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Battle rap has been a pillar in the hip-hop temples since artists first started stringing rhymes together at house parties in the Bronx over breakbeats. As an art form, hip-hop has been considered by many in the industry as more of a competitive sport than any other form of entertainment. Rap battles are perhaps the most obvious characteristic of that competitive nature.
Red Bull, the energy drink behemoth, has been involved in the music industry for years, and the battle-rap world is no exception. The brand has been throwing events globally with beat-battle competitions for hip-hop producers, concerts and festivals that highlight up-and-coming talent from around the world, and events with individual artists to grow their audiences.
Yartzi, a Puerto Rican rapper and defending U.S. champ of Red Bull’s Spanish battle rap competition, Batalla de los Gallos, is a perfect example of an artist the company has been helping to raise up for the masses. He’ll be in Miami defending his 2019 U.S. victory this Saturday, October 24, when Batalla de los Gallos takes over the James L. Knight Center for a livestreamed championship battle.
The event features a bracket-formatted elimination contest with 16 battle rappers from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Eight of the competitors are from Miami, with one rapping out of Orlando. There will be two rounds, one minute each, and if the judges wish, they can have the challengers go an extra round if they feel the competition is too close to call.
Red Bull has created interesting challenges for the artists, such as a possible emoji round or pulling random objects from a trunk that the artists can incorporate into their rhyme schemes.
Battle rap has been re-emerging as a culture and scene worldwide, and for the Spanish-language scene, freestyling is pivotal. No written lyrics are allowed in the U.S. championship.
Miami-based rapper O.G. Frases, who finished third in 2019’s Red Bull event, says that in the Spanish battle-rap arena, “the public would completely demolish a rapper for using written lyrics.”
“Everyone looks at writing rhymes as the worst possible sin you can commit going into a battle in Spanish,” Frases tells New Times.
Although Frases admits that fans, including himself, love to see two battlers go against each other when everyone knows they have “beef,” that isn’t something common in the Spanish battle rap scene.
Frases, 26, left Venezuela in 2010 and has been competing regularly since 2018. He got his start freestyling in 2006 before he ever moved to the U.S. Like many battle rappers, when he’s not competing, he works on solo projects and makes music with his band, O.G. and the Rebels.
Frases takes the art of battle rap very seriously. He tries to compete every weekend to keep his mind sharp and flow on point. Because the battle-rap scene is such a tight-knit group, he often runs into other battlers and describes the local scene as very encouraging.
The roster for the event was chosen from a pool of rappers who submitted videos. According to Frases, when it comes to the Spanish battle rap scene, Miami is the pinnacle.
“There’s a ton of diverse styles and artists of all ages in Miami that compete, and it’s great to see the range of talent,” he says.
Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos 2020. 7 p.m. Saturday, October 24. Stream via redbull.com/batalla.
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