It was a night in Oakland, California and the scene was lit by cameras and park lights. Friends, battlers and Battle Rap fans huddled around two emcees, Dumbfoundead and Tantrum, for what would become an important battle for Grind Time Now, a Battle Rap league that was fledgling at the time.
“When that battle broke, that’s really what made Grind Time take off, the Fresh Coast movement take off and just Battle Rap as a whole became way more global with that battle,” former Grind Time host and organizer Lush One explained to HipHopDX.
If that’s what helped launch Grind Time into what it became, it was the start of something interesting. Grind Time grew into one of the premier Battle Rap leagues in the world. With emcees like Dizaster, The Saurus, Illmaculate, Conceited and Hollow Da Don all making a name for themselves on their YouTube channel, Grind Time became an influential factor in the game. Founder Drect and partners Lush One, Madd Illz and others built the company brand but eventually saw their friendships and business relationships fall apart.
In the battle footage for Dumbfoundead versus Tantrum, Madd Illz and Lush One appear together. The two, side by side, introduced emcees that were about to go to war with words. Then friends, they likely didn’t imagine they would be the ones at odds in the end. HipHopDX recently spoke with King of the Dot’s Lush One about upcoming battle events taking place under the KOTD umbrella. During the conversation, Lush made it a point to explain his fall out with Grind Time Now and Madd Illz, opening up about what separated one of the best known teams in Battle Rap history.
Lush One Previews KOTD’s “Alcatraz” Event
HipHopDX: What is the upcoming battle you’re most looking forward to?
Lush One: At Alcatraz…as you know, we are bringing it back to The Bay and locking it down with bars. It’s the first time we’ve had a major event in the Bay area since 2010 with M.O.B., which had—in total, since it was a three-day event—over 2,000 heads come through. All the biggest names in Bay area Hip Hop came through. Had some crazy performances there. The Bay has been incredibly thirsty for a new event. We’ve been really focused on L.A., and now it’s time to bring it back home up North but still keep it connected. The whole reason that the Fresh Coast rose to prominence to begin with was based on the Bay and L.A. fucking with each other.
DX: It’s kind of a legendary venue for Hip Hop, for Battle Rap exclusively, too.
Lush One: Oh yeah, most definitely. So much has gone down. In Oakland is really where the movement rose to prominence. It’s hard. I don’t want to take anything away from L.A., which had a huge part in it as well. But this specific era of Battle Rap really did all just kind of come to a new level in the Bay. It’s real important. It’s been a long time, so people are ready.
But at the same time, we have awhile…Once you lose that momentum…Like you and Organik said in the last interview he did with you guys, it’s all about momentum and keeping that momentum going. Once you kind of lose it, you have to build it back up. So I don’t expect this next event to be bigger than M.O.B., and if you look at the card, it’s a little more modest than that. But it’s still stacked with a lot of quality and strategic matchups. Basically, our plan with the division is not just to try to bust a nut. We tryin’ to make this bitch cum multiple times. We want to keep this shit lit for years and years. That’s kind of the idea. This is probably gonna have a similar vibe to “Battle of the Bay 3.” It was the first time we actually charged for an event and brought it inside of the venue and not just on some street corner shit. It’s gonna have that vibe, but a lot of kids are gonna be real excited. The matches are real fuckin’ sick. I’m psyched on it.
DX: How has the Battle culture evolved, in your opinion, from those days of “Battle of the Bay” to the Fresh Coast movement getting its start to today?
Lush One: Honestly, there have been multiple generations that have come and gone since then. It’s completely different. The rounds are longer. The approaches are different. The crowds are bigger. It’s more intense and it’s more of a pressure filled environment. At that time, it was just us as a culture getting our feet wet and defining what it is we’re doing. Now, it’s kind of evolved beyond our control. Now we’re seeing what the re-imagined Fresh Coast perspective on this culture is.
