/Watch Me Prove It
One of the aspects I’ve always appreciated about hip hop is the confidence needed to be a rapper. Of course, I wasn’t always a rapper and I wasn’t always confident. I was way more into programming, hacking, and WaReZ before the thought of writing a rap ever came to mind.
I used to write all kinds of tools for AOL. Server, mass mailers, phishers, punters, etc. One of the kids I programmed with, whose handle was Python, was really into hip hop and would send me songs and artists to check out. One day he sent me an email with a rap verse he had written about how his code was better than mine. I lauged it off (clearly I was more 1337) but he kept bugging me to write a response. This pushed me to get better at coding, hoping to shut Python up with an awesome function/module/program.
Finally I caved just to get him off the subject and back to writing code. I wrote a verse, sent it off, and didn’t give it any more thought. Python continued to send me verses and continued to talk trash until I’d send one back. This pushed me to get better at writing, again hoping I could shut him up with one ultimate delivery. Around the same time, I found and started watching Yo! MTV Raps. One night, I saw the video for 4, 3, 2, 1 which featured a verse from Canibus. The start of the verse from Canibus opened my eyes to how expressive you could be with lyrics:
“I’m the illest [censored] alive watch me prove it,
I’ll snatch your crown with your head still attached to it”
Mind = blown. This set me down a path seeking out any rappers I could find that had exceptional wordplay and concepts in their rhymes. I found people like Chino XL, Keith Murray, MC Juice, Supernatural, and more. Napster came out around that same time, and I grabbed every mp3 I could find — starting with those artists then fanning out on artists they featured or were featured with, and traversing from there.
Sometime after that I started going to the weekly hip hop night in Cincinnati with my aforementioned friend Brian. They had freestyle battles at the end of each night that were incredibly entertaining. Somebody at one of the nights told me about Scribble Jam, an annual festival that happened in town. The freestyle battles I saw there were unparalleled.
Freestyling was so impressive. These rappers were clever and witty right on the spot with what was happening at that moment. Eventually I worked up the courage to give it a try… and lost. Definitely not as easy as they made it look on stage. Like previous failures, this pushed me to get better at freestyling so that I could actually compete and win battles (which I went on to do).
Battling hasn’t appealed to me for a long time and the scene for it has changed significantly over the years. But it’s always fun to look back at the experiences and think about how it gave me confidence to continue with and improve at rapping. I’m not as angry or aggressive as Canibus or other battle rappers, but I am pretty happy with the hip hop we’ve made. At least now I have the confidence to lose to myself.