“[Spanish-language] battle rap is snowballing in methods we by no means imagined,” muses Mexican hip-hop purveyor Serko Fu. Rolling Stone encountered the Master of Ceremonies earlier this month on the 12th installment of Batalla de los Gallos, the world’s greatest Hispanophone freestyle competitors, situated in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Founded in 2005, after the success of the Eminem-starring blockbuster eight Mile, this 12 months’s celebration arrives throughout a pivotal second for the artwork of freestyle in Ibero-America, particularly as urbano music goes more and more international. “It’s turn out to be a really cool motion that has surpassed all expectations, and now there are numerous generations entrenched in it,” says Serko Fu about batallas, or battles between freestylers, which initially derived from the slums and public parks of Latin America and Spain. The Durango native has been concerned with Gallos since its inception, enjoying numerous roles equivalent to decide, host, and cultural ambassador.
The annual occasion, sponsored by Red Bull, pulls collectively 16 of the illest, most good improvisational wordsmiths of the Hispanosphere to compete for the perfect lyrical face-off. Held in Club Hípico — an equestrian subject the place gauchos have flaunted their horse-riding prowess for over a century — the country area is remodeled into one huge throwdown, boasting over 10 thousand attendees and a million viewers tuning in through livestream. This 12 months notably sees some of the intense cyphers as pundits witness the two most buzzed-about freestylers go toe-to-toe for a second 12 months in a row.
“Vas a ser el ridículo, ¡cuando ni en tu propia casa no puedas quitarme el título!” ferociously spits Mexican veteran and reigning Batalla champion Aczino, in opposition to Argentine rapper Wos on this 12 months’s last spherical: “You’re going to ridicule your self, and even in your hometown you can’t take my title!” The fast-rising younger gun Wos faces his opponent — the person who defeated him in Mexico City final 12 months. This time, nevertheless, the tables have turned because the 20-year-old competes in his native Argentina — and he’s armed with a circulate that’s charged with ardour, resonating along with his fellow Porteños in attendance. “Aunque pierda, esta gente se va a llenar de orgullo. Esa es la diferencia entre mi país y el tuyo,” Wos backlashes — and a seemingly omnipresent roar unleashes from the plenty. “Even if I lose,” he shouts, “My folks will replenish with pleasure. That’s the distinction between my nation and yours.”
Before the Batalla touched down on the cosmopolitan capital of Argentina, earlier worldwide duels occurred in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. “Although the motion wasn’t actually established, the scene already existed in numerous elements of Latin America and Spain,” explains Serko Fu. Such was the case of the graffiti-adorned neighborhood of Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl (or Cd. Neza, as locals say), the place Aczino is from. Born Mauricio Hernández González, the 27-year-old emcee is among the many type’s pioneers. At 12 years previous, he started consuming a strict food plan of Iberoamerican hip-hop throughout its first large increase into the continent within the mid-Aughts.
“I started cultivating my music library shopping for bootleg hip-hop albums in my native flea market,” Aczino recollects. “Back then there wasn’t YouTube. Maybe you might obtain a track from Ares, however that might take like three days, and I didn’t have a pc. So I needed to wait on a precise day of the week by that sales space to purchase my albums. One day I couldn’t discover what to purchase, I requested, ‘What’s new?” The vendor stated, ‘Here are these Batallas de Gallos that occurred in Spain. They improvise in a battle, like in that film eight Mile with Eminem.’ I purchased it, and that’s the place I heard how actual battles gave the impression of. From there I grew to become hooked.”
“The launch of eight Mile introduced battle rap to the mainstream in every single place,” affirms Serko Fu. “Red Bull was among the many first manufacturers that started to do issues with hip-hop in Mexico. It began in native parks, and DJs spinned beats as rappers battled,” he describes. “With the arrival of the web and YouTube, rap battle grew to become a global craze.” With the globalization of the world huge net, the improvisational type reached unprecedented heights.
Valentín Oliva, who famously goes by Wos, got here into the rap battle scene proper on the cusp of the web explosion, batallas’ second increase. He particulars the initiation of the motion in Parque Rivadavia in Buenos Aires: “There was this group that organized batallas in a plaza close to my residence, however occasions have been uncommon and it wasn’t that huge. If there was a contest, 50 of us would present up on the most, and that was quantity.”
