If ever there was a rule that went unwritten in the annals of hip-hop history: it is this, the only two types of rap battles that deserve to be seen are either the exceptional or the exceptionally terrible. I don’t want middle ground, mediocrity: a la trap music (something that has a dope enough beat to get on radio but no redeeming lyrical quality).
No, I want bottom of the barrel or crème de la crème. The case was the latter a few weeks back at the Battle of the Bars at the Alchemist, with flow flying wild and free, flirting between being heinously offensive and cuttingly accurate with the tension ratcheting round after round, at least four of the involved MCs deserving of the win and the 10K in cash throughout the night.
Last Thursday slid backwards to other end of the spectrum totally, with some of the most laughable lyrics this side of Nyeri that I’ve ever had the cringe-worthy experience of witnessing in person. Those in the crowd who’d gone ahead and delved deep into the belly of the substances was in for a treat, the bizarre off beat attempts and sexually divisive lyrics made for some truly incredible moments of the comedic sublime. Laughter could truly be heard at times ringing off of tent tarps and the spray painted double-decker backdrop of it all.
The insults seemed to fall flat, with one huge counter punch by one MC wishing a nasty case of gout upon his wretchedly rape-joke heavy opponent. No one deserved to win, and truthfully I left just before it was all over as I saw no need for the cash prizes being put in any outstretched hands as none were deserving.
Despite my shade, it isn’t to say that the event of Bars for Bars wasn’t a rousing success of sorts, with counter weights to the main stage were slung about the Alchemist compound, with a brutally earnest attempt at a gender debate going down in the back (the Free Thinkers events are worthy of a look every month) and a sunglasses clad DJ called Ronjey spinning out old school afro-vibes in the candelabra lit middle room.
It truly was one of the most entertaining nights that I’ve had in Nairobi recently, even the lackluster rap spitting translated into great hilarity for the true hip-hop heads littering the audience.
With the veritable artistic hits and misses and the carnival atmosphere of it all, the new Thursday night plot should begin and end inside the hipster-friendly confines of the Alchemist Bar.