In the world of battle rap, names like Smack White and competitions like Ultimate Rap League and Queen of the Ring are just as common, household names as Jay-Z and Drake are to mainstream Hip Hop. In Latin American countries where Hip Hop music and rap battles occupy two distinguishable spaces, rappers like Yartzi and Adonis are recognized as Gods of the game and Red Bull Batalla is their Olympics.
TheSource.com had a chance to sit down with the DR and PR natives during Batalla’s Dallas qualifier to discuss their origins in battle rap, the factors that separate freestyle from battle rap and the psychological preparation it takes to walk away with a win in Batalla.
Rapper and songwriter Yartzi, who is a native of Puerto Rico, used the battle rap platform to assimilate himself into mainstream music where he has written songs for a myriad of artists and even gained a platinum plaque along the way. “This writing stuff, it was never in my mind,” says Yartzi.. “It was just something that happened and I got to that point because of battle rap.” He explains how he ended up writing songs for some oft he top reggaeton artists known, saying, “The second time I won the Red Bull title, there was some reggaeton artists that were following the movement and when they saw the news that a Puerto Rican won, they started sending me DMs and giving me their support. In one of those messages,” He continued, “I met a reggaeton artist named Randy. He’s in a duo called Joel Y Randy. They’re one of the biggest duos in the history of reggaeton worldwide. We became friends and one time we were in the studio, his song writer didn’t show up and he asked me if I could do it. The first song we recorded is actually the only one that’s been published to date called “23”. It topped every chart in reggaeton this year. It went double platinum and it’s the first song I have published.”
Adonis, a Long Islander with Dominican roots who has been freestyling since he came to the U.S. at ten years old, explains that there is a difference between freestyling and battle rap, but the distinguishable factors are more mental and skill-based. “Battling is a little different because it takes a little more psychology”, says the Batalla veteran. “When you freestyle, you can rhyme about anything. When you’re battling, like with Red Bull Batalla, you have some sort of concepts, so you have to rhyme about that. And you have to make sure that you rhyme with attitude. Maybe not attitude, but you definitely have to be confident against your opponent. It’s more of a mental sport.”
Adonis says that competitions like Supremacia and Dioces De La Cities are great training grounds for the up and comers, but Batalla is like the world championships for Latin American freestyle artists. “It’s like if you’re dreaming of playing basketball. You can play in college, Europe, Mexico, but once you go into the NBA, that’s it”, says Adonis. “Red Bull is the NBA of freestyling. It’s the Mecca of freestyling for any Latin American artist. We all know that this is the biggest competition in the U.S., so that puts a lot on our shoulders, which makes us give more. You have to really be good and that’s because of the name that Red Bull has.” He goes onto say that battle rap has outgrew the Hip Hop music genre in Latin America, but the essence of the culture is still the same. “It’s like if you’re dreaming of playing basketball. You can play in college, Europe, Mexico, but once you go into the NBA, that’s it. Red Bull is the NBA of freestyling. It’s the Mecca of freestyling for any Latin American artist. We all know that this is the biggest competition in the U.S., so that puts a lot on our shoulders, which makes us give more. You have to really be good and that’s because of the name that Red Bull has.”
The Batalla U.S. Final is set for October 8th in Miami while the international finals will be held in Mexico City in December.