At 14 years previous, Wos received his begin at Quinto Escalón in 2012, the identical 12 months that competitors launched. “When a video [of a battle] was uploaded, it could get round 10,000 YouTube views on the most. Two years handed and a pair of,000 folks confirmed up at Quinto Escalón, with movies boasting over 20 million views on YouTube,” he says. As freestyle skyrocketed additional with the assistance of the net, El Quinto Escalón grew to become a youth-led phenomenon. “I finished competing for 3 years, however after I returned in 2016, the motion had absolutely exploded,” Wos explains.
Before finalists enter the annual worldwide battle, they first need to win their regional competitors, after which the nationals. In the Red Bull Peruvian nationals, 26,000 folks confirmed up in 2018, which is the biggest but when it comes to attendance. “It was like an excellent mega live performance,” describes the winner of that nationwide competitors, Jaze. “The variety of folks current that day won’t even quantity to a Das EFX or Nas live performance, and I like these two. For this worldwide, tickets offered out within the first two hours which is unbelievable. It has grown extra between 2012 to 2016 than from 2005 to 2012,” he factors out.
Today, the artwork type is more and more being polished, and there may be extra complexity every time. Whether finalists need to circulate acapella type utilizing objects they pull from a thriller field, persuade viewers behind a podium why they need to be “elected” as finest freestyler in marketing campaign style, or circulate utilizing a sequence of random phrases thrown at you, it’s creating a variety of prospects for this inventive self-discipline. “These are issues that you just by no means would’ve imagined within the first batallas. The codecs which were created alongside the best way have now turn out to be common to freestyle,” says Serko Fu.
Arkano, who gained the worldwide Batalla de los Gallos in 2015, and earned a Guinness World Record for freestyling for over 24 hours, believes that a part of its success is as a result of the platform enlists passionate consultants and insiders of the rap scene. “The most essential factor is that Red Bull is doing it with out perverting the message, and with out making an attempt to alter what freestyle is,” he affords. “They select folks as judges who’re contained in the hip-hop motion. I feel that’s why it’s perceived with purity, and that’s why it’s been so profitable.”
2018 was the truth is a rematch of epic proportions; a battle that adopted one 12 months of intense anticipation as 2017’s Batalla noticed the quick-witted Mexico dweller slay the Argentine rhymester by cut-throat wordplay. “¿Este es el que decían que period extraordinario?”/“This is the one they stated was extraordinary?” spat the Mexican millennial finally 12 months’s last spherical, earlier than continuing to assault the Gen Z rapper with an iGeneration diss. “Ratas digan lo que quieran en los comentarios. No pueden subir para defenderte al escenario,” he spits. “Trolls can say what they need within the feedback. They can’t climb on stage to defend you.”
Aczino was only a hair away from breaking a file as two-time Gallos champion, earlier than 5 judges finally granted Wos the worldwide title. And although the viewers confirmed their boundless help for his or her native champ, in addition they demonstrated mad respect for Aczino as they chanted his identify in unison. “Ultimately, this can be a sport. One day you possibly can win, and the subsequent day you possibly can lose, and with the identical individual,” Aczino informed Rolling Stone days previous to the ultimate showdown. “Before, we didn’t know freestyle was like this. We used to assume that if I gained, I used to be higher than you eternally. Or for those who gained, you have been higher than me eternally. But we every have our ability, and we every proceed to evolve that ability.”
Batalla de los Gallos has made stars out of city youngsters. It retains pushing their linguistic prowess in unprecedented methods by new types of leisure — with out them jeopardizing their artistic essence, or working the danger of promoting out. “We used to see ourselves much less valued due to the problems of ‘I’m not charging as a result of it’s a avenue battle,’ ‘How am I going to have a supervisor and contract?’ or, ‘How am I going to be with a model?’ Red Bull has eliminated these stigmas as a result of their method is actual,” says Aczino. “It’s not about profiting from a tradition at its peak, or prostituting one thing that was already performed. In truth, they’ve needed to do so much with its progress. They noticed one thing with nice potential and gave it the help it wanted to turn out to be what it’s at present.”
All interviews have been initially carried out in Spanish.