How To Prepare For A Rap Battle

By Teresa Thomerson in Cool On 22nd September 2015


Preparation Is Key

The days of freestyle battles taking place on the spot are mostly a thing of the past. There's order and structure nowadays. Therefore, you better be ready when the time comes. "I wasn't ready" or "I didn't know what to say" is not a valid excuse. Usually, a battler will get the name of their opponent weeks in advance and get started working on their rhymes. UK battler Shotty Horroh divulges that, "as soon as I find out who I've got, I start writing and piecing little bits together. I talk to other battlers who may know something." He goes as far as using paper clips to structure his rhymes, planning different segments and then piece them all together, like Russell Crow in A Beautiful Mind, only with rhyming insults. He takes his parts and finds the connectors that will ultimately put it all together. It's almost like essay writing. All that is to say: if you aren't serious, you'll be booed off stage.

Do Your Homework

If you have the name of your opponent, then like any good journalist, it's important to do your research. Dig for some dirt and find out as much as you possibly can that can be used against your adversary. Perhaps he said some embarrassing stuff in an interview once, or perhaps he has a hobby that he doesn't want anyone knowing about. It's time to air out everything and anything you possible can that will make him look bad. There's no such thing as being too personal in this arena. According to rap battle legend Iron Solomon, "I would just instantly write as soon as I got the name." Nowadays, since he's not as consistently involved in events and battles more sporadically, his preparation process has changed, claiming, "now I always have to watch and research a bit more."


Practice Makes Perfect

There are no cue cards, nor can you take out your notebook and take a look. Well, most of the time, anyways. But there's nothing worse than choking when those bright lights are on, and you'll almost surely ruin your chances of a victory. Practice in front of a mirror and recite your bars to anyone that'll listen. Like Eminem said, "you only get one shot, one opportunity," so you don't want to mess it up. According to the ever-exuberant Dizaster, "It takes a lot of work. People don't understand that. We put in a lot of work and all we get to do is spit it one time and we can't use it again. We can't mess up. It has to be perfect." A major part of being a good battle rapper is to have an excellent memory.

Your Best Punches Are Your Punchlines

Be funny. Be witty. Use pop culture references and as many play on words as you can muster up. The more crowd reactions you get, the better your odds of a victory. Remember, this is a battle, this is a fight, and every strong bar is another jab to your opponent. Don't be too corny, but it's fine to make some jokes. Don't be surprised to hear a Spice Girls reference that gets a positive reaction in a room full of rappers.

Insults! Insults! Insults!

Literally, insult everything you possible can! If your opponent is short, use it! If his parents are divorced, use it! If he has a weird birthmark, use it! See if you can get his ex-girlfriend or estranged father to show up to the event and stand in your corner! Nothing is off limits. The worse you can make your foe look, the better it'll make you look. According to former BET Freestyle Friday champion Charron, it's important to "be extremely disrespectful, get under their skin to piss them off."

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Don't Be A "Cat In The Hat" Rapper

This isn't 1987. Rhyming "dog" with "fog" and "car" with "far" just won't fly. Use some multi-syllabic words to try and sound impressive. The more rhymes you can pack into a single bar, the better. Also, don't be afraid to try different flows and different rhyme schemes. According to Nova Scotia's own Pat Stay, who's known for his hard-hitting bars and also his rhythmic stylistics, "I don't write. If anyone took my routine, they'd lose. I don't write. It's always been in my head. If I record something, it's because it's a melody I don't want to forget."

Be Ready For A Rebuttal

Most battle rap leagues function with a three-round format, where each competitor goes back-and-forth for a pre-determined amount of time. While they're pre-written, for the most part, you'll earn bonus points if you're able to rebut or counter something your opponent said in a previous round. Be prepared to think up a response on the spot, or at least plan some rebuttals in advance to counter what you think your opponent might say. Freestyling isn't mandatory, but being good at it is definitely a huge bonus. Always be one step ahead.


Remember, It's A Show

Battle rapper Daylyt is known for his insane antics. He'll dress up in costumes, act in the most insulting manner, and even once tried to take a crap on stage. While that isn't exactly recommended, it is a smart move to have some kind of a hook or marketability. Heck, get yourself a catch phrase! Have your own unique style that separates you from the rest of the pack.

Confidence Is Key

If you're going to win, you have to believe that you'll win. Having butterflies is one thing, but never get into a rap battle that you don't believe you can win. This takes a ton of brainpower and nerves of steel. Only compete if you're ready to be a competitor. If you follow all these instructions, and you believe you can do it, then you're ready to step into the ring and win your first rap battle!

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