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.
Westword: What inspired you to put this battle together?
Dent: I'm an advocate for the Colorado hip-hop scene. I've been apart of it for many of years and seen people come and go. I've earned my stripes and paid my dues in the battlefield. I remember how it felt coming 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 to 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. So I'm bringing back that hungry MC! I want to bring back that passionate MC, who wants to ruin you with words and give em' that spark again!
The $1000 is just to get their attention -- everyone loves cold hard cash. Plus, I stay up on my Twitter game, and I seen folks out there, talking about, "They know, this guy, who's the best, and this guy's the best, and wanting to put their money on who they think is the best." Blah, blah, blah. But they had no structure, no game plan, just a bunch of talk. So I made some calls, worked it out, got legit people involved, who have credit in the battle field, and the rest is a rap, simple and plain ... Put yo' money where ya' mouth is.
WW: Who's involved besides you and Supernatural?
D: I partnered up with a distribution company: O3ZONE, a company that supports unique urban fashion and music globally. As well as my hometown innovative companies: Denver Frank, LARD, BaseMentalism Radio 1190 and Colorado Hip-Hop Congress.
WW: What makes it different from the other battles?
D: Nothing really different, just resurrecting the battle element in the MC, iron sharpens iron mentality. Bringing raw skills back, fellowshipping with your homies over beats and rhymes, putting up $1000 on the table and have a no bias MC battle. I think there is too much Cool Guy look and talk. We all should be coming together more as MCs have fun. Plus, we haven't seen a good battle in a long time, so I'm excited.
WW: How did you get Supernatural involved?
D: I was able to build and come across Supernatural in 2003. He was judging the Scribble Jam battle with Mr. Dibbs that I was in. He got hyped and stood up over a few lines that I said. After the battle, we chilled, put one in the air, and we built a solid bridge ever since. We have been in strong contact, making some music together and creating the new musical formula for the masses. I am very humbled to consider him fam, definitely respecting him as a brother and his freestyle craft.
WW: Have you learned anything from him, and if so, what?
D: He's O.G., a Freestyle Yoda. So me being a student of the true MC, I learned from him to always be myself. He says I have a very original voice and style. So I've been learning and understanding my voice more, seeing how I can transform different patterns and styles within my rhymes, just really feeling zoned in on the type MC I am, feeling confident with words. I mean, he's a master of the craft. So all the stories and experiences he shares with me, I soak in all his knowledge. I apply it in my everyday life, as well as understanding the pure essence of what it takes is to be a MC.
WW: Saw a tweet from you the other day in which you marveled MCs who doesn't battle, saying that's like a b-ball player that can't do a lay up -- it's essential. Why's that?
D: I grew up in a day of 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 vs. the MCs.
If you had skill, no matter what, real recognized real. You could tell people who were really serious about this rap shit. The metamorphosis into the true MC, the way I see it, consists of: Battle stripes, cipher time, studio time/voice understanding, marketing yourself and your music - the whole package!
This music industry is no joke. So away from the limelight and hype, you need to make sure your skills are tight, because people will call you on it if they think otherwise. Different traits and these elements need to be passed down, just like they were taught to me.
Overall, this will make them better at their rap Craft, by understanding that formula. Just like a seasoned b-ball player. You know folks who are serious about playing basketball, Right? If , you don't posses certain traits fitting that position, then you will get called out, just as well. Period! It' just part of the game!
WW: You're a seasoned vet when it comes to battling: What's the most challenging thing about the experience?
D: Really, when I'm in battle zone, it's hard to keep up with my thoughts sometimes. I want to verbally abuse my opponent, but as a battle MC, you must adapt to your environment and surroundings. You may have to dumb down some rhymes to catch the audience's attention, using corny pop [culture] punch lines., But it's hard for me to keep up on the latest hype, at times.
And pride hurts sometimes. So when I crush their pride in front of their crew, they forget what this hip-hop shit is all about, and they get on some street shit, and forget to think! So I'll say ignorance is always a challenge.
WW: Have you ever come up short, drew a blank in the heat of the moment?
D: I've stutter-stepped many of times and repeated the same lines with different words in battles before, but I think all MCs can speak on that one with me.
WW: What's the dumbest rhyme you've spit?
D: Hmm ... I have so many words and rhymes in my mind, there have to be hundreds of dumb ones, that might make sense and make me laugh, but be super dumb to the next person.
WW: What's the dumbest rhyme you've heard spit?
D: Too many to name.
WW: The things some of these cats say are pretty incendiary? How do you keep things from getting too heated, with dudes boxing in the parking lot?
D: Like I said, ignorance is always a challenge. So, If you posses knowledge of the hip-hop culture and know what it's about, it's our duty as hip-hoppers to inform the next generation why we do this hip-hop shit. Turning a negative into a positive, we need to continue to preserve the culture and stop let the media tell us what hip-hop is all about. They glamorize way too much, negative watered-down material. It all goes back to what our founding fathers of hip-hop said, 'Peace, love, unity and having fun.' I'll be preaching that until death.