Don’t Flop chose Shepherd’s Bush’s Ginglik for the Set the Standard launch and the venue ticked the required dark, grimy, condensation-on-the-ceiling, someone-might-well-have-been-either-metaphorically-or-literally-murdered-here, basement box. Unfortunately, the staff also seemed to be adhering closely to the up-tight, anal, self-interested jobsworth archetype. (One doorman was doing his job so well I was forced to clamber over a roped railing - an action for which I was reprimanded like a teenage oik!) Still, I suppose they had their reasons for being stressed and pre-occupied. The event was a sell-out and when I rocked up at 8ish there was an assembly of hundreds of snap-back-clad heads - many without tickets. I even saw one gutted couple with tickets get turned away as it had reached capacity (It seems that bouncer wasn’t as vigilant as he liked to think.)
So, of course there was an atmosphere of anticipation, excitement and privileged bravado amongst those lucky enough to have got inside - whether making rap battle history, defending artistic honour or losing your live-viewing virginity - everyone was hyped to the hilt. Cries of “Murder!” and “I came here to see me a battle” flew up amongst the eagerly-awaiting crowd. But first, there was some promotional business to attend to. A far cry from the original shaky camerawork and street locations Don’t Flop is becoming a bit of an institution (the youtube channel has over 74,000 subscribers) and, as such, it now garners attention from unusual places. A staged battle between current Don’t Flop title-holder, Tony D and fictional O.A.P battler Mighty Mo had to be filmed for an upcoming ITV series. I began to get nervous, at this point, hoping that the headline battles were not to be so contrived but when the bugle finally sounded and Liquid and Shuffle T opened fire my fears were allayed.
Shuffle T commenced with a brutal verbal assault on the dimensions of opponent Liquid’s nose. I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed but having had it so publicly pointed out and with the assistance of Shuffle’s hysterical hyperbole Liquid’s hooter took on gargantuan proportions in my mind and I found myself creasing on the floor along with half the crowd.
Liquid countered with an apposite critique of Shuffle’s decision to come dressed in his best Nazi fancy-dress costume. But the crowd got their biggest buzz when he managed to not only further implicate Shuffle T as a fascist sympathiser but also to paint himself as a race warrior. Simulating the famously gory curb scene and stating that it would be ‘American History X in reverse’ this time around, Liquid’s pop culture reference, threat of violence and balls-out-daring-to-go-there captured the hearts and minds of the audience.
Next up was J-Smug VS Mr. Tongue Twister in which J-Smug’s hilarious verbal imagery surrounding how long it would take Tongue Twister to complete a simple puzzle had everyone in stitches. Tongue Twister’s equally childish rebuttal included dissecting Smug’s own bars and threatening to wipe his face with a pooey j-cloth! I was equally impressed by Mr. Tongue Twister’s artistry; seamlessly switching his voice and mannerism from a casual style to that of a classically-trained actor. His delivery was fascinating to watch and really brought home the sense of craftsmanship involved in what is essentially a performance art.
During a brief interlude Micall Parknsun treated the revellers to a live performance of brand new productions. Anyone in attendance will understand me when I say ‘Hold tight for that yodelling beat!!!’ I have it on good authority that it’ll be dropping sometime in the New Year but if ya simply can’t wait (and I don’t blame ya) check out his SB:TV Skooled by…. Session for another taste. Haaaaaaard!
We returned, refreshed and raring to see Big J and Micky Worthless throw down. The highlights of this battle were when Worthless utilised the mind-violating catchiness of Tyga’s oft-immitated “hit” to elucidate the corpulence of Big J’s mammary area.
“Fat titties, bitch. Fat, fat, titties bitch”
Big J’s lack of football skill and cyber-misadventures had also been thoroughly well-researched by Worthless and even never having seen his online “Cinnamon Challenge” the true cringe-worthiness of it was well-conveyed through witty wordsmithery.
Big J rebuffed these digs with Don’t Flop staples - the near-mandatory mum and girlfriend jibes - stating that Micky’s mother was the main event at Wrestlemania. A blast of playful nostalgia that the crowd definitely appreciated. Again Big J’s delivery was fantastically theatrical as he impersonated Micky’s girlfriend who ostensibly suffers from a debilitating (but highly comical) speech impediment.
Finally, Jai-90 and Youthoracle stepped up to the plate for a battle in which we were reminded that Jai-90 used to voice Jason Derulo beats, (Ouch, it’s painful cos it’s true!) and his religious faith was mocked and ridiculed to snapping point.
Jai-90 retaliated, making the, not unreasonable point, that Youthoracle’s flow is slow and contains a lot of filler but when that filler is punctuated by such gems as his extended barage of cinematic sideswipes the winner (in my humble opinion) is clear.
Yes, there are overtones of racism…xenophobia…misogyny… homophobia, oh and classism but it is all said in jest and these superficial divisions are diffused by the pervading sense of respect, camaraderie and love (the artists/performers hug it out and drink together after their battles) that you just know there is no ill-will or malice intended. Whilst there were some raised voices about who deserved the W in the Liquid/Shuffle T battle the overall mood is that of jovial support and playful teasing. Not exactly good wholesome fun for all the family, but a thoroughly good night out nonetheless.