Bartlepool: The Renaissance Of Battle Rap In The North East

UK battle rap is in a weird state right now. As Eurgh tucks into his Patreon-funded Nandos, Don’t Flop fades further into obscurity. Radio silence has deafened the battle rap community. A once vibrant Viewpoint has now descended into a ghost town as even Leon Ward has migrated, posting his food pictures in to the UK battle rap group instead. There’s been no uploads to the YouTube channel, no sign of Patreon subscribers receiving the rewards they’ve paid for and no mention of any events beyond Next In Line 2 – and even that is no longer branded as a Don’t Flop event.

Callum (From The Forum) left in a blaze of controversy, pulling the carpet from under Eurgh’s feet. Acting as the final domino, as everything collapsed afterwards. Now, Danny Jaqq and Ryan Morgan are taking over the Training Days brand as their own, separate from Don’t Flop. Their first card independent from the once dominant UK battle rap league boasts a packed roster – including the debut of Josiah Matrix.

I’m not so much concerned with Josiah however, as I am with his opponent. Maverick is currently considered the hottest newcomer in UK battle rap. His meteoric rise has seen him go from just one of DubScandal’s many talented battlers, to one of the premiere names on the Next In Line 2 card. It’s just an added bonus that he’s a Geordie.

Newcastle plays an understated role in the history of UK battle rap. As the home to Stig Of The Dump in his formative years as a rapper, the North East’s presence in battle rap precedes Don’t Flop. It isn’t all decade old history however, with Deffinition and Suus amongst more recent figures in the scene.

Deffinition is one of Don’t Flop’s pioneers. From his style of battling to starring in many firsts for gimmick battles we still see today. Deff is seemingly retired for good now that Eurgh messed up booking Charron’s hotel for their highly anticipated battle at Don’t Flop: Newcastle. Deff’s legacy is cemented now, from his title challenge to until recently representing at every World Domination event. You might be able to spell it, but you can’t have a conversation about North East battle rap without putting Deffintion in it.

Similarly, Deffinition’s protege Suus has cemented himself in Don’t Flop’s history books. Suus still holds the title as the youngest battler to ever compete in the UK battle rap league, in his debut against Blizzard when they were both fifteen years old (Suus was younger if we count months, and he does).

Suus has recently found himself falling back in love with battling – although the Don’t Flop controversy has put him off. Suus made his return at Don’t Flop: Newcastle picking up a bodybag win against fellow Geordie battle rapper who’s real name is also Max, Max Pepsi. The young veteran is once again battling at Dub Scandal’s Bartlepool 2 event.

Suus will be battling former King Of The Ronalds champion Kinnell. On the Monthly Mumble Podcast co-hosted by myself, Suus and 90BRO, the Geordie battler discussed the upcoming event. Suus expressed that he “needs so much notice for battling”, indicating he’s given himself “around three weeks” preparation. The rapper did admit however it doesn’t matter when the battle is confirmed he still finds himself procrastinating on writing, and instead crams last minute. In an earlier podcast, Suus discussed the possibility of battling on DubScandal, indicating that Milky was also a possibility alongside Kinnell. Whilst he’s not sure he’s making a permanent return to battling, Suus admitted he was intrigued by Bartlepool 2 because the initial event “looked really cool.”

Battle rap in Hartlepool? It sounds like a joke. How did Hartlepool, of all places, become a hotspot for a battle rap event? It might have something to do with the fact that the best up-and-comers in Dub Scandal hail from the North East.

Joining Maverick, Conman Curve and Kofi have also impressed. Conman recently made his debut on UKBL, whilst Kofi has battled a couple of times on Don’t Flop. Having sat in lectures with Conman Curve at University – its good to see his degree has had just as much effect on his career choice as mine. I would have never guessed he even liked hip-hop, nevermind would emerge as one of UK battle rap’s hottest newcomers less than a year after we graduated.

“I stumbled across battle rap from a co-worker recommending Don’t Flop to me,” Conman says, explaining his inspiration to get involved with battle rap. He continues: “I started with Rizzle vs Ceezlin and enjoyed how different it was to what I expected. This was no ‘8 Mile’, this was funny banter. Over time, I adapted to lyricism, harder-hitting punches and rhyme structure and my ears learned how to decipher battles more. Several years later I started going to event, made new friends who were battlers along the way, and figured ‘You know what, why not?’”

Why not, indeed. Conman’s stepping into battle rap has proved a sucessful ‘why not?’. He continues, “DubScandal became an outlet as I had connections with a few of the lads, and within a small handful of battles I’m not helping to organise my own events. Currently four battles in the pocket, I’ve experienced and learned an awful lot, from bodybagging to choking, and it’s truly been an eye-opening experience that I want to carry on. The ‘Curve’ in my name links to the learning curve of battling, and with every battle and event I keep learning more.”

Bartlepool 2 obviously comes after the initial Bartlepool event. Conman credits fellow North East battler Kofi for the creation: “The first Bartlepool event was totally inspired by Kofi. He has an excellent way of communicating and making strong bonds with people within the culture, and that has led to incredible opportunities for himself, the league, and me by association. Literally taking place in Kofi’s back garden, Bartlepool 1 saw a blend of battles, barbecue and booze, and was all round an excellent vibe. I was in the main event battle of the day and gained a lot of positive response from big names in the UK culture, and that has really helped me to drive me on.”

No longer taking place in Kofi’s backgarden; Bartlepool 2 is located in an abandoned ambulance depot. Conman says he and Kofi “have sweated and grafted to add some luxuries for on the day. We’re hoping for this one-off event to be a special one, and the visuals on cam of the venue will look great.”

Conman is expecting Bartlepool 2 “to be head and shoulders above the first event.” Considering the line-up, it’s easy to see why Conman is so confident in the event’s success. DubScandal favourite Milky takes on Carbon in one main event whilst aforementioned Geordie, Suus, takes on Kinnell. In what will likely be the stand-out battle from the event, J-Short will go toe-to-toe with DubScandal’s biggest challenge to Maverick’s throne in Acre.

The rest of the card is secret. Conman explains: “We decided to do something different with a ‘secret card’ where the battles will be announced just prior to their taking place. Expect the returns of a few familiar faces, some new to the league and DubScandal’s first 2-on-2 battle.”

As battle rap in the North East finds itself in the midst of a renaissance, Bartlepool promises to be a memorable event. If you’re lucky enough to have received an invitation to the exclusive invite only event, you could be part of a classic that will add another claim to the North East’s place in UK battle rap history.

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