By Dylan Deprey
Larry Bull’s eyes were laser focused the moment he stepped into the ring. Though it was only the second battle on the docket, it was the main event and one the rap battle community had been waiting all week to go down.
Illa, a veteran battle rapper, had traveled from Peoria, IL to out-rap the rookie on his home turf.
Although, Bull was fairly new to the rap battle scene, he had been making waves coming off of his fifth battle.
Days before the battle, the two took to social media to host their own impromptu, pre-fight press conference for their followers to see. It ended up getting shared 68 times and racked up 2,200 views just on Facebook.
Minus the flashing lights, reporters and microphones, the two smack-talked back and forth for nearly 15 minutes. They made personal jabs as if they were about to suit up and enter the octagon.
The tension was real and the battle was set.
Local Milwaukee music artists, promoters, DJ’s and fellow battle rappers circled around to witness the battle of the night at the Say Mercy Battle League: Piff or Die 2 event at Rookie’s Lounge on May 19.
3 Days Before the Battle
Rhythmic shouts and syllabic roars could be heard from outside Bull’s north side Milwaukee home.
He trains for every battle: physically, mentally and lyrically.
He resembled a boxer preparing for a fight, as he posted up on his back porch taking a quick breather from training.
“I had those bars written three weeks ago,” Bull said. “Smart battlers do their homework.”
For this particular battle, each rapper was allotted three rounds to lyrically demolish their opponent and impress the crowd in-house and online. Most battle rappers, research their opponent by reviewing old battles and stalking social media for anything that could be used as ammo.
As a lyrical artist, Bull said he worked tirelessly on perfecting his bars, schemes, performance and punchlines.
Bull explained how battle rap’s competitive nature made the art Hip-Hop’s steroid-infused cousin. Just like boxing or MMA, there were different styles and strategies that came with it.
“A part of being a good battler is more than just barking on the guy and rapping at him,” Bull said.
“Another thing is defense.”
Whether it be smirking at a weak bar while staring into his opponent’s soul, or interacting with the crowd, Bull said that when he was not rapping, he was on defense the entire time.
“When I rap, I want the place popping off,” Bull said. “When they rap, I want them to choke. I want them to forget everything they wrote and have them fighting with the crowd.”
12 Hours Before the Battle
Bull wakes up early before the battle. He meditates and eats light.
The day before he gets a fresh cut and a new pair of shoes, otherwise known as “the pre-battle essentials.”
He showers right before the battle to feel relaxed and puts on his battle gear: camo pants and a grey Villeside Entertainment sweatshirt.
He had a scarf wrapped around his wrist. The frayed shadowy floral cloth was a piece from a dress that belonged to his “mother.” Though she was not technically his mother, she had walked Bull along the right path when he needed her most.
On the day of the battle, exactly two years earlier, she had passed away. As he was about to step in the arena, he said the battle was dedicated in her honor.
“This guy doesn’t know it yet, and he doesn’t know the meaning behind it, but today, I’m going to murder this man,” Bull said like a boxer ready to hop into the ring.
1 Hour Before the Battle
Bull arrives with his entourage with a game face on. He shakes up with league promoters and other battle rappers.
Although, Bull said that he never talked to his competition before the battle. This one was different after Illa walked in actually greeted him.
“See that’s him trying to get in my head,” Bull said. “I’m not gonna let it happen.”
5 minutes Before Battle
After an unplanned performance by Milwaukee’s own, MT-Marshall Twins, and a lukewarm first round battle, the two were finally about show and prove.
Illa won the coin toss and Bull went first.
He was explosive and had no shame ripping into Illa’s girlfriend and his “street cred.” There were a few punchlines and ribs that had the crowd rolling.
Illa came out swinging with a few bars, but it took a turn for the worst after sitting for what felt like an eternity, while he tried to remember his verse. He eventually dug himself out of his own grave.
The second-round Bull went no holds back and straight for the throat. Illa fired back with a solid rebuttal and punchlines, but stumbled over a couple of slip ups.
As the final round approached, Bull had the momentum, but Illa had a chance if he could comeback with impeccable punchlines and a flawless round.
Bull put it all on the line for the third round, and the crowd went nuts as people screamed “FIRE!” left and right.
As it was Illa’s turn to step up and finish the battle, he turned to the camera and tapped out.
Illa’s claim shocked the room as he said, “It’s a wrap,” and slipped back into the crowd.
The room went ecstatic.
“Up in this league, either you’re going to do it to the fullest, or you’re not going to do it at all,” said Great Britton, Say Mercy Battle League owner, into the camera closing out the second battle.
The crowd went on a five-minute intermission.
“You know who we did this for out here today, we did it for her,” Bull said as he pounded his chest in a warrior fashion.
Bull’s next battle is scheduled for June 19th against Bum Life YP (Milwaukee).
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