Lush One Describes KOTD’s All Time Top Battles
DX: A lot of people believe that this battle is the best battle of all time or that battle is the best battle of all time. We just recently ran a piece with Organik’s Top 25 KOTD battles of all time. What I was wondering was, what are the top three battles of all time of any battle league and any battlers according to Lush One?
Lush One: Now, is this battles that have footage online or just battles in the history of Hip Hop?
DX: Battles in the history is dope, too. That works.
Lush One: There’s really three battles that you could look at that define the different eras of Hip Hop when you break them down in a nutshell that people look to as points of reference that are always gonna be discussed. I would have to say that what those are was definitely in the beginning Supernatural versus Juice. That pretty much was the beginning of this whole era of battling. That was the first time that battling broke beyond just the little folklore in the local page. That became something there was national attention on and people cared about it from across the world. That’s why it was really, really revolutionary. I remember mothafuckas just riding in the whip, listening to the “Wake Up Show” and trying to hear about what was going on with that beef and when that battle was going down. It was such a big deal.
As far as the Scribble Jam era, there are so many different battles and so many different points of reference. But the one that immediately stuck out in my head when you said that was The Saurus versus Justice. It’s such a testament to the skill level and quick-wittedness and how far the scene had come. That was at the height of Scribble Jam in 2005 in front of 10,000 people, the biggest budget for prize money and everything. There was a lot on the line; it exemplifies how international it is. You’ve got a kid from Australia that came out of nowhere just whacking mothafuckas with the Fresh Coast style against a Fresh Coast vet, and he winds up actually taking him out in a very debatable, close, overtime battle. That’s as good as it fuckin’ gets. I was there on the side of the stage when it was going on. When the crowd reacted, it was like bombs going off. It was like stun missiles hitting. You know? It was insane. I definitely say that.
And then you definitely have to have a battle to define this era of the written acapellas. There’s really two you have to include, in my opinion. One, obviously, [is] Loaded Lux versus Calicoe, because Loaded Lux is a pioneer that goes back to the early years of battling from the SMACK DVDs. He perfectly defines all of the different styles that are going on, the word association style that fools are rapping with and he’s so masterful at that versus Calicoe, one of the top up and comers. That battle transcended Battle Rap. It got the entire culture involved. It created memes that really circulated beyond just the battle-sphere. It had Jay-Z quoting, “You gon’ get this work.” That shit right there did huge things, so you definitely have to give it up.
But I’ma cheat and throw a fourth one in there, just because I feel like it’s important to mention Dumbfoundead versus Tantrum. It showed the clear evolution of the virality of it all. When that battle broke, that’s really what made Grind Time take off, the Fresh Coast movement take off and Battle Rap as a whole became way more global with that battle. Plus, it really shows how fucking funny Battle Rap is too. A lot of people who don’t even like Hip Hop music fuck with battles because that shit is funny. People want to be entertained.
DX: So you said you cheated and you added one. I’ll let you cheat and add one more. We have Dumbfoundead and Trantrum. We have Loaded Lux and Calicoe, and I’ll let you add one more that’s a great introduction for a reader who may not like battles.
Lush One: That’s a good one. Those are two really good ones. Just to throw it out there—because I thought it was an incredible battle, and I definitely think it deserves to be higher up in those lists that people are posting—is Pass [formerly Passwurdz] versus Hollow [Da Don]. If you’re into rapping dope, if you’re into Hip Hop, you’re gonna watch that shit. You’re gonna see two mothafuckas, hungry ass spitters, just killing it. It was definitely one of the first times an East Coast battler battled a Fresh Coast battler. But that’s a good point of reference to a new audience because there’s not too many inside jokes or inside references that’ll throw people off. It’s just a great example of lyrical dexterity and mothafuckas knowing how to rap good.
Dirtbag Dan, 100 Bulletz & Battle Rap’s Global Appeal
DX: You’ve got “Vengeance” now and then “Alcatraz” in April. In the flyer for “Alcatraz,” you show you have Caustic versus JC, Shotty Horroh is gonna battle QP and then an American versus a Canadian with Dirtbag Dan against 100 Bulletz. Can you speak to the global aspect of how different regions are coming together for battles and how you’ve seen that grow?
