King of the Dot competition sees rappers insult one another in rhyme

Imagine a playground of squabbling Grade 4 students a world of egos and possibly overt prejudice bitter feuds and callous grudges. Now add some hip-hop swagger a rhyming dictionary and a lot of wit and wordplay. From there you might get something of an idea of what modern battle rap is about. It is quite literally a subculture of opponents saying mean things to each other… but in rhyme.

It’s not quite poetry but to call it artless would be a fool’s move. Battle rap has come a long way from the spontaneity of curbside freestyles and in recent years has developed into a mode preferring the harder punches and head-scratching dynamics of pre-written highly rehearsed and expertly performed a cappella raps. Those who have seen Eminem’s 8 Mile should have a pretty good idea except the serious tone of that film might miss the sheer fun that battle rap offers.

Battle rap is utter spectacle; it is mean-spirited sport with words. A more apt metaphor would be pro wrestling. Rappers essentially become larger than life taking on character and costume. It’s almost as if they’ve figured out what the best part of professional wrestling is (clearly the promos) and pared and honed that into an art form — yet with the intrusion of the hip-hop trappings in tow: misogyny and homophobia money chasing and violence aggrandizement. It’s a curious blend of heady wordplay and lowbrow sentiment hatefulness and humour championing of vice and panning of temperance crowd-pleasing performance and spoken word.

Deep down however it runs on a DIY ethic; one can certainly sense the deep love the rappers and by extension the fans have for that world and despite certain boasts it’s done for the love and certainly not for what precious little money or fame it has to offer. It is a small and niche subculture and like many niche subcultures it’s one that can easily suck in the inquisitive and interested. Battle rap sees perpetual releases of battles on YouTube from across the world almost every day with an output that could easily replace one’s television intake.

Canada’s landmark battle league King of the Dot easily puts up some of the best talent to run alongside the rest of the world. KOTD began in alleys in Toronto in 2008 and has grown outward with multiple divisions including an Alberta chapter that now brings us Quarantine.

Quarantine is likely Alberta’s biggest battle event hosted by KOTD to date bringing rappers from all over North America and pitting them against some of Alberta’s finest. Edmonton’s Wize Guy (returning from an impressive run in KOTD’s Ground Zero Grand Prix) will battle Philadelphia’s Uno Lavoz; these being two of the most singularly hilarious rappers spitting at the moment. Atlanta’s Ness Less will face off against Calgary’s Fingaz. And perhaps most exciting Chedda Cheese arguably Calgary’s finest battler (I’m expecting a call out for that one) will be gearing up against the return of Tricky P one of Toronto’s luminaries.

Chedda Cheese is no slouch with dozens of battles under his belt climbing the ranks in KOTD’s Grand Prix tournament and having even battled in the notable Scribble Jam tournaments of battle days past. Despite not having a battle for about a year Chedda has remained focused on raps with a steady schedule of parody songs constantly appearing on his YouTube channel: “I would say the parody songs are definitely my main thing. I also enjoy writing a lot of original music but I feel like the parody route is probably the most promising for me personally” he says.

Perhaps that comes a little closer to what would make this event and particularly that battle against Tricky P so enjoyable. Gangster posturing doesn’t come truthful to an Albertan instead Chedda delivers an arsenal of double-timed raps and humour; where booger flicking might come as a more frightening and honest threat than the spray of a .45. “I don’t personally gain a lot of enjoyment from simply writing mean things about another person but battle rap provides a great platform to showcase raw talent and writing ability” he says. “The degrading personal attacks just happen to be in the nature of the competition.”

When asked what he has in store for Tricky P Chedda offers up nothing of his bag of tricks: “That’s top secret information right there but I’ve heard that if you hit up the Republik sometime between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday November 2 you might find out.”

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