URL’s “Summer Madness 2” is considered by many fans as the best battle rap event of all time. The 2012 event pitted several returning legends against some of the biggest names of the time. It packed Webster Hall in New York, and drew celebrities like Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip to watch the battles unfold.
The diamond that dropped from that card was Calicoe vs. Loaded Lux, a dramatic, intense, roller coaster of a battle. When the footage was released, it made huge noise in the battle rap community, but also transcended it, breaking into the stratosphere of wider pop culture. Since its release in September 2012, the battle has done about 4.6 million views on YouTube, and is counted among the most-viewed clashes ever.
A battle that came out of Russia this month surpassed those numbers in about 48 hours.
The battle, between Oxxxymiron and ST from VersusBattleRU, did just under three million views the day it dropped. It did two million more in the 24 hours after that. It’s now nearing nine million views total since its June 19 release. Those kinds of numbers have never been seen in battle rap.
Check out the battle below. Obviously, it’s in Russian.
A major reason the Russian scene is so big is because the MCs battling are the same ones who are making noise in the Russian rap industry.
In an interview with BattleRap.com from April 2015, Oxxxymiron explained. “Imagine a U.S. battle league full of A, B and C-list mainstream rap artists battling against each other: not just Cassidy but rappers of Lil Wayne’s or Rick Ross’ caliber. That’s pretty much what’s going on with Versus in Russia. For example, one participant, Noize MC, is among the Top 3 or Top 5 Russian rap artists in terms of fame. Others, like Garry Topor, ST or myself, regularly play solo shows to sold-out venues. Others have been popular 5 or 10 years ago and are using Versus as a way to get back into the game.”
HipHopDX reached out via email for some more insight into this most recent battle.
HipHopDX: So what’s going on with this battle?
Oxxxymiron: My opponent in this battle is ST, a Moscow rapper ever-present on Russian music television. In this battle, however, he mostly tried to capitalize on his street background. The stakes were so high that bookmakers throughout Russia illegally took bets on it.
DX: How has it generated so many views so quickly?
Oxxxymiron: Versus has grown so much over the last year that it is now one of the largest online entertainment platforms in Russia, period. A few days ago league boss Restorator was featured on the Russian equivalent of Jimmy Kimmel Live! running on the First state television channel. Versus now has 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube — that’s triple what KOTD has.
On top of all that, other factors made this particular battle the most anticipated one so far. Both my opponent and I are well-known within the urban scene and the mainstream media. We also represent two opposing trends within Russian Hip Hop: ST is the rapper with soul, the people’s champion with a strong adherence to traditional Russian moral codes and a very basic flow. I represent the technical aspect, the Western approach to battles: the multis, the schemes, but also the position of the subversive outsider, the joker. Then again, if seen within the context of battle rap, then ST is the real underdog. So it was almost like a battle of archetypes with an undercurrent of real animosity, and it did not disappoint.
DX: From an unbiased perspective, who won the battle?
Oxxxymiron: The judges decided I won 3-0 but I think it was 2-1. Towards the end of the second round ST launched a powerful attack on me backed up by heartfelt personal stories and a strong physical presence. My second round was also somewhat disrupted by the sudden and enigmatic appearance of Russian Hip Hop veteran SERYOGA. So the second round goes to ST. If he would have stuck to that line of attack throughout the battle he could have won, but instead, he resorted to basic jokes, Internet memes and some very weak, half-hearted schemes in the third.
I don’t want to sound big-headed, but my shit went way deeper and has replay value, so yeah, I definitely won. And that’s not to mention that ST had about two or three double-rhymes throughout the whole battle — something entirely unthinkable in Western Hip Hop. That being said, I’m not entirely happy with my performance either, but that’s cool because once again I know what to improve and work on for my next battles. Hope that was unbiased enough.
DX: How big is Hip Hop in Russia?
Oxxxymiron: Hip Hop in Russia is huge and ever-expanding. Battle rap, Atlanta-inspired new school, and now cloud-rap along the lines of Bones and Yung Lean are taking the country by storm. Just to give you an idea of the mere scale of things, my most recent album was #1 on the Russian iTunes charts for two consecutive weeks and I have just played a sold-out solo show to a crowd of 8,000 people in Moscow.
Oh yeah, I will also be on tour in Europe throughout July, so come to one of my 15 European shows even if you don’t understand Russian. [Details here.]
Many battle fans outside of Russia have started to notice the massive numbers Oxxxymiron’s battles have been doing and there’s a growing call for the Oxford-educated rapper to make his English-language debut. He says he’s focusing more on his music career and touring schedule right now, but says it is something he’d eventually be interested in doing, most likely against Los Angeles battle juggernaut Dizaster.
Diz is an obvious choice for his opponent not only because of his experience taking on big names like Canibus and Cassidy, but because throughout his career he’s traveled the world taking on competition in places like the Philippines, Germany, Australia, and in Arabic-language battles in Lebanon.