Five Scottish Rap Battlers Worth Watching in 2017
Scotland is rarely recognised as a hotbed of battle rap talent, even within a UK context.
It’s not entirely surprising when you consider the differences in culture: our battlers tend to have stronger accents, a darker sense of humour and are seen as more old-fashioned due to their emphasis on jokes over wordplay.
Still, several Scottish rhymers have made their mark over the years. Glasgow veteran Respek BA had a reputation as a legendary freestyler years before he even made the bulk of his albums.
Elsewhere, Gasp & Depths managed to get to the final of Don’t Flop’s first doubles tournament all the way back in 2010. Big names in the Scottish scene like Loki, Louie and Silvertongue were also active on the battle circuit before they began to concentrate more on music.
But the only Scot who’s gained international attention specifically for battling in recent years is Soul, whose heavily technical style has won everywhere he’s battled from America to Canada to South Africa.
The Fife battler’s ascension to the Don’t Flop throne in 2015 put the spotlight on Scotland once more. And though he’s now lost his title, he’s inspired a whole new wave of battlers to step up:
For fans of: Caustic, Sensa, Soul.
Mackenzie is the stereotypical Scot for many reasons: he’s ginger, he’s loud, and he couldn’t care less about political correctness.
Stylistically, the way that he constructs his rhymes isn’t wildly dissimilar to Soul. But there are obvious differences in content and delivery.
As soon as he arrives on stage, Mackenzie immediately commands the audience’s attention with blunt, aggressive rhymes. His approach is to personally dismantle his opponent and he doesn’t hesitate to take shots at other battlers or even audience members mid-round.
His most controversial performances have been on the more comedy-friendly platform of King of the Ronalds, where he was previously a titleholder. He now also runs his own Glasgow-based league, IRN BRZ, where he arguably took the win against Don’t Flop rising star Cojay.
For fans of: Pedro, Possessed, Justice (AUS).
EVIL might be your bread and butter horrorcore era Eminem-inspired battler, but he’s very good at what he does. A lot of emcees can string together multis at the top of their head; few can do so with such fluidity and confidence.
Unsurprisingly, the Edinburgh emcee first made his name by winning freestyle tournaments around the country. He’s recently made the jump to Don’t Flop, where his animated approach to battling has helped him to stand out.
EVIL, or Explicit Vile Ill Lyrics, might not be the finished article, particularly when it comes to landing punchlines, but the fact that he was able to keep up with Chris Leese when it comes to syllable count is reason enough to peep his battles.
He’s not shy of controversy — he somehow managed to insult half the audience in his hometown in his Don’t Flop Edinburgh battle this year — but nobody can deny his performances are always entertaining for one reason or another.
For fans of: O’Shea, Kid Twist, Pamflit.
No, his name isn’t a reference to weed — Wee D gets his name from the fact that he’s one of the smaller battlers on the circuit.
Unlike many others on this list, he battles almost entirely in Glasgow. This is partly because he caters to his local audience — he’s even gone viral promoting battle rap in Scotland.
While it’d be wrong to dismiss Wee D as a jokes battler, especially given the quality of his punchlines, he very much follows former Don’t Flop champion O’Shea’s philosophy by not concentrating on “intricate wordplay and rhyme schemes”.
He’s battled the likes of Soul, Pedro and Pamflit over the years, but his more recent (and criminally under-viewed) battle with Mackenzie is a more up-to-date starting point.
For fans of: Unanymous, Psychosis Holochaust, Raptor.
Before you delve into a Scott Earley battle it’s worth reflecting on what type of battle rap you enjoy. If you’re entirely disinterested in a battler who uses local references and whose accent you can’t get to grips with, Earley isn’t your man.
If you’re looking for strong flows, delivery and aggression, you’ll get a lot out of his showings. Earley is cut from the same cloth as other UK bruisers. Fans of Unanymous’ or Arkaic’s more confrontational battles will particularly dig his no-nonsense approach.
His Don’t Flop battle with Q-Riot — another battler who’d make this list if he were more active — is probably his best performance to date. Although, it’s also further evidence he won’t be switching up his delivery to cater to English or American fans any time soon.
For fans of: Soul, Quill, Juan.
When it comes to the ‘jokes v bars’ debate, Soul is arguably the first Scottish emcee to win big doing the latter. Since then, we’ve seen an inevitable rise in the number of up-and-comers imitating this style.
Don’t Flop and King of the Dot are now nearly a decade old, and it’s worth noting that like many of his generation, Seuss has grown up watching these platforms rather than Scribble Jam freestyles or Smack DVDs.
Along with JR the Juggernaut, Makar and Ryza, Seuss is the most talented of the newest crop. As evidenced by his performances in the Don’t Flop Headhunters tournament, which he won convincingly, he’s already a comfortable stage performer who flows and projects well and has buckets loads of charisma.
Seuss balances wordplay and comedic material well and so as stylised as he might be, there’s plenty of potential there for him to find his own niche.
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ABOVE: Jonathan breaks down the Scottish rap battle scene in a video for BBC The Social. This article is to appear in a special one-off magazine on Scottish hip hop music and culture. For more content go to www.scotlandstandup.co.uk.