.