As you may or may not have seen, our Will-Powerz recently had his first foray into UK battle rap battle uploaded to YouTube. He battled in Glasgow on July 29th for Premier Battles in an event in collaboration with Scottish league IRN BARZ, stepping into the pit against KJ-KaGe, another newcomer to the battle rap world. We were proud to see our boy doing his thing, knowing he would take an unorthodox approach and put his talent for wordplay and complex rhymes on display. He has been a fan of battle rap for as long as he has been making music, so it was a great moment for him to have his own battle put in front of the fans.

You can watch it below:

What is UK battle rap?

If you don’t know what UK battle rap is all about, you’re in for a treat. Most of us have a basic idea of what battle rap looks like from watching the Eminem movie 8 Mile, but modern battle rap actually looks quite different. That traditional idea looks like two rappers making up lyrics off the top of their head to diss their opponent over a beat. But the modern take on battle rap is actually pre-written and acapella, meaning there is no beat whatsoever. It forces the participants to prepare extensively and put real effort into creating sophisticated schemes, rhymes, metaphors and other content into the material they bring to the pit. It also removes the instrumental to hide behind, so the battlers need to focus on putting on a performance that transcends simply rapping.

The result is far more nuanced and compelling than that classic format of battle rap. If you’d like more of an introduction to the modern format, check out this video from Ghast Buff:

As you can see, there is actually a lot for battle rappers to think about when creating their material and entering the pit. Insulting your opponent is the foundation, but creativity is the order of the day. Inventive angles, multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, metaphors, avoiding cliches, constructing schemes, telling stories – these are all important for engaging the audience and proving your ability as a writer and a rapper. Delivery needs to have energy and match the style of the content, and battlers are generally trying to portray a character that fans can connect with. Comparisons between battle rap and professional wrestling have often been drawn, and the personas you’ll find throughout UK battle rap are evidence of that.


Popular figures in UK battle rap

UK battle rap has seen some incredible performers throughout the years. Popular figures from the earlier days include Professor Green, Asher D, Tenchoo and Stig Of The Dump, who helped make the Jumpoff a big platform as battle rap began to catch on. Fast forward to Don’t Flop and you will see people like Ed Sheeran, Rag N Bone Man, Rizzle Kicks who would go on to become mega stars in the music industry. We have also seen big rappers make an appearance in UK battle rap, such as Elro and Verb T.

Other popular music artists famous for their role in the growth of battle rap include Shotty Horroh, Lunar C and Bru-C, while certain battlers have become legends in UK battle rap like Tony D, Shuffle-T and Marlo, Oshea and league owners like Eurgh and Bison Briggz.

Whether lauded purely as battle rappers or making the transition from battling to music, one thing about battle rap is clear: there is no greater test of a rapper’s lyrical abilities. The complexity of schemes and metaphors, even if only to insult someone, is on a scale you rarely see in music. Single-syllable rhymes are rarely used as they are seen as overly simple, and the entry-level wordplay and imagery that is prevalent in much of the music industry simply doesn’t fly in battle rap. Case in point:



I’ll treat the roof like my daughters and raise it” – this tabloid-standard pun is hokey and simplistic.



I’m like Jordan tryna rise onto the dunk; me I’m tryna be an icon from the jump” – this is multi-layered and makes more sense the more you think about it

So that bad pun must have been from a rapper that everyone thinks is a joke, right? Actually, it was said by Eminem in one of his most popular songs. The good example of wordplay comes from UK battle rap icon Cee Major in one of his songs. If you want to learn more about how battle rap wordplay compares to that of industry rappers, you could watch this ‘Bad Bars’ video:


Which brings us to the point of this article…


UK battle rap as a proving ground for musicians

There are many current and former battle rappers who also make music. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list:


These artists have gained a profile by taking part in UK battle rap, but it is not merely as simple as appearing in a battle and gaining fans. They have had to show an audience of battle rap fanatics that they have the lyrical skill and performing capabilities to impress with their music. This is because the culture of battle rap doesn’t respect catchy tunes or gimmicks – they respect bars with substance and intelligence. And we all know how much people get out of music from artists they love and respect.


A wealth of talent

There is no shortage of musical talent in UK battle rap. Rappers, poets, authors, singers, producers, beatboxers, actors, comedians and more have all passed through and made an impact. It is a community where creatives come together and level up their skills by thriving off one another. There is a passion and sense of respect in the culture that belies any conventional attitudes that rap culture is defined by arrogance, aggression and crime. Head down to an event and you will find groups of people looking to be entertained by a combination of jokes, lyricism, music, poetry and performance.


Final thoughts

We are incredibly proud to have seen Will-Powerz make this first appearance on a UK battle rap YouTube channel. Our thanks go out Premier Battles and IRN BARZ for that opportunity and we hope there are more to come as Will has plenty to offer the scene. We also urge readers to check out the music and other work of the people mentioned in this article. There is so much talent in the culture and we have seen great musicians, YouTubers, actors, poets, comedians and more emerge over the past decade.

If you want to keep up with all the latest from Latent’s Records, please head over here to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Please also consider following Will-Powerz on Spotify and everywhere else – he has a ton of new music on the horizon.

Thanks for reading!