When The Saurus became involved in the Battle Rap scene, he says the majority of the content was freestyled, or improvised in the moment. That has changed over the years, as rappers now craft predetermined rhymes before a battle. The Saurus recently spoke with TO Battle Blog about these changes.
“I know that this is going to upset people when I say this, but the line down the middle at the point where I came up in the scene, of who was freestyling and who was writing for freestyle battles, was pretty much a coastal division,” The Saurus says. “You had the West Coast dudes who had way too much pride to write for freestyle battles because they knew they would get called out for it, and then you had the East Coast definition of a ‘freestyle,’ from KRS-One or whatever, about how a freestyle is any piece whether written or off the top of the head that no one’s heard before. Which, to me, is kind of a ridiculous definition of what a freestyle is.”
Nevertheless, The Saurus says he was optimistic about the change from improvisation on the spot to prewritten bars, though many of his contemporaries felt differently.
“A lot of people were skeptical about it, the idea of people writing three full rounds for battles, but I was looking at it from a more broad perspective,” The Saurus says. “It totally levels the playing field tenfold, and you’re also inviting in such a larger talent pool of people who rap. There are so few people who can freestyle well, and I’ve always understood that, and that’s why most of the major [freestyle] events had the same people in their Final 8 or Final 4. I knew that that wouldn’t last forever, so when the written format was introduced, I was big on it, just because I knew that it was something that would be good for the longevity of the scene, and it would encourage people who are incredible writers and rappers and who have all the presence of mind to be a great battler. It’s just they don’t have the freestyle switch that so few people have to begin with. This way, the written format is offering endless possibilities for match-ups, for literally being able to present it on an even, global scale.”
The Saurus has had success in the freestyle era, as a two-time champion of the mostly improvised Scribble Jam Battle Rap competition, for example, and he’s also become a noteworthy rapper in the written format of today’s major Battle Rap leagues, including appearances in King of the Dot and Don’t Flop Entertainment.
“The evolution now is really interesting,” The Saurus says. “Everybody’s content is at such a high level right now. When the written era was first introduced, there was definitely still kind of an immature, sort of giggly type of [aspect] to it. People reacted to a lot weaker stuff in the beginning. I mean having to freestyle great lines is so hard, and then having to write them sounds like it’s going to be a lot easier, but a cappella is tough, too. You’re basically being a stand-up comedian and you have to make the audience react. And I think the crowd was a little more eager to react early because of what they were used to before, and since then, like the way it’s evolved, people get away with a lot less filler. I mean, they’re still getting away with terrible antics now, but I think there’s a higher demand for great content.”