The Real 8-Mile / the ‘Ultimate Rap League’

July of this year in New York’s east village the ‘Smack/URL’ (ultimate rap league) took the US rap battle scene to a whole new level, stepping out of its status as just another side attraction of the US hip-hop industry with this years ‘Summer Madness 2’ rap-battle tournament, which saw the very finest battle MC’s come together to take the roof of Manhattan’s Webster Hall - something like Eminem’s rap-battle feature length film ‘8 mile’ but with big glitzy bells on.Â

Smack’s Eric ‘B’ Beasley and co founders took the rap-battles from the barber shops, basket ball courts and street corners to the internet, now selling out the same venues major artists play with some of hip-hops biggest names like Busta Rhymes, P Diddy and Q-Tip in attendance making crazy $10,000 bets on single battles – and whats more artists coming out of the URL to major record deals and contracts. We take a closer look at the success of the ‘Smack/Ultimate Rap League’ as well as the scene’s biggest tournament to date…the world series of rap battling; Smack’s Summer Madness 2.

Smack/URL’s History
In 2002 Tory ‘Smack’ Mitchell started taping rappers from in and around his neighbourhood of Queens/NY and releasing the battles on DVD among the music/hip-hop video’s on there, the battles got more popular with even MTV getting in on the scene followed by battles being covered on cable for subscribers. But it wasn’t until 2009 when Smack launched the URL that it started to cultivate the on-line scene and into what it is today. Along with the other leagues out there like ‘King of the Dot’ and ‘Grind-Time’ all doing their thing and building the scene up it was the URL which really caught the imagination…and they have the hits to prove it.

funny lines from URL battlers


Smack/URL & the internet
To get a measure of the URL’s popularity just check the staggering amount of hits the league’s pulled in. Its YouTube page boasts more than 88,000 subscribers and a whooping 68 million channel views which is actually more than Warner Groups YouTube page for Nicki Minaj. Both the league and the artist have benefited from rap-battles arrival to the net and more precisely YouTube, battle rappers that have stayed loyal with Smack/URL have in turn cultivated their own name with some going on to land that so sought after recording deal….Summer Madness 2’s big bout between Harlem’s ‘Loaded Lux’ and Detroit’s talented young-gun ‘Calicoe’ to date has already pulled in over 1.5 million hits on YouTube…and its only been on line 1 month!.

Tech 9 v Bill  Collector pre battle ‘mouth off’Â


The hype
So how did it get so big, so popular,…probably down to the way the league works with the net, the dis’s-vids, calling each other out and generally slating each others style, swag and cred all on line, building the battles up like those early Ali pre-fight weigh-ins so by the time the bouts come around battle fans from around the world are on it (though not all of it is hype with altercations occurring in and outside of the ‘ring’). But probably its most clever feature is the fact that most battles are judged by the viewer themselves, as soon as the battle stops it goes straight to the fans on-line to vote for who they thought won. Its that interaction between the URL and its on-line fan-base that’s been paramount to the leagues success – a competitive sport /music scene that you can actually help determined the outcome of, like an adult version of the X factor if you will. But no matter what you think about hip-hop or rap or the URL, like it or not as a sound or genre the US rap/hip-hop industry as a whole, from street level up sure do know how to use the internet to the max, getting their music over to their fan base better than any music scene.

Summer Madness 2
Selling out Webster Hall at $70 for the cheapest tickets Summer Madness 2 had all the build-up and trappings of a good old fight night, a highly charged atmosphere, battle fans that were lucky to get a ticket hanging on every bar, some ‘booing’ and plenty of ‘Ooooing’ from battle fans who are pretty unforgiving of any rapper who stutters or ‘chokes’ – but again even if you don’t have much time for rap its hard not to be impressed by these guys word play. The way they use the rhymes and stretch their vocab, twisting words and their meanings of and when they get personal on each other you cant help but wince at some of the put-downs. All lyrically impressive they have their own styles, some rappers are more lyrical, some play more on delivery and some are just plain angry as well as really funny, and what’s more they have to remember all their verses in the right order, over 3 rounds that’s a lot to remember.Â
With a number of battles on the night the 2 that stood out were; Iron Solomon v Murder Mook, former college student Mook made his name in the Smack/URL and was one of those to get a deal going with DMX’s Ruff Ryder’s but to date his career in the studio has yet to take off. His return to battle the respected Iron Solomon, one of the few ‘white dudes’ that can hold it in a predominantly black scene was a battle everyone was waiting for.

documentary on Mook v Iron Soloman battle

But the Battle that played some thing like an actual scene from Eminems 8-Mile, with all the suspense, twists and turns was probably rap battles biggest moment ever. NY’s grand battle master Loaded Lux, who was also making his return to the ring is one of Smack’s/URL’s original battle favourites faced up to the young gun ‘Calico’ from Detroit who’s climbed his way to the top over the last year threw it all at his opponent but it was the suited Loaded Lux’s who’s swag together with some really deep lines that many feel won it…its the battle everyone’s been talking about since generating a record amount of hits. If there is one battle you should take a look at play this one, its full of drama and everything a classic rap battle should be.Â

Summer Madness 2..Loaded Lux v Calicoe

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