Rare Breed Ent. is one of the fastest-growing battle rap leagues, known for its innovative match ups and putting together battles most thought not possible. Here we caught up with the host and co-owner A.R.P. to learn more about RBE and how it is helping take battle rap to the next level.
The Source: How did you first get into Hip-Hop and battle rap?
A.R.P.: Like many, I grew up within the Hip-Hop culture, it’s embedded in me as part of my lifestyle. As a child I did graffiti, I did break dancing, I had friends that were DJs, we wore the baggy hip hop style clothes, it was all a part of who we are. The musical side is always the most obvious branch of the hip hop culture, and I had as many cassette tapes as I could get my hands on. From tapes like Das EFX, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, Salt-n-Pepa, everything that was poppin’ in the 80s. I was that kid with the piece of tissue in the cassette tape so you could record songs off the radio station, it’s just who we are. Battle rap is just another form of hip hop that I embraced early. Back in our school days kids use to battle in the lunchroom, in the hallways, or write raps for each other to compete. There were also a few kids that could freestyle off the head which was always crazy to me.
How, when and with who did RBE first develop?
Prior to launching the RBE company in 2013, I started out as a guy who developed a small following from tweeting battle updates. This was way before there were live PPV or VOD options unless you waited for YouTube releases you had to be there to know what happened. To this day, some of the battles I saw live back then have never been released. So I traveled all over the place to catch battles live. Oakland, LA, Toronto, Detroit, Jersey, St Louis, Chicago, and of course NY catching events and fans tuned into my twitter to get updates on how the battles were turning out. I then started blogging from a channel I called “ARP Blogs” and some of those videos was catching a lot of attention. Soon after that I partnered into a startup Battle Rap platform with a well-known radio personality and began being involved with match-up bookings. Very shortly after that my brother Shotta and I decided to do our own thing and we created Rare Breed Entertainment. We coordinated our first full event and booked match-ups breaking into the style of what came to be the “Blood Sweat & Tiers” concept where we no longer separate match-ups based on tiers, but rather remove the tiers and match-up good talent regardless of each battler’s popularity. From there we had our identity within the battle rap culture and the rest is history.
Last year was one of the biggest years for battle rap, if not the biggest, and the hype and quality around RBE’s Murda Mook vs. Aye Verb battle played a large part in that. How important was that battle in cementing RBE as one of the major players in battle rap?
It was important to the culture as a whole. It was the largest battle of 2018 and the most impactful battle in years during a climate that was dialed down at the time due to repetition and repetitive events/match-ups. The history of Murda Mook being instrumental in early battle raps as we know it in the DVD era, and then him being away from performing for so many years was a big part of why the impact of that event was so great. It literally dominated the entire summer-fall from announcement all the way through post-event debate. Also adding to that, RBE bringing back King Los and then Jae Millz who were looked at as more “industry artists”, we not only reignited the culture from our exciting match-ups, but we created a large discussion of “us vs them” which further opened the doors to fans wanting to see more celebrities and uncommon names in the culture. I wouldn’t say the moves that RBE made in 2018 cemented us a major player because we had already earned our way into the fans graces as a top platform within the culture after 5+ years of consistent quality work. But what that event and the booking of Murda Mook did for RBE is open fans eyes to what RBE has been all along, which is a platform humble enough to consistently book smaller names and reintroduce quality as a priority, but also capable of announcing some of the biggest match-ups ever at any given moment.
Do you think unlimited third rounds will need to be capped in the future (at say 7 or 10 minutes) after Murda Mook’s quality but long round vs. Aye Verb?
I’d never cap an unlimited round. One thing that is very important is to never forget how important the artistry side of our culture is. Business continues to affect all art forms, and battle rap remains one of the purest forms of art remaining in hip hop. So we have to ensure we balance artistry flexibility with the growing business side. This means someone in my position has to step back a little bit and allow an artist to perform in a manner that they feel is the direction for their artistry. For example, Hollow Da Don vs Math Hoffa had unlimited third rounds, it’s all about how the artist wants to formulate their art. In the example of Murda Mook’s third round, I think we get lost in the sarcastic joke of “I’m still listening to Mook’s third.” Its funny sarcasm and it will go on as something mentioned forever within battle rap, but as a Hip-Hop head, I never lost sight of what Mook really displayed with that 20+ minute third round. One… he displayed extreme god-given talent by being away for so long and then returning to the stage to rap 20+ mins of memorized material w/o a slip, a stumble or a choke. Not many artists can do that. Two… if you analyze his round, it’s broken down into chapters such as veganism and how his opponent may not be honest in the presentation, or veganism and its true meaning that may create hypocrisy when adopted by his opponent or his opponent’s background that questions his sexual preference. It’s not just 20+ minutes of words, it’s an all-out construct meant to make us think. Third, seeing how much anticipation and excitement Mook created, as a fan I appreciated seeing him return and give the culture so much content. He didn’t leave any room for a single battle rap fan to feel short-changed.
