Battle rap is a numbers game. But now that it’s rare for battles to be judged, there aren’t any official win-loss records competitors can compare. So battlers (and leagues) chase different statistics: views, followers and fans. We at T.O. Battle Blog have dug into the facts and figures to see who’s really winning.
Let’s start by looking at the social media numbers for the four major English-language leagues (Ultimate Rap League, King of the Dot, Don’t Flop and UW Battle League):
KOTD dominates Facebook feeds (and is the only one with FB’s prestigious “blue checkmark”) while URL leads in Twitter followers. Both URL and UW have minimal official presence on Facebook, although all of their battles are actively debated in groups with thousands of members.
YouTube is the main platform for battle footage. Most leagues have a main channel for battles and then another for interviews, music videos and other miscellaneous content. These numbers focus only on the main channels.
As you can see above, Filipino league Flip Top is to the rest of battle rap what Shaquille O’Neal is to Verne Troyer. It has almost four times as many subscribers as the leading English-language league (URL), as well as almost three times the total views with around 90 fewer videos on the channel.
URL vaulted from its pre-YouTube-era DVD success into the leader of the English-language leagues. The legacy of GrindTimeNow and its vast archive of battles has kept it in the running for total views, although its more recent battles only net a few thousand views each. KOTD and Don’t Flop are neck-and-neck with subscribers and total views while AHAT does respectable numbers (mostly through viral-friendly video naming conventions.)
UW’s numbers are low because (as of writing this) none of the official footage from the blockbuster High Stakes event has dropped. The battles were aired live as a pay-per-view and bootlegs picked up an easy 500,000 within a few weeks of the event. There’s been no word on when the battles will drop on the main channel.
Here’s another breakdown of each channel’s total YouTube views:
Next let’s take a look at web searches. We used Google Trends, which maps interest over time by showing how often a particular term has been searched. The graph below shows the popularity of the four major English-language battle leagues. Click on any of the charts to see the full report on Google.
It’s hard to know exactly how popular URL is in web searches, since “URL” has a far more common meaning online. The fact that URL is also known as “Smack/URL,” the “Ultimate Rap League” and “URLTV” makes tracking searches difficult too. The chart above uses “URLTV” and shows its overall popularity along with jumps for each year’s Summer Madness events. KOTD also trends high globally with the highest spike coming in June 2012 for the much-hyped Dizaster vs Canibus battle. There are also bumps for Blackout 3, World Domination 4 and Blackout 4. Don’t Flop is No. 1 in its home country of England by a longshot, but globally it trends lower. As a newer player on the scene, UW didn’t garner many searches until January 2014, when they put on Hollow Da Don vs Loaded Lux – one of the most anticipated battles of all time.
Let’s look closer at Dizaster vs Canibus:
The graph tells the story perfectly. Over the years, industry rapper Canibus was fading in popularity and Dizaster wasn’t much of a name. Then Canibus pulled the greatest meltdown battle rap had ever seen. Pure. Viral. Gold. Since then, Diz’s name recognition has increased while Canibus’s slow road to obscurity carries on.
Dizaster’s popularity on YouTube has been key to bringing KOTD to a bigger audience:
The three peaks are when he battled DNA in November 2011, Canibus in June 2012, and the world’s most-viewed battle rapper Loonie in the Philippines in April 2013. Charron saw a similar spike when he took on Filipino rapper Zaito in Flip Top in June 2013. His BET controversy and DNA battle kept his name ringing for the following months.
To understand how immensely popular battle rap is in the Philippines, let’s compare Dizaster to a few of the top guys over there:
That mountain in the second half of 2012 is from a 2-on-2 battle between four of the world’s most popular battle rappers (Smugglaz is the fourth), which is currently just shy of 18 million views. From what we’ve seen, that’s the most popular battle in this format on YouTube.
Here’s how some of the more popular American battlers stack up against each other:
Lux spikes highest after his battle with Calicoe (though not nearly as high as Diz’s peaks in the above charts). Hollow trends high in April 2011 when his Goodz footage dropped and again in August 2011 when he battled Hitman Holla. Arsonal has the highest average popularity, but we’re not sure how much of that comes from people misspelling the soccer team. There are definite spikes every time he’s battled though. Daylyt didn’t make much noise until 2013 but has caught up with the rest.
Let’s look at some battlers from the UK:
Shotty Horroh and Lunar C have a huge lead over pretty much everyone else from Don’t Flop, with Shotty’s stock skyrocketing after his battle with Arsonal in late 2012. Eurgh has been consistently searched the longest, with his battle against DNA at KOTD’s Vendetta spiking his YouTube popularity in June 2012. Mark Grist’s “Teacher vs Student” battle against Blizzard in 2012 was a viral hit and became Don’t Flop’s most-viewed video. YouTube searches for Micky Worthless battles have been relatively low over the years, but if you chart web searches for his name during his dustup with pop star James Arthur, he becomes as popular as Dizaster for about a month.