WORDS: DUAN GREALLY
As part of our ongoing coverage of the Don’t Flop Ireland events series, we caught up with DFI President and Battler-in-Chief, Redzer, one of Ireland’s best known and respected rap artists. Responsible for bringing Dont Flop to Ireland and making it the success it is today, Redzer is definately the man to speak to ahead of Dont Flop 4.
Without further ado, let’s get into it…
For those who might not yet be familiar with the concept, tell us a little bit about the idea behind Don’t Flop?
Basically it’s acapella battles. Two emcees come together to pit their wits and see who can insult who the most. There’s no music behind it, so it’s solely about lyrics. Emcees stand in front of people and battle acapella for three minutes (one minute each round) then judges come in and decide a winner or possibly send it to overtime. It’s basically a Hip-Hop battle but without the music.
What were the circumstances that lead to the formation of DFI? At what point did you see realistic potential in an Irish battle league.
Well in fairness, Irish Hip-Hop has always had some talented emcees who could do it. What happened was I got into Grind Time by chance. One of the lads showed me a battle with TheSaurus, and I loved it. I went through all the Grind Time videos, and then watched a lot of the Don’t Flop UK videos. I was like why don’t we have one of these. So I decided to make an Irish one. I contacted a few emcees who would do it (a lot wouldn’t) and we went from there like.
You just touched on it there, I suppose one of the problems with setting up battles in Ireland, is that none of the best emcees want to get involved. I think a lot of people see it as if they lose their career is ruined. How much of an obstacle was that to overcome?
I think for certain emcees that is a major issue, but it’s not really because look at me – I have a horrible record. My reputation hasn’t been tarnished one bit because of Don’t Flop, if anything it’s been enhanced and I have gained fans from it. That’s what a lot of these other Irish Hiphoppers who are too egotistical about their reputation to get involved don’t get. It’s not going to damage any emcees reputation. If you are good enough to have a reputation, you are good enough to do Don’t Flop and gain from it.
It is a problem though, but a lot of emcees like Nugget and Rawsoul were kind of built for this sort of thing, so they were straight in. You had some good emcees who were like “yeah, I’ll do it” and there was a lot who were like “nah, it’s not for me”. But they will do it. We will get them eventually.
Absolutely. Someone can be better on the day, but it’s not saying he’s a better emcee than you overall. He just came better prepared on the day. If you do give a good account of yourself, you will gain fans from it. A lot of people who show up won’t know you beforehand, but if you do well – win, lose, or draw – you will have people coming up to you saying your battle was deadly, do you release music, and it’s a good way to network as well. So that fear…I don’t know if its fear, but that thought shouldn’t be in any respected emcee’s mind at all. We want to show the world that we can compete with these major battle leagues. We have the emcees to do it, but we are not at full strength yet. It will gain in status and then these people will be asking me ‘Can I do the next Battle?’ So it will happen. It will all come together.
You always have to get some sort of the big names to show up because they will bring fans with them. The crowd is one of the biggest elements of these battles. If you have no crowd; there are no battles, so we do need more big names. There are people who are willing to say they are the best on a track, but not willing to prove it. That’s what I respect about Nugget and Nu Centz and guys like that. They have more to lose than a lot of other cats, and they are still doing it because they just love Hiphop and they love being involved in Hiphop. It’s common sense as well, DFI is the only thing happening in Irish Hiphop at the minute, so it’s the smart move to get on board as well. It’s great to have these lads who don’t have to worry about their names because they are good enough that it won’t affect their reputation. Someone like Nugget is gaining a lot from Don’t Flop, and that’s brilliant. That’s the goal of the whole thing.
You were the first rapper from DFI to battle internationally. You went to the UK, took on on Sensa – who is one of the top battle rappers- and I think most people would say you gave him a pretty good run for his money. What was the response like over there to the Irish league?
The majority of them that I talked to loved it. I battled Sensa -who tore me to shreds – I came a bit ill prepared. I changed my lines because I was supposed to battle him in September, so I had four verses done for him. It was rescheduled for Febuary, so when it got to January I wrote new bars for it and I couldn’t remember everything. Sensa killed me and big respect to Sensa. Sensa was loving the Irish battles as well. Nugget is a big favourite amongst the UK heads. You have O’Shea, Definition, Tenchoo, the top lads even Eurgh, loving the Irish Hiphop. We are getting great networking from it. Nugget is even doing tracks with some of the heads from the UK Don’t Flop division. We have got a great reception from them. It’s going well.
Have you had interest from emcees outside of Ireland who want to come in and battle on your shows?
Loads. At this stage because it’s so new we are not financially in a position to get these guys over, but we have had a lot of interest from top tier Grind Time heads. If I said a couple of names then people would be like ‘get them over, get them over’ but at the minute we can’t because we need people to show up and support DFI. If they want to see all these American lads coming over, we’re willing to get them over, they are willing to come over, but it doesn’t happen for free. If you want to see those battles, you have to come in and support the other ones. Then we can make the bigger ones happen. We have definitely had a lot of interest though. There was even a couple of Australian emcees from “Got Beef” talking to me about coming over.
It’s funny when you are an Irish battler, and for the last 2 or 3 years you have been watching Madness and TheSaurus and Dirtbag Dan, and then they are getting on to you saying ‘these battles are great, we can’t wait to get over to Ireland’. It’s a big compliment to us. People are always looking at negatives, but Don’t Flop is a good thing and it will get bigger and bigger. It won’t happen tomorrow or the next day, but gradually we are going to be on a big scale and it’s going to be a big event. Just keep supporting it and we will go from there.
Right, we have DFI4 coming up just around the corner now. What can people expect from this show?
