The newly rebranded GZ Battles launched yesterday, with an event that felt like something from the early days of KOTD. The battles were short, in a pit with the crowd surrounding the battlers, and mostly judged. Most importantly, the battlers were hungry and kept the crowd entertained throughout. Not every battle was great, but they all had great moments.
It was the first event in Gully’s hometown of Mississauga and still drew around 250 people (including Gully’s dad) despite being a streetcar, a subway, and two buses away from downtown Toronto. The venue was a club located in a strip mall, divided into a bar with tables and food on one side and a dancefloor that served as the ring on the other.
The new venue, new crowd and some bigger names on the card made for a welcome return of small-scale KOTD events to the city (or at least its suburbs).
After a dry February that produced few quality battles, March has reaffirmed our faith in battle rap. URL ended its drought by finally dropping Cortez vs JJDD and will be back to weekly releases now that their Ultimate Freestyle Friday competition has started airing on BET. KOTD has been dropping their Blackout 4 videos weekly on the main channel and have been quick to release footage from Vancity’s Gastown event. Don’t Flop has released only U.K. vs U.K. matchups this month, and hasn’t made much noise with North American fans outside of a solid battle between Unanymous and Olde English. UW hasn’t made a peep about an official release of their High Stakes footage, but whatever, everybody already watched the PPV or a bootleg of it.
Even with all that going on, four of the five battles we’re highlighting below come from smaller leagues. Don’t sleep.
KOTD’s Ground Zero league was a lot of fun in 2013.
The Ground Zero Grand Prix (a 32-man tournament with battles in all four of KOTD’s divisions) meant there were events going down almost monthly for a while. And with a $1,500 prize on the line, the MCs were hungry since winning and losing actually meant something.
No clear superstars emerged from the league in 2013, but a lot of guys surprised us by surpassing expectations and a few will fit in on main cards in 2014.
The battles in our Top 5 are all great for different reasons, so we present them in no particular order.
This month saw a strong crop of battles released by DF, KOTD, URL and some upstart leagues, led by footage from Battle of the Bay 6 and 5th Birthday Weekend. Here we highlight some of the most interesting battles from November.
BIGG K VS ILLMACULATE
It’s a tired, overused line to describe a close battle as having as having “no losers.” But the Illmaculate/Bigg K battle is one time when that’s undeniably the case. Sure, there are some people firmly entrenched in the pro-Illmac or pro-Bigg K camps, but so many others shift their allegiances with each viewing.
For Illmac, it was a glorious return to KOTD, enough so that any future Fresh Coast card will feel incomplete without him. For Bigg K, it was perhaps the finest KOTD debut in history, making instant fans out of those who weren’t familiar with his work. Bigg K recently said on Facebook that his battle career is done. Fortunately, he has a battle booked against Jonny Storm in April and posted this on RMBVA.
Day 3 has been long hyped as the “best day of World Domination,” and has produced some veritable classics in the past, but after this year’s success of Day 1 and 2, it would have been near impossible to hit that height.
The event was packed with VIPs (too many to list here, so check our Instagram feed for pictures) and was held at Aria, the same club where Thursday’s press conference went down. It was a (mostly) covered rooftop patio, but no one would’ve realized it wasn’t completely covered if it hadn’t started raining on one side of the ring. The format was typical GZ, with battlers in the centre of a crowd. With all the camera, speaker and electrical wires snaking through puddles, it’s a small miracle no one was electrocuted.
The five battles on the card featured some of the most promising Ground Zero up-and-comers (check our extensive coverage of the 2013 GZGP if you’ve been sleeping on Toronto) going up against some low profile international opponents.
Unfortunately the main theme of the night was choking, but there were still glimmers of potential from most of the guys and a couple of breakout performances as well.
In this week’s battles: new talent gets some shine, a rapper is interrupted by a crackhead, and TOBattleBlog gets its first reference.
B-MAGIC VS TAY ROC
This is a master’s class in street battle rap. Both guys draw deep on references from all over the world of sports, movies, history, geography, hip hop and battling and somehow manage to bring all of it back to shooting each other.
We’ll break down just one of B-Magic’s bars so you get a sense: