This past week, the entire world witnessed a tragedy in Hip Hop music. There was a rap battle between Canibus and Dizaster at the King of the Dot event on June 9th. For all of the fans that saw what went down, they were completely shocked. Canibus was "freestyling" by reading off of a notepad! The Attitude Rap battles have always been a show-and-prove type of scenario for any rapper that wants to make a name for themselves. It's always been about bragging rights and has shuttled many emcees onto much greater things in the music business. It's always been an event that could be witnessed pretty much anywhere - in the park, on rooftops, back alleys, at home, at a party, and of course, on a stage. There has always been an attitude of sorts from all the competitors, one that brings cleverness and fear at the same time. Even though there are plenty of female rappers that battle, it's mainly been a male-dominated activity that always brings an alpha attitude with it. The Rules The thing with freestyle battles is that there aren't really any rules. Well there are, but they're more unwritten rules, which every rapper knows, or should know. One of those rules is to go off the top of your head, not recite written rhymes, and especially don't READ your written rhymes in plain view of everyone attending. Canibus did just that. He read his rhymes and the reason why it shocked most people isn't just that he did that, but it's also because it's Canibus - an emcee that has been known to be ferocious on the microphone, especially back in the day when he went toe to toe with LL Cool J in their music. Why did Canibus do it? Nobody knows except him and he hasn't really come right out to tell the real side of the story, but we have seen some (apparently) fake website that claims to be Canibus telling us what went down. A Lost Era What this all comes down to is something that I've been meaning to write about for quite a while now, and this whole Canibus fiasco was just enough motivation I needed to finally write. What happened to rap battles? They used to be amazing! Rappers would square off live on stage in front of a hyped crowd and literally just spit rhymes right off the top of the dome AND have a DJ spin instrumentals (and sometimes cut back and forth) while they were rhyming! How dope is that? Sometimes we would also see rappers throwing in words or entire rhymes about something that their opponent was wearing or how they looked, or possibly even mention items they would see in the crowd like someone's baseball cap. Today's "Battles" All of the above mentioned is completely gone. One of the main things that is a huge turnoff for many hip hop fans, including myself, is the fact that it's not even a rap battle anymore, it's almost like poetry. You have two "rappers" standing there among dozens of people and they're just talking. Talking! They're not even on a stage, they're just there in a room with people huddled around them and they're trying to insult and make fun of their opponent by talking and making a few words rhyme. There's no timing, no music, no DJ, no style, and no flow whatsoever! I'm sorry, but this is not a rap battle - far from it. This is just two people standing there talking to each other, waiting for a bunch of "ooohs" and "aaahs" from the people attending. Pathetic. If you really want to impress people and have a real battle, then re-read the "A Lost Era" section above. Conclusion I would really like to get the opinion of rappers like Rakim, KRS-One, or Supernatural and see what they think of all of this. It's one thing for this to go down with today's youth because they must have grown up thinking this is the way a rap battle works. If this is how they think, they are sadly mistaken. It may not be their fault but whether it is or not, the only way to get rid of this type of battling is to bring back REAL battling.