Back in August the battle rap audience was treated to URL’s Summer Madness 2. The event was entitled “Return of the Legends: The Warm Up,” and featured matchups between the genre’s current stars, as well as its retired champions. The event proved to be the most successful in its genre’s history and attracted the likes of Puff, Busta Rhymes, and Q-tip to name a few. Fan intrigue reached fever pitch, as this year’s festivities provided some of the most anticipated matches in battle rap history. However, seasoned veteran Loaded Lux stole the show. His victory over young heavyweight Calicoe was in such unparalleled fashion that it at once upped the ante of battle rap performance, increased the genre’s overall exposure, and reprimanded a generation for its obsession with criminal glorification.
The level of theatrics in this battle was unprecedented. Typical bouts consist of two emcees, the microphone, and no props. Lux, however, arrived at the venue in a hearse accompanied by two grieving females. Obituaries with Calicoe’s face on the cover were circulated throughout the audience. A wooden coffin surfed the crowd and onto the stage. He himself was in costume, dressed in a three piece suit, a rose on the lapel, and a pair of white and black XII’s. The outfit proved genius. It allowed him to convincingly assume several personas that he rapped through during the bout. He was simultaneously a preacher, gangster, boxing champion, and even a prosecutor. Even more crazy was how he forced his opponent to play the antagonist role in his show. When Lux was the prosecutor, Cal was the defendant. When Lux was the preacher, Cal was the lost gangster forced to repent. Lux didn’t just battle rap, he put on an actual performance.
The production was so captivating that it turned a niche event into accessible entertainment with a broad enough appeal for audiences other than battle rap fans. Don’t get me wrong, during the bout Lux makes straight As in every category that a battle rap fan demands: rhymes, content, metaphors, word play, presence, style, whatever. His craft is in no way dumbed down which is what you usually get with crossover appeal. At its worst, even actual hip-hop fans view battle rap as a monotonous charade of two dudes rhyming insults at one another. However, Lux’s performance is so artistically executed that it appeals to the everyday hip-hop fan, as well as fans of performance art in general. His act is a mix of upper echelon poetry and theater portrayed within a sporting event. During the second round Lux uses a boxing scheme to compare himself to Calicoe. “I’m Floyd with you boys battle verses, you Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, you just talk a good fight.” He then pauses momentarily to catch his breath and takes a sip of water from a bottle that he receives from his entourage that are serving as his metaphoric corner men. The combination of bars and theatrics gives the greater audience a clearer understanding and appreciation of what is being said, even if the viewers are oblivious to the culture.
In the third round, Lux jumps back into preacher mode and gives a sermon. Cal is the immediate subject, but Lux is rebuking the hip-hop generation, as a whole. Calicoe promotes that gangster, gun-bust, drug trafficking, bully rhetoric that has pretty much dominated hip-hop for at least the last twenty years. Even worst, Cal’s position is seemingly justifiable, since, allegedly, his incarcerated dad has ties to the Black Mafia Family. The Preacher overwhelms both Cal and the crowd through a sermon with the theme that Cal’s pops “Wasn’t no gangsta, he was just another lost nigga.” Lux not only kills Calicoe in battle, he bodies a whole persona.
Summer Madness 2 lived up to and surpassed all expectations. This was largely possible because Loaded Lux elevated the genre to a higher plane. It is probably too early to determine the full impact of his work; but, going forward, fans will be anticipating higher levels of performance from the participants, more people will be watching, and that cliché gangster persona will be less seen and heard. These achievements alone make this one of the greatest emcee performances of all time.