School rap battles draw crowds

Rap battles draw crowds, attention from school staff

Griffin Nelson


Ian Jones

Staring down the competition, junior Dareon Allen gets ready to initiate a rap battle.

By Ryan Yowell

Close to 300 students pack the staircases by E2. In the center of the crowd, two students prepare for a clash of skill and poise. They strive to entertain but also to declare a winner in a challenge where only the most composed will walk out with pride.

The crowd is going crazy.

“You don’t want to go in there nervous,” said senior Tae Shorter, who organizes the rap battles. “I mean, most people say they’re nervous, but I don’t think it’s nervousness as much as just being anxious. You got to go in there ready saying, ‘I’m going to hit him with this line and that line.’ ”

The rap battles started small this semester but grew in size as students used SnapChat and other social media to promote the rap battles and draw new opponents. Yet as battles grew, they also drew concerns from school staff and parents.

“We didn’t care that they were having rap battles, we just don’t want people leaving classes to cause a distraction,” security guard Shawn Ledford said. “And that was causing a distraction having it up in E2 with 300 people blocking the stairs from people trying to get to class.”

Battles have taken place during lunch and after school. During battles, students crowd around opponents who throw down lines that wouldn’t be in your typical dinner conversation.

“Oh man, there’s not a lot of school appropriate stuff,” senior Solomon Mattic said. “One time, I told him, I was like, ‘I say it to your face, I ain’t even got an issue, you be actin’ hard, but we all know you’re softer than a tissue.”

Students generally have some time to plan their lines.

“Well, if you’re going against somebody that you know wants to go against you, the day before you’re going to go home and think some stuff up,” Shorter said. “So unless it’s like right there on the spot and you gotta go boom boom boom boom — then it’s a freestyle.”

Allen, who is undefeated and looks to pursue a future in the genre, said he draws on the experiences of his opponents.

“Mostly I talk about my opponents role at the school and what all they have done here,” Allen said. “That usually makes for a good verse or rap.”

Inspiration is key to succeeding in a rap battle, whether it be from the crowd or a rapper that you admire.

“I like Jay-Z, Jay Cole, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa,” Mattic said. “I mostly am just inspired by all the excitement though.”

Still, originality is a major factor in performing well in battles. Rap battlers must come up with lines of rap in a matter of seconds to keep the crowd interested. Allen said you might have 30 seconds to come up with a new line.

“I mean it’s pretty fast,” Mattic said.

As hundreds gathered in E2 last month, Allen and Mattic prepared to face off.

“It was pretty good,” Mattic said. “Dareon hit me with a few nice lines.”

Eventually, the large crowd drew too much attention.

“Security told us we had to leave and then we started going into the gym,” Mattic said. “And then that’d get too packed, then they’d tell us to leave. Then we went outside. The last time they had to tell us to leave because parents were getting worried thinking that there was a fight.”

Eventually Allen won, Shorter said.

“The crowd said it was a tie, but it came down to Dareon being the winner,” Shorter said. “So he’s still undefeated.”

After a couple quiet weeks, Ledford said the battles may be a passing fad — although a new rap battle happened after school on Friday.

“I would just say just keep it cordial and respectful,” Ledford said. “I mean, I know it’s a battle and that things are going to be said to diss one another, but just don’t do it if you are going to get someones feelings’ hurt.”