Battle of the Lyrics – a short tribute to Old School Hip-Hop

YOU’RE UP! It’s your time to shine. Take a deep breath and let the lyrics flow from the depths within you. The first flow of lyrics comes out of your mouth smooth … just how you’d planned … no need to rush. The crowd start nodding their heads in approval. The second flow of lyrics flying off your tongue are hard and dirty. You planned it that way … start off smooth then hit it hard and dirty. The crowd start to cheer whilst bobbing their heads to the lyrics you are flinging back at your opponent. Someone in the crowd starts Beatboxing. Spurred on by the deep bass beatbox, the third flow of  lyrics comes spewing out your mouth. You feel droplets of sweat running down your back as you relentlessly fired out harder and dirtier lyrics. The lyrics are personal … his mum gets mentioned and his lack of lyrical skills are highlighted during your assault. The crowd laugh, the beatbox continues and your opponent is rooted to the concrete speechless and bewildered. The Freestyle Battle. The battle is only for the brave. Your opponent paid the price for slack, loose lyrics. His delivery was poor, his lyrics were the same ones he’d used previously and now he’s standing there rooted to the spot, sweating … looking like a beaten down punk.

You heard that a guy from Def Jam Records was in the crowd. You hoped you impressed. Freestyle battling on the street is good but that ain’t gonna put food on the table. You’re young and hungry … you want to be snapped up by one of the big record labels. You go home and fling Critical Beatdown on the turntable. You inhale Kool Keith’s lyrics whilst kicking back with a fat one rolled up. The track ‘Ego Trippin’ comes pounding out the speakers … your favourite track. You bob your head whist continuing to inhale Kool Keith’s tight flow.

 

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Flick through the record collection … JVC Force … you consider it but tonights not the night to do damage. BDP … maybe but KRS One is maybe a bit too full on right now. Ice T … not quite right for tonight but this cold rapper is living proof that rhyme certainly pays. Public Enemy … Chuck is cool but tonight it’s a no to Yo Bum Rush the Show. Just-Ice is a strong contender … Kool and Deadly is raw and dirty … maybe that’s what’s needed to get in shape for the next freestyle battle. Flick through some more … Run DMC, EPMD, LL Cool J, Doug E Fresh, Stetsasonic, Steady B, NWA, Mantronix … yes Mantronix! No rhymes just beats for tonight as King of the Beats pounds out of the speakers. It’s a good choice … the right choice … a break and much needed rest from the lyric slinging.

 

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The sun slowly goes down. You stare out the window blurry eyed and consider what tomorrow will bring. Who’s up next in the freestyle battle? Will you get that call from the record company? Today was a good day … you won the crowd and kept things tight … but tomorrow is another day and things can flip … one day untouchable but the next day verbally slapped down in the freestyle concrete jungle. Still you know the battle must go on … the stakes are high. You feel your eyes shutting. Mantronix is no longer pounding out the speakers. All is silent. A smile appears on your face as you mentally rewind to the earlier battle. It was a good day.

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Retro Reflect

What does retro mean to us? It’s a question I’ve been considering for the past few weeks. To many of us it could mean spotting a Ford Granada cruising down the street … having recollections of when you were once the proud owner of one of those 4 Star leaded petrol guzzling beasts. It could mean putting on an old record (maybe an LP … 33rpm), sliding it onto the turntable, then hearing the crackle of needle connecting with vinyl  before the first song rumbles out of the speakers. It could even mean sliding into a pair of Flairs or Bell Bottom Jeans.

Whilst considering retro (the Why, What and How’s) the thought suddenly struck me … retro is all around us! We are surrounded by retro … we can’t avoid it. Retro is like like a ghost … we may think it was killed off many, many years ago but the retro spirit still floats around in our homes, shops and on us! There’s no escaping the spirit of retro.

This spirit was evident to me a few weeks ago. It all started on the high street when my partner and I went into a shoe shop. As I strolled around breathing in the the fresh aroma of leather and rubber, I saw a cluster of retro ghosts displayed immaculately on the shelves … Adidas Samba, Adidas Gazelle, Puma Roma and ghostly brands such as Diadora, Gola and Dunlop. I stood rooted to floor and starred. ‘Didn’t we bury these lot back in 1984?’ Credit due … for training shoes that were resurrected from back in the 80s, they looked pretty stylish.

 

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On another occasion, I noticed a ghostly retro spirit parked in the car park about 6 cars away from my modern motor. This particular ghostly spirit sat proudly between the parking lines. Again I was rooted to the ground as I starred at the Ford Cortina. ‘Didn’t we lay the Cortina to rest back in about 1985?’  Just at that moment the owner of the ghostly Cortina approached. I smiled at him and said ‘Nice car man’. The owner was a slim guy who looked like he had just been let loose from 6th Form. ‘Thanks man’ was his reply before he jumped in, slammed the door and started up his retro motor.

Whilst on the subject of cars, the Fiat 500 comes to mind … Funky, Chic, Sexy and Uncomplicated … retro-ness engulfed in coolness. Again the thought came to me … ‘I’m sure this vehicle was put to rest back in the mid 1970s?’ I did a quick piece of research and my suspicions proved to be correct … it was put to rest in the mechanical graveyard in 1975 but sightings of the resurrected ghostly spirit began in 2007!

 

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I recently went into a local electrical/domestic appliance shop and I honestly felt I was being whisked into the 1960’s. Toasters, Fridge Freezers, Kettles, Cookers, Washing machines … all with retro designs!

I’ve even gobbled up some retro food recently … Rum Babas. Let me explain. I first came across Rum Babas back in 1987 during my time at Baking College. I loved them …   sponge soaked in Rum … delightful! When I’d finished my Baking course in 1989, Rum Babas disappeared out of sight and out of the supermarkets. I forgot about them … nice whilst they lasted but good things always have a knack of coming to an end. Whilst recently in my local supermarket I spotted them … they had been dead for 28 years and now they reappear in the chilled cabinet with the posh cakes! Of course I bought some and they taste even better than they did in 1989. Rum Babas are now a regular in my shopping basket. I do ask myself the question of ‘How many Rum Babas do I need to gobble up before I fail the breathalyser test?’ Best grab an Uber to be on the safe side I guess.

While digesting all the retro-ness I’ve recently come across, I looked at myself in the mirror. I pinched my cheeks to check that I was still in the land of the living and not a ghost … luckily I think I’m still very much alive. As I continued to look at myself, I dwelled on the Afro I’ve been sporting for the last 5 years. Then I dwelled on  the Sideburns I have been sporting for the last 3 years. The conclusion … I am Retro!

Retro is all around us. It blends in with all the latest up to date clothing, household appliances and our everyday lives. Let’s face it … we live in a retro age! We like retro and retro likes us. The retro ghosts are alive and kicking but there’s no need to be afraid. Embrace the retro and ride the waves of retroness.