Lush One: Through Battle Rap, the world has become a much smaller place. It’s connected a lot of different scenes. It’s made people realize that we have people who fuck with us and that are connected to the scene in literally every region and corner of the fuckin’ world. That really started to go down in the early days of Grind Time with those Fresh Coast battles. I was flying New Yorkers out to battle. When I brought Arsonal out to battle Okwerdz at “Battle of the Bay 4,” it was one of the first times that had been done. After that, it kind of just caught the chain reaction and people were traveling all over the place. So that’s important to keep it lit.
We want to always try to have at least one Canadian from the King of the Dot league battle in each one of our Cali events. It just makes sense. We’re affiliated with King of the Dot. A bunch of dope Cali spitters are going out there. Let’s bring some Canadian fools out here, and 100 Bulletz has got offers to battle in URL recently. He has a big buzz and has been killin’ shit. He worked his way up from Ground Zero [matches], so it made perfect sense to put him up against Dirtbag Dan who’s kind of like the gatekeeper to see if fools can hang with the talent pool out here.
DX: Then you have Shotty coming from overseas.
Lush One: Yeah, we’ve been messing with Don’t Flop [Entertainment] from the beginning. [Don’t Flop co-founder] Eurgh’s a good homie. He’s been putting it down with us for a long time. We’re gonna always continue to look to the UK scene, because it’s a hot bed for lyricism and it always has been.
DX: You also have Caustic versus JC, and that’s a little bit of a clash in styles. It’s reminiscent of his last battle with John John Da Don. What do you expect from that battle?
Lush One: I look at that as a progression from Caustic getting more looks from his ultimate goal, which is conquering all fields of battling, including URL. So in order to do that, he needs to be able to show that he’s able to hang with the top guys from that circuit. He battled John John, and the general consensus seems to be that he took that battle. John John did good as well, but most people seem to think that Caustic smashed that. So it makes sense to give him another dude who’s buzzing even harder in JC. He’s got this crazy word association style. He’s pretty much one of the flavor of the month rappers who could prove to have longevity. So we’re gonna see. Is JC a flash in the pan? Does he have longevity? What’s his deal? Can he transcend and go to different formats and regions or is he a one-trick pony? Caustic is showing with this, does he have what it takes to continuously compete with the URL spitters or was his John John performance kind of just a one-time thing? If you see, a lot of dudes can have one good performance against those types of cats but then they won’t be able to time and time again consistently. You’ve gotta have different approaches and different angles to be able to do that shit.
DX: And he’s getting another shot now.
Lush One: Yeah, it’s kind of like a dot at the bottom of the exclamation point to verify how serious he is. It’s another stepping stone for him, but Caustic is just killin’ it right now.
DX: That’s a co-headlining battle event, right? You’ve got that battle and you also have Remy versus Pass.
Lush One: Yeah, those are the two battles. Remy versus Pass is very similar to Pass versus Hollow [Da Don]. Remy is a dude who is getting really known for his bars and is super underrated. Pass has always been one of the illest hardbody spitters from the Fresh Coast. I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot of incestuous bars, personal history and people violating personal space, grabbing each other or bringing up printed documents and FBI surveillance footage or whatever. It’s just gonna be dope mothafuckas rapping. Fools are psyched on it, especially to see Pass in the Bay. The thing is, these headline battles are dope, but literally every battle on the undercard is stacked. Fresh Coast spitters are battling out of towners. Fresh Coast spitters are battling each other. It’s a sick card.
Lush One On Up & Coming Emcees, KOTD’s Ground Zero Grand Prix
DX: Yeah, you’ve got a lot on your plate from “Vengeance 2” to “Alcatraz.”
Lush One: And then we have the Ground Zero Grand Prix as well.
