Battle rapper Patrick McCormack and his team have been awarded a grant to fund the battle rap competition known as Capital Rap Battles. The idea was one of the 37 projects to be picked by the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition for micro grants this year. Chosen from over 180 applications, these projects received a total of $30,000 in funding.
McCormack is co-founder of Capital Rap Battles. The funding fuelled their championship event, titled “Blood in the Basement,” in which the rapper poRICH took down Robertz to become Ottawa’s rap battle champion.
The battles are verbal boxing matches. Contenders study videos of their opponents in order to find weak points. The difference is that while a boxer might be looking for weaknesses in physical form, a battle rapper is looking for weaknesses in his opponent’s lyrics to exploit.
The battles aren’t always something you’d want to bring your kids to. “They can be one of the most foul-mouthed things,” says McCormack. “You’ll see people say the most vile stuff and then you’ll catch them later having a beer with each other.”
After the battle, each contender is judged. Judges are not random audience members, but seasoned rap veterans, respected in the community. Those like McCormack.
McCormack had an early start to his hip-hop career. “I started writing rhymes when I was 12,” he says. “It was something I could do with the resources that I had: a pen and paper.” He was inspired by the hip-hop his brother played on his shortwave radio. “We used to go on the roof at night and pick up radio waves from all over the world.”
In one competition almost a decade ago, McCormack made it to the quarterfinals with improvised “freestyle” rap. But the game has since changed, and battle raps are now planned, a capella instead of over a beat.
But McCormack is 39 now, and has decided to take a more executive role when it comes to battle rapping. “It’s a young man’s game,” he says. McCormack is no longer an acting MC, despite over 25 years of experience. “I was never persuing rap hard, I was more a guy who was just making songs and recordings.”
McCormack is instead one of the producers of Capital Rap Battles, not the star. To McCormack , rap battling is about channelling youthful aggression into a positive force; using that energy not to harm your community, but to empower yourself.
Capital Rap Battles’ next event, their one-year anniversary, will be April 21 at Happy Goat Coffee Co.