Alex “Bender” Buchanan was a man who defied caveats. He wasn’t just an incredible battle rapper for a Canadian or a phenomenal musician for a battler, he had one of the most highly respected pens in the whole scene with multiple classic performances on his resume, including one that won him the King Of The Dot chain.
His verses delivered rhymes almost cosmically connected — “Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the atomic bomb designer,” he famously rapped — and he was able to string together seemingly endless multi-syllabic patterns, drenched with aggression, humor, braggadocio, creativity and intelligence.
The battle scene was rocked by the news that he passed away on March 1. Eulogies for the 37-year-old poured out across social media, painting him as far more humble than his brilliance should’ve allowed, filled with kindness and wit.
I don't think anyone who isn't a writer can understand how good he was. The guy would write Aesop-like fables with fucking 7 syllable rhyme scheme's and make it sound as natural as a non-rhyming monologue from a play. If he was born 500 years ago, kids would study him today.
— RIP Bender (@SoulWasTaken) March 2, 2018
— Alchemist (@Alchemist) March 2, 2018
Battling took Bender from Ottawa to South Africa, with trips to the U.S., England and the Philippines along the way. It helped bring his talent in music and painting to a global audience.
In remembrance of Bender, we’re looking back at his five best performances. We also strongly suggest you look into the rest of his catalog of battles and music as a member of Flight Distance.
His family is raising money for his memorial via GoFundMe.
Bender vs. Miracle
While Bender demonstrated considerable potential in his previous showings on KOTD, that potential only earned him the distinction of talented newcomer. After the Miracle battle, many believed he was one of the most dangerous battlers on the entire platform.
Looking back, it may not be immediately obvious just how ahead of its time Bender’s performance was here. In 2010, the Toronto battle crowd was accustomed to laughing at one liners and “You look like X crossed with Y”-type bars. Though there were some funny moments in Bender’s rounds, he didn’t come to make jokes. Every bar was a haymaker, and the complexity of those bars really overshadowed Miracle’s simpler approach.
Most notably, in Bender’s third round he used the first “Sorry Player” rhyme scheme that would become legendary throughout his career. It became synonymous with Bender and was a microcosm of the multi-syllabic style for which he came to be known.
Bender vs. Arcane
Before challenging for the KOTD championship, Bender was riding a tidal wave of momentum, easily defeating everyone put in front of him. It wasn’t just that he was better than his competition, it’s that he was operating at a whole different level. In the biggest battle of his career, Bender faced off with KOTD champion Arcane, fresh off a Grand Prix win and taking the KOTD chain off battle legend The Saurus.
Bender’s first lines — “Little man take lessons/ This is the kind of performance that makes legends” — proved prophetic. Three rounds, one “Sorry Player” and a 4-1 decision later, Bender took the throne as the top MC in KOTD.
Like every previous opponent, Arcane simply got overwhelmed. This wasn’t the “Show ’em how it’s supposed to be done” Arcane from a couple years later but a more rudimentary version that relied more heavily on personal attacks. Against Bender, all of these fell flat, and Bender’s aggression was simply overpowering.
Bender attacked the credibility of Arcane’s personals, his lack of originality and stacked multi after multi to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
At the end of the night, a new King reigned.
Bender vs. Syd Vicious
Coming off back-to-back losses, Bender needed a return to form. People could write off the Sketch Menace loss as Bender losing to himself or not fully being prepared, but the Illmac loss shattered Bender’s aura of invincibility and showed that even when he was fully prepared, he could still be beaten. Going into his Vendetta battle with Syd Vicious, some felt Syd would be able to match Bender’s lyricism and could overpower him the same way Bender did to his own previous opponents.
As it turned out, Bender delivered one of the most one-sided battles in KOTD history, which cemented in everyone’s mind that he was “back.” Some of this wasn’t on Bender — a couple of chokes and slips in Syd’s rounds resulted in an off-night for him. But even if he came correct, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
Bender showed an evolution in his style, displaying a completely different cadence than his previous battles. It seemed Bender came in determined to prove not just that he was one of the top writers in the game, but that he could rap his ass off too.
Years later this is still Bender’s magnum opus. Not only does he have the aforementioned rapping evolution, but he brought top notch wordplay and the signature multis that he used better than anyone.
Bender’s third round is a tour de force, accentuated by the unique way that Avocado chose to edit it, with camera cuts after every one of Bender’s rhymes.
With this bodybag performance, Bender’s buzz was at an all-time high.
Bender vs. Tumi
In arguably his best battle outside of North America, Bender took on Tumi, one of Africa’s top MCs in the South African league Scrambles 4 Money.
Often when battlers make their debut in foreign countries, in order to endear themselves to the audience, they pepper their verses with local references. These can come off as fairly cheap, obvious and pandering.
But with Bender, the references never felt forced. All hit, all had the crowd reacting heavy and despite Tumi coming in as the crowd favorite, by the end of the battle, Bender had the fans in the palm of his hands.
Bender vs. Fredo
Unlike many other battles on the list, this had a laid-back vibe that felt more like two friends competing over who could rap better and say more clever things, as opposed to an aggressive grudge match. Despite its totally different style, it’s still a required watch with clever rhymes, impressive rapping and some really funny moments.
— #RIPBender (@Jproepsilon) March 11, 2018
Fittingly, in the final round of one of the last King of the Dot battles of his career [or the last?], Bender predicted his battle performances would outlive him, with his impact on the culture being felt after he was gone:
“A massive percentage you won’t catch till years after I said it
Even after I’m dead; that’s not the exit
They’ll travel for miles to trample the entrance
And stand in attention where my casket’s embedded
Like Vladimir Lenin’s cadaver that’s kept in the glass at the Kremlin.”
It seems appropriate the best eulogy was written by Bender himself.
Intro by Chris Mitchell.