A rap battle — for nice people 

Six MCs bringing positive vibes to Whistler's first ever 'Compliment Rap Battle'

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - Where's the beef? Nice guys will finish first at Whistler's first ever Compliment Rap Battle, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Moe Joe's.
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  • Where's the beef? Nice guys will finish first at Whistler's first ever Compliment Rap Battle, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Moe Joe's.

An old adage beloved by moms everywhere tell us that if you don't have anything nice to say, you probably shouldn't say anything at all.

A half-dozen MCs from across the Sea to Sky and beyond will put that advice to the test at next week's Compliment Rap Battle, which asks competitors to ditch the dissing in favour of something a little more positive.

The idea came from the resort's resident rap impresario, Lozen, who took part in her fair share of local battles back in the day.

"I didn't like the energy of it. There was always this heavy undertone of negativity and hostility and pumped-up egos," recalls Lozen, born Meaghan Mullaly.

Hip hop, more than any other genre, was built on the cutthroat, competitive culture that emerged out of New York in the early '80s. As the art form matured, MCs — literally standing for 'master of ceremonies' — went from party-starting hype men to braggadocios head hunters, turning punchlines into weapons used to vanquish their foes.

Battle rap rose to even greater prominence around the turn of the century, first through several high-profile events, such as Cincinnati's Scribble Jam, and then Eminem's semi-biographical 2002 film, 8 Mile, which tells the tale of the tongue-twisting lyricist's rise through the ranks of Detroit's battle rap scene.

Today, thanks to both YouTube and hip-hop's booming popularity, battle rap has become big business. Videos from Toronto battle rap league King of the Dot regularly amass tens of millions of views and have inspired offshoot leagues from Russia to the Philippines.

In spite of its global influence, battle rappers have mostly stayed true to the subgenre's roots, using intricate, personalized insults to cut down an opponent.

That is, until now.

"I think if you're the best at insulting someone, you can be the best at complimenting somebody. We're battling with creativity," says rapper Alex "Scram" Miller, one of six competitors vying for cash and free studio time at the Compliment Rap Battle. "It's not going to make you a better rapper just because you insult somebody."

For Mullaly, who has long prided herself on giving back to the resort's music scene, the compliment battle is also a way to bring local rappers into the fold who may have been intimidated by a more confrontational format.

"Because we're so transient here, it's very hard to find MCs in this village. So me putting out the APB, there were a couple green people (interested in competing)," she explains. "Whereas I think if there was the pressure of an 8 Mile moment, with everyone looking at you and (MCs) trying to crush you, that would have discouraged some people."

Mullaly is also hosting an open cypher jam for those who want to try their hand at freestyling in a fun, welcoming environment without the pressure of a rap battle. The night will also feature a beatboxing showcase by female beatboxer extraordinaire, Cazza. Fellow MCs Finna T, Paddy Fraine, Sniper, H2Flow, and Markus Carter will join Scram on the battle tip.

The Vancouver rapper and performer had a word of warning for both the audience and his fellow battlers.

"It's six dudes getting up there and complimenting each other. So if you're uncomfortable with man-on-man love, then you shouldn't come," he urges.

"I'm just excited. And to all my competitors: You're going up."

The Compliment Rap Battle gets underway at Moe Joe's on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 9 p.m.

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