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Battle Rappers: Dumbfounddead’s Transition From Superstar Battlerapper to Mainstream Rapper is Looking Seamless.

I have been into battle rap since high school. I remember I use to pull out my phone during math and log in to some website where you could submit a verse and someone could respond, ensuing the verbal bloodbath. I was pretty good back then because I did my research. KOTD (King of the Dot) was my most watched youtube channel and spent hours writing down creative punchlines and practicing delivery like my superiors. I prefered goofy battle rappers who were still able to deliver insane disses because that was the aesthetic I went for. Some honorable mentions were Rone, Kid Twist, and Soul Khan. I don’t just like white battle rappers but I loved watching them carve their own niche in an industry where they are the extreme minority. But my favorite battle rapper, beyond a reasonable doubt, is Dumbfoundead. Yes, I know he was eviscerated by Conceited who is probably my second favorite, but that’s not what has me loving the Koreatown King so much. I will touch on why shortly but I also want to get at a problem I’ve noticed that has been eating me up lately. Why is it so hard for Battle Rappers to make it mainstream?

Dumbfoundead, now called Dummie after his most recent release, Cafe Blue, is a word wizard. I swear if Harry Potter existed this man would be all the way up in Hogwarts, casting curses without a wand. His delivery and on the spot wit was almost unbeatable, not necessarily because of his lyricism but because of his charisma. I enjoyed watching him make people look like fools because his energy was so uniquely his along with every other element. I drifted away from battle rap because I felt like a lot of the rappers were just carbon copies of each other and became more about how loud you were or how many guns you owned and less about creativity. Dumb had an authentic persona, and yes it did help that he was one of the only Asians I’ve ever seen in battle rap (Dumbfoundead vs Tantrum was unreal) but it was more than just the fact that he stood out culturally. He was fun to watch and I thought if anyone in the game could transition smoothly from battle rap to mainstream it would be him. It’s been almost 7 years since then but I think he’s almost there.

At first I thought maybe its a conspiracy. Like maybe KOTD is purposefully keeping its main contenders in the rings by stifling their success when they try to go solo so rappers are forced to take the battle rap cash. After my Eminem video,  I was convinced that battle rappers aren’t equipped to handle mainstream because they are so used to responding to beef that creating something out of nothing would be too challenging to keep up. Now, I know I was foolish to think either of those things, but can you blame me? Sure Dumb has made some really good singles and I think Safe is probably one of my favorite music videos ever. But I was just never satisfied with any of his album drops. They lacked that flare, that persona I had fallen in love with. Not to mention they were lyrically lacking but I was able to forgive that because its mainstream after all. I think Cafe Blue is a step in the right direction.

This album had me from the trailer. An outcast finding their way through the world can stumble into this album and find home. I felt Dumb’s infectious persona that always made me mellow or laugh comes through in this album. The production was admirable and the lyrics still were simple but still packing the punch we’ve come to expect. But back to battle rap. Heavy hitters like Dizaster, Arsonal, and Charlie Clips dominate the battle rap sphere. But could they make number a #1 album? Judging by what rap has become and more specifically what the fans have shown interest in, probably not. The correlation between the rise in battle rap and the rise in mumble rap may not just be two random events. Maybe old heads are moving exclusively to the underground to find their music. I think this will inevitably be the shift hip hop undertakes but as long as the Kendrick’s of rap exist top side, so too will I.

Now for the disclaimers. Dumb has been producing some great content outside of his own music so I am in no way saying that he’s sitting on his ass when he should be putting out bangers. I love his podcast, Fun With Dumb, and just got finished watching the episode with the Portuguese Eagle himself SPEAK where the talk about aging in the rap game. I completely agreed with SPEAK when he talked about older rappers trying to be something they’re not by rapping about young dumb shit like xanax. This had me thinking. Do battle rappers struggle with succeeding mainstream because they aren’t staying in their lane? As a fan of both battle rap and mainstream rap, I just want talent to get paid what it deserves. Is this another example of that Lupe quote. “They want it to braid, meaning they want it to grow meaning they want it to stay.” Fans collide with artists when they listen to music and the reluctance from fans to support the growth of the second half of the braid is ridiculous. And we haven’t even gotten to Conceited yet. He has made waves. Instead of with his music, he prefers Wild’n Out just like another rapper by the name of Nick Cannon.  I think we are getting sidetracked here. Maybe Dumb just needed a break from rap? Or maybe he realized that the world outside of the ring isn’t interested in real hip hop? I could speculate all day but it really doesn’t matter. Cafe Blue is a great album. Go check it out.

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