DX: You’re doing that all over the place, right? Like it’s going on in different parts of Cali, and it’s going down in Canada…
Lush One: Yeah. It’s three cities in Canada. [It’s happening in] Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and down here in Los Angeles. A couple of weeks ago was round one. We haven’t announced who’s won yet, but we just dropped the first battle from that event [in Los Angeles] which was Ayem versus Knoeital. Honestly, all of the fuckin’ Ground Zero matches were super hot. Cats are really bringing their A game. That was always my concern with the Fresh Coast. I didn’t know when the next class was going to come along. We had the initial burst of talent. First, all of the Bay guys came. Then all of the L.A. guys came. Then we had the first class of recruits which was really successful. We got Caustic out of that, we got Pariah and a few other guys. But after that, it was real dry for a long time. I was kind of getting nervous. Now, for the first time, I see that we’re gonna be able to keep this going, because there are young cats who are actually getting dope. The pressure is breeding diamonds.
DX: So I’m gonna give you some pressure right now. I’m gonna ask, who out of that field do you see as a top dog right now…a young up and comer that you were surprised by?
Lush One: I’ll name some names that people really need to keep their eyes on in the Fresh Coast. That’s Ayem for sure. I definitely think fools need to keep their eyes on [The] Deadman, another big beast who’s doing his thing right now. If you don’t know already about J-Pro, he’s a fuckin’ monster and he’s severely underrated. He’s been at it for a long time but hasn’t been able to get his due. As far as these new-new guys, I’m looking at Lex D. Real tough. Lex D is hilarious. I call him Youngfoundead because he’s like a young Dumbfoundead. There’s a whole bunch of them. Really, all the guys in that tournament are really hot.
Lush One Says Grind Time Now Stole Money & Is “Pathetic”
DX: J-Pro has the best Lakers line I think I’ve ever heard. What was that line?
Lush One: I don’t remember, but I do know that J-Pro is a huge Laker hater.
DX: Right. So how does he have the best Laker wordplay line? I forget what it was, but it was like he put everybody’s number in the starting lineup into a line. It was the Dirtbag Dan battle.
Lush One: Okay, okay. Yeah, the thing about Pro that fools don’t realize is that—this is something I wanted to make sure that I got across to you no matter what you were talking about in this interview. One of the things that’s giving me the most confidence in sustaining what we have out here on the Fresh Coast is the fact that all the guys I’m working with in the team out here organizing behind the scenes is by far the strongest, most dedicated, most competent and easiest to work with that I’ve experienced to date. It’s been a nightmare. Mothafuckas have no idea what I’ve gone through. They have no idea about all the shit that I had to deal with Grind Time, getting fuckin’ stolen from, getting exploited and so much bullshit. But this team with me, Aspect One, Malathion, J-Pro and obviously Avocado doing all the shooting and editing and the rest of the team…DJ MIX 62. That whole squad right there is making it so that we’re gonna be able to keep this shit lit for a long time, not to mention working with the Canadians.
DX: You mentioned Grind Time right now, being stolen. How did that happen?
Lush One: I got hella money stolen from me while I was working at Grind Time. I’m still owed money from a gang of different YouTube checks that I never received. The events that are being thrown by Grind Time with money that they’re generating off of their YouTube and all that kind of shit, that’s money from battles that I fuckin’ threw. It’s money that I generated that was supposed to be given to me years ago. It’s still more and more just pissing me off. No one respects Grind Time in the battling game. They’re completely fucking shut down, but they still fuckin’ have a chance of surviving. And that’s only based on the merit of my fuckin’ hard work and my other colleagues who were smart enough to fuckin’ walk away.
