Hear “battle” and hip-hop in the same sentence, you’re thinking an emcee battle: Eminem facing off with a lesser emcee in the final scene of 8 Mile — right? Nope, that’s the opposite of a beat battle.
Strip away the my-cock’s-bigger-than-yours machismo of the emcee battle. Add a bunch of technology geeks and some beat producers who don’t usually leave their bedrooms. Put an hour on the clock and a cash prize on the table, and you’ve got yourself a beat battle.
“An emcee battle — the point is destroy the opponent, to be witty in your delivery and do enough things spontaneously to trump the other person,” Erik Beats, organizer of the Spokane Beat Battle, says. “The beat battle is still about the competition and destroying your opponent. But it’s more combat than battle. You’re fighting more against yourself.”
Beats (whose real name is Erik Bergloff) has spent the last few years organizing battles like these in Portland and says they are extremely competitive and yield incredible results. Each entrant to the battle is given eight samples and one hour to assemble them into a cohesive, catchy, crowd-swaying beat that’s less than three minutes long.
“If they use any other sounds, they’ll be disqualified,” he says. “If you’re working next to someone who’s doing something wrong, they’ll rat them out. It’s pretty cutthroat.
“The biggest thing is you’re dealing with a lot of egos.”
Under the hawk eyes of judges and competitors, what ensues is an hour of scrambling. Beat-makers in headphones cram side-by-side at long tables onstage, hunched over laptops and samplers.
Once the hour of beat making is up, each producer plays their beat, the audience votes and the winner goes on to a regional “super-battle,” Beats says.
“This is kind of an interesting opportunity to see the creative process of 20 people,” Beats says. “It gives that audience the ability to watch the producers. Most of these people always hanging out by themselves in their bedroom making beats.”
Though there’s entertainment going on throughout the competition, Beats says watching the tension of the competitors rise as the clock ticks is entertainment in itself.
“One mess up… just one little thing, even putting a snare in the wrong place. Or one miscalculation of time … your entire hour is wasted,” he says “You are basically working against yourself against time.”
Spokane Beat Battle feat. Erik Beats, Ocean, Jeaman and more at the Seaside on Saturday, June 12, at 8 pm. Tickets: $3. 21 . Sign up to compete by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Call 455-7826.