Red Bull EmSee Battle 2011 (coming to Royale in Boston THIS WEDNESDAY)

You might have noticed that there's a battle going on over rap battle formats. In one corner, there's the traditional shit, in which MCs face off over instrumentals and are expected to spit legit freestyles in the spirit of the dozens. In the other corner, there's what you might call the "new" battling - popularized by Grind Time among others - in which rappers know who they're battling ahead of time, get to write and memorize their rhymes, and spit a capella.

Anyone who's unaware of the latter style is probably scratching their head right now. But I swear it's true - battling isn't really an improvisational sport anymore. The new battling is fun to watch - and, thanks to the expected preparedness, there's a lot less "you're a fag" nonsense - but yeah, just like everything else in hip-hop, battles ain't what they used to be. Instead they're more calculated, commercialized, and, to put it mildly, dumb-ed down. Not sure why this should be a surprise.

The Next Grind Time: New England Battle is This Saturday, October 8. I might talk shit, but I went to the last one, and it's pretty damn exhilarating.

Enter the Red Bull EmSee showdown, which has already popped in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston - and which pulls up in Boston this Wednesday at Royale. It's a third type of battle format that I haven't seen up close yet, but that definitely lives up to the off-the-dome spirit that I always loved about the sport. Basically, competitors are given visual cues on screens, and are expected to use the prompts in verbally assaulting their enemies.

That clip above is from Detroit's FoWL - who's been on my radar since I saw him shred a few bastards at SXSW this year. Seems like he's been on the EmSee grind. In Boston, it's still a secret who will be competing, but what I do know is that the judges Red Bull is providing are more than capable of picking the right winner. The legendary Bun B will be hosting, while Jean Grae, Pharoahe Monch, and Rakim will be performing and (wo)manning the decision table. Not a night to be missed by any means.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Doors: 8:00 p.m. (18+) / Show: 9:30 p.m.

Location: Royale, 279 Tremont St.

"Winner of the Boston qualifier will advance to the Red Bull EmSee finals in Atlanta this fall, where all 2011 qualifiers will vie for the national championship and an opportunity to record with a headlining producer of their choice."

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