How can battle rap be opened up further to audiences both internationally, and throughout America? The Oxxymiron battle on KOTD vs. Dizaster was massive… and the two highest viewed battle rap leagues are in The Philippines (Flip Top Battle League) and Russia (Versus Battle) interestingly enough.
Some is tied to business. Internally our culture is lacking good business practices and knowledge to maximize our efforts. But there’s also the side of business outside our culture that hasn’t given our culture consistent large opportunities. Of course, there are fast routes with big celebrities being involved, sponsoring the platforms, or promoting us year-round. But the reality is we are a niche market and many people in positions of power outside of our culture don’t see a big opportunity to capitalize or monetize what we have yet. I had a conference call once with Dame Dash and Mook and we spoke about this very same topic. Dame being a guy who was a huge industry mogul, of course, had great advice and viable perspectives on how we could all breakthrough. Not to get into the entire conversation but one of the views is making the culture more attractive to corporate America. BUT on the flip side, some of those changes could water down the essence of what makes our culture incredible. That edgy feel we provide sometimes is a gift and a curse. Also, the content within itself isn’t an easy sell to businesses or corporations that have clean images to maintain. I mean look how massive of a company YouTube is, it’s worth almost 75 Billion. Look at the content they began to move away from years ago when they had major sponsors begin to pull out. To this very day, some of the battles rap content is flagged as inappropriate. We have more corporate acceptable platforms such as Wild ‘N Out being successful, but once again it’s a balancing act between the true art form of our culture and how the industry perceives us. Not to mention we have to keep our own back yard clean. For example, little things like our fanbase continuing to support us, not bootlegging battle rap content, the media, and the bloggers support in a consistently positive manner, us as platform owners making good decisions and doing good business, the battlers promoting the events and themselves to maximize their draw/image etc.
We recently saw a successful King Los enter the RBE stage vs. Head I.C.E at short notice. Which other so-called “Industry” rappers do you think potentially has what it takes to battle on RBE?
Definitely. To this day we can argue that King Los has the best “industry artist” performance. And for the record, I label him an artist period, not an industry artist. But when we take Canibus, Keith Murray, Fredro, Joe Budden, Cassidy, Mistah Fab etc. I think it’s pretty clear that Oxxxymirion and King Los adapted the best to modern-day battle rap and the fans were very pleased. And like you mentioned, that performance was on short notice, so I’d imagine his full potential on the RBE stage is even greater!
RBE has relatively consistently hosted female battles on your cards, how important is that to both the culture and RBE?
It’s very important. Outside of the female battle leagues we don’t see the ladies consistently booked on the male-dominant platforms. I’m proud to say that that has not been the case with RBE. From our very first card all the way to our current events, we have always attempted to keep high profile match-ups for the ladies as a part of what RBE delivers. There are many ladies in the culture that possess a lot of talent and deserve their opportunities just like the fellas do.
Following the successful ‘Closure’ event, what’s next for RBE?
We should be having our announcements start up fairly soon. One thing about RBE is we have always worked at our own pace. The pace we set for ourselves allows us to concentrate more on quality, we have never been a platform to just keeping picking names out of the hat for the sake of staying fast-paced or busy. Our pace is what allowed us to put together some of the themes and trends that are much harder to pull off. Things like all judged events, team vs. team events, the Blood, Sweat & Tiers events, or events like Closure where every battle on the card has back-story such as physical confrontations. Those cards are not easy to pull together. Typically RBE averages 4-5 events per year, we have already done 3 for 2019 including epic main events like Hitman vs. Bill Collector and Hollow Da Don vs. Math Hoffa, so we are right on track for what our fans typically expect from us. Stay tuned, we may have some exciting stuff on the way very soon.
If you had to introduce a new fan of battle rap to RBE, what battles should they watch first and why?
I’d always try to give a new fan at least three battles to cross three types of preferences. One that would fully depict the essence of showing lyrical competition, just a bar for bar battle that would make the person respect the lyrical skill like JC vs. Craig Lamar. Second a battle that gives you a confrontational vibe. Whether we admit it or not, the feeling of conflict draws us in like a Calicoe vs. Ill Will. Third would be a match to show that battle rap can provide a deep substance that depicts real-life hardships and everyday situations that affect many people within society like Daylyt vs. Ooops.
Stay tuned to RBE and A.R.P (@itsarp) to keep updated on their latest events and battles.