Drake skips Grammy Awards for Toronto rap battle
This past weekend, Toronto-based rap battle organization King of the Dot would host their biggest event to date: Blackout 5. The who's who of battle rap from around the world congregated at the historic Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the two day event.
Blackout 5 was sponsored by OVO, and if it's any indication of how dedicated they were to the event, Drake skipped The Grammy's in order to attend the Sunday night's title match. It's incredible to think that this league started in a parking lot with people huddled around one another rapping has now turned into a respected institution at the forefront of a bubbling sub-culture.
As KOTD has evolved over the years, they've gone through a bit of learning curve while moving into larger and larger venues to accommodate their growing audience. In the past, when using club-like spaces, patrons complained that unless you were close to the action, it was too difficult to hear rappers over the crowd's chatter.
These issues were completely resolved this time around - apart from those with VIP stage access, everyone else took in the show from the comfort of the theatre's seating. On both days, doors opened at 3:30pm and fans quickly filed in, giving them a chance to mingle with their favourite battle rappers, who were roaming around taking photos and selling merch.
Day One Highlights
Once the battles started all the built up tension billowed off the stage (accompanied with clouds of smoke). Highlights from day one include Toronto's own Bishop Brigante easily handling Arsonal, one of the most viewed battlers of all time. Bishop comes from an old school era but brushed the dust off effortlessly and proved that his skills translate into this era.
Another stand out battle happened during Kid Twist's battle against England's Shuffle-T, when it suddenly turned into a 2 vs 2 in front of everyone's eyes. If you've paid attention to battle rap over the years, you'll know that once in a while a fight might break out - obviously that brings attention and adds to the drama, but is something the organization would probably like to avoid.
During the first round of day one's main event, as Shotty Horrah started his first verse, some random goon walked in between the competitors and yelled something indecipherable at audience. Within seconds the guy took a few punches, one that sent him soaring off the stage. Security got involved and escorted the heckler out - the battle restarted shortly after. A video has already popped up online.
Honourable mentions from the rest of the day include 24/7's third round, Illmaculate's entire presence and the stylistic differences in the Hollohan vs T.Rex battle.
Day Two Highlights
Tickets were sold for the entire weekend, as well as for individual days - and day two's attendance was much higher. The main event between Pat Stay (current and 2x KOTD Champion) and his contender Charron did not disappoint. Prior to the battle, Drake himself added an additional $10,000 incentive for the winner.
In the end, Pat Stay's swagger and varied perfected styles were too much for Charron, who was more than deserving of this title shot. Apart from this headline, the crowd was witness to the return of Dumbfoundead, a pioneer from the USA's west coast as he picked apart Conceited. Performance of the night goes to Rone, although his battle against Big T might get overlooked on the big picture. Lastly, the highly anticipated bout between Serius Jones and Head Ice will become an instant classic.
The event was setup so that all the battlers were announced in advance, but the match-ups were kept secret from the public until show time. Before each battle, the lights dimmed and visuals of a spinning wheel with all competitor's names appeared - stopping at two names to announce that contest. This along with other suspenseful elements, give the entire thing a dramatic WWF-esque (wrestling, not wildlife) form of entertainment.
These individuals aren't simply battle rappers, but rather characters, each with their own story that adds to the big picture of the collective global battle rap community. People are already calling Blackout 5 the best battle rap event since Battle of the Bay 5 - it's going to be hard to beat, but if KOTD continues on it's upward trajectory, there's no reason why they won't outdo themselves for... Blackout 6 ?
Photos by Alejandro Santiago
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