Everyone who was affiliated with the company fuckin’ bounced that was doing any good. Drect, the founder, Grind Time was his fuckin’ baby and he left. Poison Pen, a reputable guy who’s been in the game for years, got the fuck out of there. Kap Callous broke the fuck out because he was getting exploited and disrespected. Kyle [“Avocado” Gray] got the fuck out of there because he was getting disrespected. All of the other divisions, the Webmaster, the whole entire fuckin’ staff was getting…it was really fuckin’ shady. That shit, kind of like, is annoying as fuck to me, but I’m not a hater. I don’t fuckin’ not want anyone to not be successful. I actually have love for Madd Illz as a person. But the way all this shit’s been going down is super-duper funny style to me, and it doesn’t even make sense. All you’ve gotta do is look at the fuckin’ numbers and how the YouTube subscribers of Grind Time have been decreasing. They’re supposed to be going up way more exponentially than they have, but they’re getting less. It takes Grind Time literally like 10 days to get the amount of views that we can get with a King of the Dot release in 10 hours. It’s pathetic. You know what I mean? It used to be the other way around. The numbers have dwindled so fuckin’ much. It’s fuckin’ crazy dude. King of the Dot’s subscribers have almost increased by 50% if not more since I’ve come on board with what I’ve brought to the table there whereas Grind Time is losing reputability.
The top 50 viewed battles on Grind Time, I set up like 45 of them, and my homie set up the other 5. Of the top 100 battles on Grind Time’s most viewed, the only one that Madd Illz actually set up himself was me versus Unorthodox Phrases. I’m sorry to go off for hella long but that shit’s just fuckin’ irritating.
Lush One Says Madd Illz Is “Like Hitler,” Calls Him “Delusional”
DX: I can tell that’s something you’re passionate about. You mentioned that you felt disrespected and that money was stolen from you. You also said Poison Pen, Avocado and Drect and others felt disrespected as well and left. What was the cause of all that disrespect? Who was to blame?
Lush One: Well, there’s only one guy that’s still there. Madd Illz is the only dude that works there. You know what I mean?
DX: So he masterminded the whole thing or was it a gradual disagreement that…?
Lush One: Well the first dude to bounce was Kap [Kallous] after “Grizzlemania 2,” which was one of Grind Time’s most successful events of all time. There was a disagreement. Basically, Madd Illz and Kap had a personal feud. They’re both from the local Orlando Hip Hop scene, so Madd Illz was always making it real hard for Kap to move within the company and shit and make shit pop. He was always trying to step on his toes, but Kap was throwing incredible events and doing way more successful shit in Orlando and Miami, which is Madd Illz’s own area than Illz was able to do, right? So then all of a sudden, when Kap was trying to get compensated for some of his work from YouTube money, Madd Illz refused to give it to him. He refused to give any money to Avocado, who actually was the guy that shot all the battles and technically owned all the footage since Grind Time never registered any of that footage back then. These conflicts went on during the middle of the releases of the battles on the Grind Time channel. Kap Kallous and Avocado both stopped working with Grind Time at that time and released the rest of the footage on Andy Milonokis’ YouTube channel. So if you see those battles, you’ll see them on Andy Milonakis’ channel. Then, shortly after that, Drect, the original founder, the real founder, left because he wasn’t feeling the direction and there was so much bullshit happening with so many different things. Then we lost the website because the Webmaster felt Madd Illz was using and exploiting him. He left because he felt he was treated unfairly. Then I left and went to King of the Dot and Poison Pen left and went to URL. It was pretty much a fuckin’ wrap after that. Everyone else left afterwards.
DX: You left specifically because you felt disrespected and money was stolen?
Lush One: Yeah, I felt money was stolen. I felt taken advantage of and exploited. I felt like this was not only happening to me but to my entire coast and my entire scene. I felt like Cali and the Fresh Coast in general were getting fuckin’ ripped off. No, I know that we were. It’s on paper.
DX: You said that you still have love for [Madd Illz] as a person. Where does that come from? If someone is stealing from you, where does the love come from?
