Sunday, November 25, 2012


Vim Nadera: How can an Emcee win?
Alaric Yuson: There are many approaches to winning a battle. Some think battle rap is solely about insulting, offending, or directly degrading your opponent. Others think it’s all about jokes. I’m of the opinion that rap battling is ultimately about out-rapping or out-emceeing your opponent. This may involve direct insults or use of comedy, but more importantly, a rap battle should present one’s well-roundedness as an emcee, his or her command of the varied skill set of emceeing. A well-rounded emcee should be able to make use of all sorts of techniques, be it downright offensiveness, humor, wit, ideology, double-time (rapping at double the tempo), rhyme scheme, cadence, imagery, word play, rebuttals, and of course, freestyle ability (spontaneous thought in rhyme form, preferably with smooth transition to or from the written portions of one’s verse). Taste or aesthetics in battle rap is similar to hand-to-hand combat. In an actual fight, some people might look forward to the brute strength seen in an all-out slugfest. As much as I can also appreciate that, I’d still prefer a fighter who can ‘kick ass’ without looking like he’s trying; one who displays the perfect combination of strength and finesse. Same thing goes for battle rap.

VN: Were you able to experience cases of sourgrapes, sweetlemons, or sore losers? 
AY: Yeah, I guess that can’t be helped especially since competition and/or competitiveness is prevalent in HipHop as a whole. Of course some people can argue that Emcees should take their losses like men and all that but for me, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand, it’s understandable that at least one among the many Emcees will either sweet lemon or sour grape.

VN: Personally, how do you deal with insults?
AY: It depends, I guess. If anyone tried to insult me just to see how I’ll react, I’d usually detect that right away and not mind it, unless I’m in a really bad mood. Other insults, I’ll laugh at. But if someone insults me and it’s pretty baseless, I can get riled up too but mainly ‘cos of the ignorance involved in making such a statement. In a battle of course it won’t really get to me ‘cos it’s a battle and if you’re not ready to be insulted then you have no business entering a battle. I take mental notes though of those who resort to below-the-belt tactics ‘cos I believe it reveals a lot about the person. An example would be along the lines of an opponent capitalizing on something completely fictional and showing that he genuinely means it, or worse, if the opponent is actually guilty of whatever he accuses you of and he deludedly tries to pin it on you. I consider that as pretty desperate. Being sarcastic in a battle is completely different from someone who actually believes in what he’s saying about you even if it’s too easy to disprove. I try my best to “battle with honor” – an honor among thieves, at the very least – ‘cos I can play that whole below-the-belt game too, I’m just sure that it’ll get really, really ugly if I did.

VN: How would you compare the Pinoy Flip Top with other foreign styles?
AY: Again, FlipTop is not a common noun and thus there’s no such thing as “American FlipTop” or other kinds of FlipTop. Pinoy rap battling though makes use of certain elements that you might never find in other battle leagues. Pinoy humor alone involves certain things that you otherwise would not find funny if you weren’t Filipino (well, obviously).

VN: Flip Top is also compared to Balagtasan. Are you aware of that?
AY: Yeah but Balagtasan, if I’m not mistaken, is more topical than modern battle rap. That is, there’s a definite topic that the participants have to write about. Battle rap may include addressing several topics but it’s still rap and therefore involves a lot of HipHop ego and self-promotion. Of course tempo and cadence is a lot more different and I guess battle rap is generally freer thanBalagtasan in a lot of ways.

VN: Flip Toppers, or Emcees, are criticized for their wrong rhyme scheme. Will you be willing to teach them the right way?
AY: I’m not entirely sure who you’re referring to when you say fliptopper. To reiterate, there is no such thing as a fliptopper unless you’re crudely referring to those who participate in the FlipTop Battle League. I don’t think you can have a wrong rhyme scheme but you can have nonsensical rhymes, corny rhymes or just lines that don’t rhyme at all. There are many different styles that I can try to explain but at the end of the day you really can’t teach style. Practice makes perfect though as always.

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