There’s seven battles on. We have Bony; who has a pretty good record. I think he has only lost one and it was a close decision. He’s against Nugget; who hasn’t lost. Technically he lost against me, but he hasn’t lost yet. That’s a great battle, and it’s an inter county battle so there will be a bit of tension there. I’m battling Nash in another inter county battle. We have Jambo making his debut, who is a really ill emcee. People have been asking where has he gone? Well he’s back now at DFI. He’s battling a guy from Cork as well who won his first one. We have Lethal Dialect repping Blanchardstown coming out to battle another lad from Cork.
A bit of a Dublin vs. Cork theme going on?
Yeah, it’s going to be a big factor in this one. We are just trying to make it interesting for people. Have people saying it’s us against Cork; let’s get behind the Dub lads. And have people in Cork saying we have four cork lads battling four Dubs; let’s go up and show the lads support. It makes a great day out of it. There’s a bit of bragging rights at the end of it, who is the better county?
OK, as you said your opponent on the night is Nash. What are your thoughts on him as an opponent?
Nash is a really good lad, he’s a really good emcee. He doesn’t release enough stuff which makes him hard to write for. He’s improved against Nuie to Steenson and now I’m battling him. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to say because he’s going to bring some really good shit. I found it particularly hard to write for Nash, so I’m really going to have to pick it up again for this one.
There has been a lot of talk that this might be your last battle for a while. Is that the case?
Yeah, I just want to see how it is doing the events without having to battle. When you are trying to organise everything, and setting everything up, and making sure everything is running like clockwork, and all that shit on the day, and then trying to remember all the words for your battle; it’s a bit hectic. I want to see what it’s like for just one event without battling. If I’m doing this event and I’m sitting around going ‘ah man, I wish I was battling’ then I’m going to start battling again. If I find it’s easier just hosting and doing all this other stuff, then I will stop doing it for a while. I don’t think I will be sadly missed because we have a lot of decent emcees coming in…I won’t say to fill my shoes…but they are really entertaining battlers, so we will get a fan base coming into see these guys. Then I can just concentrate on the president side of it.
So are you looking for people to step up and fill that void that will be left in your absence.
I don’t know how much of a void there is. I don’t think I’m the best in DFI. I would be kind of mid tier to be honest. But the lads do have to step up. I want everyone to try step up after every battle. Consistency is not enough. I want you to be killer in this one, and then better again in the next one. Some lads are doing it, some lads remain consistent, and some lads have got worse.
For emcees looking to get involved in DFI, what advice do you give them? What do they have to bring to the table?
They have to have some sort of a name or following. If you are going to walk up on your own and say I want to battle, and I have never heard you battle, you have never recorded anything, never done a gig, but you want to battle. It’s not going to happen. If you want to battle have some sort of name to bring to the table. If you can tell me you will get us views and I can hear you on a track, then if you are good, you will be brought in. If you’re not, you won’t. I’m not doing people favours. If you haven’t made the effort to get yourself known, we aren’t going to put the effort in for you. If you want to be in DFI get your bars up, build some kind of reputation, and bring me something, so that I can say let’s make this kid a star.
To move on to you as a solo artist for a moment. Will you be working on a new album in your time off? I think Dublife came out in 2006, So its been a while since people got a Redzer solo record.
I have been toying with the idea for the last four years to be honest with you. I have done the rapping thing, and I want to kind of look beyond it now. I will still do Class A’z stuff, and I might bring out Dublife 2. I have got a lot of beats sent to me and stuff like that, but instead of writing raps, I’m kinda writing videos for somebody. Getting on to Jebus about making a video for this track with the Class A’z , and writing story boards for videos for other people and stuff. So I’m getting a bit distracted from solo rapping, and getting…not quite into the business side… but just getting better at other things. Between doing DFI, writing videos, making videos, and featuring on other peoples tracks, I pretty much don’t have time to do a solo album. The drive isn’t there yet, but I will get it back. Dublife 2 will happen; just not in the near future anyway.
Two years down the line Don’t Flop can be a main event on the calendar. It will still be every two months, but it’s going to get bigger and better. More popular, more people, so that means we will be able to get better battlers over from different countries. We will create more revenue, so it will become a proper business, but at the same time it will still be the most entertaining thing happening in Irish Hiphop.
Standard is the first thing on my list. I want it to be the best standard it can be. Then, I want to have a good attendance because as I was saying the crowd is really important: it builds up the atmosphere, it builds up the tension, and it can make or brake battles. We need to expand it bigger and bigger. Make it a really good event that people will be marking off on their calendars. So the plan is just to make it bigger and better with each show.
And one final question, who has been the stand out performer of DFI so far in your opinion. Taking yourself out of the equation as an artist, and just looking at it as a promoter, who do you think has been the main man?
Obviously the main man is Nugget. I love Nugget. I want Nugget when he goes over to do certain stuff, and he’s still fluffing a little bit on one or two bits, and I’m like stop fucking doing that Nugget, it was nearly perfect like. But I think the best battler that I would be the most confident sending anywhere in the world is Rawsoul. I’m not saying that because he’s in my group; he’s just so lyrical. Nugget is really funny, and he has the nice delivery and stuff, but he still lacks the full confidence to go out and body someone. Rawsoul has got that lyrical, lyrical, lyrical style, then an amazing punchline. Plus he has a neutral accent which means if he went to grind time they would have a better chance of understanding him. They would love his multis and his style. Nugget might have to change to go to America I think. He would just have to slow it down a bit, and that could fuck with him. I think the main battler at the minute is Rawsoul, but we won’t know till those two battle each other!