Lush One: He knows what he’s doing. He can deny it and try to spin it and do whatever the fuck he wants, but he knows what the fuck he’s done. He knows what he’s done to me and Drect. The thing is, at the end of the day, I have love for him as a person based on the personal relationship we have as human beings. We’ve been on the road together. We’ve worked together. Even though he’s a fuckin’ pain in the ass, he does have a lot of qualities I find endearing. He is, at his heart, a good person. He’s just very, very misguided in the way that he handles [business]. He’s basically run Grind Time into the ground on some dictator shit and doesn’t even realize. He’s like Hitler. It’s like the end of World War II and he doesn’t realize all the fuckin’ missiles are descending upon him. He’s still delusional like, “No! I’m the strongest man in the world.” I feel bad for him. You know what I mean? I think he’s really fuckin’ trippin’ right now. But it’s like, he’s not a bad guy.
I’m just irritated when I hear him publicly bragging about money he’s making off the YouTube channel, which is money I fuckin’ generated. I still haven’t been compensated fully from YouTube from the past. You know what I mean? Shit like that. These are all reasons why. You know what I mean? I don’t know. At his core, he’s not a bad dude. I just want him to fuckin’ get right.
DX: From the outside, watching this whole Grind Time deal unravel, the question really is, how did one person end up with the whole thing? As you said, Drect seem like he’d be the one guy who would have eventually ended up with it. How did Illz end up with it?
Lush One: Through a lot of persistence and a lot of manipulation.
DX: Like he manipulated Drect to give him the name or…?
Lush One: By the time Drect and I were bouncing, the name and Grind Time’s value in the street was so fuckin’ low that no one would want to be a part of it or vouch for it in any way. You know what I mean? Not only that but there were talks of Grind Time owing past debts and all this other fuckin’ other shit. I was like, “You know what? Take my 33%. I’m getting the fuck away from this train wreck.” But even before then, he had owed us money. It’s like, “Dude, when are you gonna fuckin’ pay me?” “The check’s in the mail.” But the check never comes. I’m a fuckin’ Cali player. I’m not fuckin’ stupid. You know? I’m way smarter than all these cats. But it’s like, at a certain point, it’s like “Fuck.” You know?
What I’ve learned through this whole process is protecting myself and not trusting other people and covering my bases. I don’t blame anything that happened to me on anyone else because it’s my fault for allowing it to happen. If I got caught slippin’, I got caught slippin’. But I’m slicker now, and you can’t do it again.
DX: Have you spoken with Illz recently?
Lush One: Nah.
DX: So it’s kind of like dead ties now?
Lush One: It’s a dead subject because he knows what the fuck is up. We’ve talked about it numerous times. There’s nothing more to talk about. Either eventually he’s gonna fuckin’ man up and be an adult and own up to all this shit and do what’s right, or he’s gonna continue to just not be culpable and just live in a delusional fantasy. The thing about him is that he’s the type of guy that has enough people that are just little local nobodies that he’ll put on their first stage at an open mic and feel like they’re a part of his crew. He’ll always have a cult of fuckin’ blind followers that don’t know what’s up. So whatever makes him happy. I don’t even want to bring this much attention on him. Like, “Fuck, I’m on the phone with HipHopDX talking about all this shit now.” But it is fuckin’ true and it is stuff that I’ve wanted to address. But it sucks because I just know that this is the most attention Grind Time is getting in a long fuckin’ time. I know the battles that y’all post on fuckin’ HipHopDX are for sure being bought by a publicist because there’s no way in hell mothafuckas want to watch that garbage. You know what I mean? I’m not dumb.
DX: So you feel like this is not gonna have a good ending?
Lush One: I hope, like I said, I hope that Josh [“Madd Illz”] has it in him to exercise the proper integrity to do what’s right and to take care of the people that are fuckin’ helping him even have any relevance whatsoever. If it wasn’t for Drect, if it wasn’t for me, if it wasn’t for Kap, if it wasn’t for Pen, Grind Time would have always been fuckin’ gabrage. We’re the ones that made that shit pop. Everyone knows it. And all this bragging that he’s doing about Grind Time, it’s not even his work. It’d be like if you were a rich dude who inherited $20 million from your parents but you’re like, “Look, I got $20 million in the bank!” It’s like, dude, you just inherited twenty-fuckin’-million dollars. You’re Dewey McDuck.