Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Should Christians battle rap? Playdough competes in EmSee Houston - Red Bull Battle this Thursday
This Thursday night rapper Playdough will compete in the EmSee Houston Red Bull Battle at Warehouse Live. I recently caught up with the MC, a 5-time winner of Dallas’ 97.9 The Beat’s Freestyle Fridays challenge, via e-mail to get his thoughts on what can be considered a controversial practice for some Christians in the hip hop culture.
Sketch: When I interviewed you last year, we discussed battle rapping and you told me that “Some Christians have made it into such a weird thing, but at the end of the day it’s about competing and wanting to win a contest.”
But these things can get pretty vulgar, pretty fast. As a Christian, do you set limits on what you will and won’t say in the heat of a battle? If so, does that handcuff or handicap your ability to win?
Playdough: I'm not a very vulgar guy so it's pretty hard for something that vulgar to come out of my mouth. I do try to represent who I am and maintain how I want to be represented. It probably doesn't help my ability to win, but it's better exercise for my brain.
While most people would just come out and say something straight to the point, I like to dance around it a little bit more and bring home the point in a more creative way. I like to leave more to the imagination of the audience and paint some imagery rather than just coming out and saying it.
It's freestyle, though. I can't predict what I'll say and sometimes in the moment only certain rhymes come to your head. Sometimes things come out and you didn't intend the line to sound the way it did.
It's all about being in the moment and it's hard to predict what will go down. I do try to stay in a place that makes me feel comfortable with who I am and how I want to be looked at.
Sketch: I’ve actually heard of Christian rappers “reverse battling” where, instead of tossing insults and verbal jabs at their opponent, they use compliments and try to build up the person holding the mic in front of them.
What’s your take on that? If it’s just a competition and about “iron sharpening iron,” could turning the negative aspects of this activity on its ear actually work?
Playdough: This has always sounded like the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If you're talking about getting better and finding a more creative way to stay on your toes and rap about spontaneous things then I do agree that it could be an exercise to sharpen your wit.
My issue is that it's only in Christian circles because they don't want to insult someone else. At the end of the day the "building up" is just as fake as "tearing down." If you're talking about someone's shoes and flow being awful or their jeans and shirt looking really nice and very in style, it's both saying things that you probably don't think are actually true.
"Your mom is super fat" or "Those jeans look really good on you and fit your body style great" are both things that you'd say to get a response, but may or may not be true. The jab is just as false as the props. All Christians ever want to do is take something and make the "Christian" version of it. That's never creative and is embarrassing to me.
Sketch: UGK rapper Bun B will be hosting this event. As a rapper who is known in some Christian music circles, do you feel any added pressure to come correct in front of “Professor Trill” who taught a “Religion & Hip Hop Culture” class at Rice University last year?
Playdough: I want to come correct for sure, but he doesn't add any pressure to the situation for me. Game recognize game and as long as I'm doing me I'm sure I'll get respect.
As much as I'd like to kill it and impress the judges, my main goal is to impress the crowd and gain some new fans. I want people to realize I'm not just a battle rapper and that I have a catalog of good recorded music. I never look to impress one person, he's just like you and me at the end of the day.
Sketch: You appear to be the only Caucasian out of the eight contestants slotted for Thursday night’s event.
How quickly do you think your race will be referenced by an opponent as a sign of your lack of talent? Or did Eminem’s Rap Olympics showing and 8 Mile movie help shatter that perception?
He hasn't shattered a thing from what I've experienced. People won't even make fun of me being white because they actually think white people are wack. They'll say it because it's an effective way to get the crowd response.
I'd be willing to bet that something will be said about my race in the first round.
Sketch: You’re in a group called deepspace5 with a rapper named Manchild. He’s also an accomplished MC and was even asked to judge the Red Bull Battle when it made a stop in Atlanta last year.
The obvious question here is who would win if you two squared off against each other?
He's the dopest. I wouldn't want to battle him ever. He's a great friend of mine and shares in my day to day struggle more than almost anyone. He's an incredible emcee on paper and off the top. My pride would want to tell you reasons that I'm better and why I'd win against him, but if I'm being real, I don't know if I'd win.
But honestly that's how battling is. Winning one or two battles against someone doesn't necessarily mean that you're the better emcee. Not to overplay the basketball example, but freestyling is like shooting the ball. Sometimes your jumper is on and sometimes it's off. Sometimes your freestyle is rusty and sometimes it's super focused. Multiple battles on different days would probably end in different results every time.
The EmSee Houston Red Bull Battle kicks off at 9pm at Warehouse Live on Thursday, September 8, 2011. Judges/performers include: ESG, Trae tha Truth, and Alchemist. Bun B will host.
Admission is free. For more details.
Here’s a clip of one of Playdough’s less-combative raps from his new Hotdoggin’ album.