One of the core fundamentals of Hip Hop is battling. Battling within Hip Hop at first, saved a lot lives; it replaced the violence that took place on the streets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living in a fantasy world of peace and love and candy floss, people were still having beefs, getting hurt or losing their life, but with the introduction of Hip Hop, people now had a choice. These choices were linked to opportunities for a better future and a more fruitful life.
Covent Garden, in the early 1980s was no Bronx, but was the Hip Hop Mecca in England. People from up and down the country were coming to London which was the hub of activity for this new found underground culture. The culture was spreading like wildfire. People and crews would come to Covent Garden just to make a name for themselves and climb the social ladder.
There were names and crews that were considered dangerous to battle, at the time, underground celebrities like, Dolby D, Mark Monero, Danny Francis, Dennis Charles, Cutmaster Swift, Billy a.k.a Spider a.k.a D.J Biznizz, Pete Pervez, Flipski, Halit, Scotty, Milton and the amazing Breaker King. These names and plenty of others circulated around Covent to remind you of your position; if you had one. Crew names were also a form of tension at that time. Zulu Rockers, Popping Wizards, Sidewalk, S.A.S, Rock City, Broken Glass, Live 2 Pop, Live 2 Break, London All Stars were merely a few of the crews in and outside of London that were making a lot of noise.
Battling is what made you practice hard, to strive for perfection in your art, be it graffiti, D.Jing, M.Cing, popping or breaking. Whatever it was that you did, you had to practice and test your armoury against those of the same calibre. Your aim was to take out your opponent by being more skilled, more inventive, more creative, more vicious, more raw.
This form of confrontation is what filled clubs. Two people, two crews, it didn’t matter; as long as you heard they were there to battle, you had to be there. The one who capitalised on this fact was the ever-present Tim Westwood. Westwood used to have a column in Blues and Soul called Zulu Message, as well as a radio show on L.W.R (London Weekend Radio). He would write in his column or announce on his show that such and such were going to battle at his next gig, and being a form of Don King within the corridors of Hip Hop, he would get the numbers he was after, to create a buzz at his gigs. Everyone was happy, you and your crew got your name out there and Westwood got his punters.
As time went on that buzz wore out, but for some, like yours truly, that buzz never left my blood stream. There are still feuds that go on to this day, like that of Dolby D, Halit and Pete Pervez. This bad blood has been running between these three icons for more than two decades, that’s like a generation, or thereabouts. Pete and Dolby met up recently (October ’09) to settle old scores. Who won? Doesn’t matter, what matters to me is that these two legendary B-Boys, in their 40s, met to do battle in an old-school way and the buzz that was created made shivers go down my spine. I felt like I was 13 again.
This is what is needed in modern Hip Hop. Battles, where no one gets hurt, where it is all about pure God-given skills, which creates an electric atmosphere in clubs, knowing a circle will form, knowing there is no prize money or trophy involved, just unadulterated props given from the main judges, the crowd. Win or lose, you get to go home, rest, and then sharpen your skills, just in case you and your rival meet again or you meet with some next cat waiting to brush you and take your spot.
Unfortunately the majority of the general public has an overall negative picture of Hip Hop nowadays. Vandalism, drug taking / peddling, gun toting, excessive bling wearing, bitch calling, nigger calling, youth murdering, jail dwelling. Can we be perceived any more negatively? People with inflated egos that don’t know how to take criticism and resort to violence don’t represent Hip Hop in its original format. For those of you who think that I hold an old fashioned view of what Hip Hop is, maybe you’re right; it is old fashioned, but what Afrika Bambaataa started was something positive for people of all races and cultures, shouldn’t we honour that. Shouldn’t this culture be an alternative to the negative foolishness we face everyday on a global level. We have a choice.
My name is Basil Pepperpot