Don’t Flop – Raise The Bar – Review

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Raise the Bar, the very first event of 2014, hosted by the ever so jolly Mr. 13 and the ever so charismatic Bamalam was an amazing start to the year for UK Battle Rap, having nothing but UK vs UK on the card. (Bar Cojay. Fuck Cojay.)

The event ran smoothly and on time, which was a first and there was no tense atmosphere between the staff which is a great look considering how much drama went on behind the scenes a few days before the event. Eastendeurghs.

The event kicked off at 1:15pm with a tryout clash between Ackers and Kachi, which for a tryout battle, was really sick. Ackers had some great bars with some decent references and Kachi had a comfortable presence and a nice flow. Ackers needs to sort out his “battling posture” so to speak and Kachi needs to work on projecting, he had a very quiet voice which probably couldn’t be heard from the stage. Mos Prob was most likely tearing his hair out at the fact Kachi had a slogan for every round. God, does no one read the blogs?

We then dived straight into EMC vs Phraser, which is one of the main clashes I was really looking forward to. I’d never heard of EMC before this battle but I’d certainly heard of Phraser. I’m surprised he even had enough time to write for this considering he had to write for all the battlers at Blackout 4. Phraser is certainly renowned within the UK Battle Rap scene, having been exposed in many battles as a ghost writer and a bloody good one at that. EMC held up his own against Phraser, coming with hard hitting punches, decent projection and a nice flow but Phraser counter acted that with great multis, a fucking awesome Lawless reference and general presence.

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After these two battles, there was a 45 minute break which I spent (naturally) in the chicken shop. Shout out to Chicken & Kebab junction every time, your “bergers” are delicious.

Next up was Soapbox’s very own SleepyGee vs Integ, the guy who lost to the horse molester in Hampstead Heath. After hearing SleepyGee’s material before battle, I struggled to even think how Integ could get close to beating him. Integ is still stuck in the transition phase of being a rapper and a battle rapper; too many indirect bars give your opponent the upper hand. Although saying that, Integ had an incredible scheme about grime and East London, breaking down SleepyGee’s love for grime. SleepyGee’s delivery was rather weak when he went up against Bard, but the jump between that battle and this battle, delivery wise, was almost Super Saiyan.  SleepyGee completely styled on Integ. I won’t give too much away as the battle hasn’t been released yet, but SleepyGee most certainly deserves some lower-mid tier battlers after this performance.

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And then along came Cojay vs Krayze, which was the battle I was looking forward to the most throughout the entire day, both of these being in my Top 10 and what I personally thought deserved to be the Top 8 final. Both of these battlers have stepped up massively since their tryouts. Cojay cut out the filler and so did Krayze. Both of these battlers went from being stuck between the transition phase of rapper and battler, to being full blown battlers that could handle mid tiers. Both of them were direct and just kept gaining momentum. Cojay also spat a Danny Jaqq bar, which made Danny Jaqq sad, which in turn made me very happy. This was probably battle of the day for me and I will most certainly be watching this battle back.

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The fire starter versus the brew master. Bleek vs Locksmyth. The battle that had been rescheduled from Set the Standard X, 10, whatever you want to call it to Raise the Bar. There must have been some kind of beef I was unaware of, as Locksmyth rarely battles, only having battled twice for Don’t Flop and one of those times was in a 2v2 with the current champ. This was actually a very good battle. Locksmyth showed that he can battle, very well. Surprising myself and other fans at the event, he stormed this battle with multis, presence, projection and bars. He even managed to make Firts spill his drink. Dude has got some next level Beer-kinesis going on. Bleek also did well, having some mad bar about Michael Schumacher which got the crowd hyped.

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Dekay vs Dotz, a one year anniversary (so cute) freestyle battle which made a nice change to the usual written battles. It wasn’t in the style of a grab bag, but with Cruger’s laptop and a slide show. Whatever image came up, they had to free about. Two rounds of 90 seconds each and then one round of 4 bars back and forth. I was genuinely surprised at how well she did against him. Dotz is a renowned freestyler in the UK scene and is rated very highly within the community for his ability to freestyle. Dekay is also a renowned freestyler and also goes against the norm of battlers being male. This was a highly entertaining clash. Both of them had some absolute hilarious bars.

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And then the most entertaining battle of the day, Mos Prob vs Big J. Big J had already been bodied by Mos Prob’s fianceé and it’s only right that Mos Prob had a chance at doing so too. Big J came with same style he normally comes with: single syllabic rhymes and hilarious jokes and Mos Prob came with the same style he normally comes with: integrating intelligent jokes into bars. This was probably my second favourite battle of the day, mainly because it was Mos Prob’s last battle for the foreseeable future. Jokes aside, this was an amazing battle, a lot of people complained about this match up, but they both proved the naysayers wrong. This battle has a lot of rewatchability factor. I’m trying not to spoil anything so wait and see…

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And then my two drug runners, Money Mitch and Tali clashed. Of course I was on the end of some inevitable jokes from most of Team 13 but I can’t complain. I really enjoyed this. Both of them are street battlers so it made for an interesting contrast to the rest of the battles of the day. Tali had some mad football schemes and Money Mitch had some great bars in general. Tali also called Money Mitch, Money midget, which made me laugh a lot. I’m only joking, please don’t stab me.

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Then the last battle of the day, Bamalam vs Mr Re. This was Bamalam’s final battle and he certainly went out with a bang. Probably THE best I’ve seen Bam. His calm and collected way of spitting negated Mr Re’s  aggressive cadence and intimidating style of battling. He also had some mad scheme about Lunar C and werewolves. It was awesome. Mr Re had multis for days but this performance felt weaker than his previous performance, against Cojay. This battle was video judged and I’m really interested to see what the selected judges had to say about it.

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Overall this was a very strong event and a great start to the year for Don’t Flop and I’m looking forward to Raise the Bar 2 next month! Thanks for reading, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Words by Callum Martin (@callum__martin)

Event photography by Charlie Hyams (@charles_hyams)

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