Madflex: When Talent Isn't Enough

Cali battler Madflex details the difficulties of standing out in a crowded talent pool.

The West Coast is a Mecca for the current form of battle rap. Having produced some of the most popular battlers and events of recent memory, it isn't surprising there's a constant hustle to get booked in the area, specifically, in major leagues such as King Of The Dot and FilmOn. As a consequence, there are limited spots available for a densely-populated talent pool struggling to build brands and gain exposure.

For any self-respecting battle rapper, the question becomes: "How do I make myself stand out with integrity?" In my own experience, I've begun Q&A vlogs, made myself a highlight reel and built up a resume of solid battles over the year.

Yet, when it comes to big cards against big opponents, the spaces are often taken before they are available. League owners are going to call big draws and book them before most people even know an event is happening. We've all heard Bigg K mention how he doesn't call people out, and in theory, it makes sense — Bigg K doesn't have to call people out since he doesn't have to worry about getting booked.

The rest of us face a different problem: what do you look like trying to take someone else's shine? It immediately puts you in a place of inferiority and damages your brand when no one responds to your callout. What happens when good battlers don't rush into KOTD's TalkBack Facebook group and start making fools of themselves to get a battle?

Fredo happens. Let's talk about his accomplishments over the past five years: he started a clothing line that was prevalent in the battling scene, he had one of the most iconic moments in battle rap history against Swave Sevah, and he is a prime example of the elusive, well-rounded, consistent battler. He brings multis, punches, clever wordplay and authentic style — and he is getting booked to headline Ground Zero cards because Aye Verb gets views and might show up to major events.

A dude like Ayem has an easier time getting booked in Canada than the Fresh Coast when every battle he has is a Ground Zero classic. I could write an essay about how Reverse Live is the prototype for the gunbar extravaganza the entire scene has become, except he actually incorporates rap with style.

The Fresh Coast has worked hard for their heavy hitters, but the development of new talent has slowed to a sad, disorganized crawl and Ground Zero has become a sort of purgatory. Outside of Rum Nitty and Danny Myers, no one from Day 1 of BOTB6 has been pushed. What happened to Psycoses? Avenu? What could these guys do with a rightfully-earned opportunity?

No battler, however, has personified this entire argument like Young B The Future. The dude gets thrown on the early portions of Day 1 cards until he blows up at the staff and gets a battle with B Magic through Snoop Dogg ... and walks away with a 3-0 victory.

Photo by Young B vs. B Magic at "Gladiator School"

This happens because there is no development — no progression — within most major Fresh Coast events. They have become a round-robin of sentimental favorites, favors and paying customers.

The URL has succeeded at introducing new battlers because it took talent, built it up, gave it a structured platform and watched it grow. The Fresh Coast's current business model seems to be a continued push for whoever has been grandfathered in while importing people from other leagues to battle them. Maybe this business practice is a safety net.

It's not completely the staff's fault. You can't blame them for pushing their own agenda — it is, after all, their league. The problem is money. You get about $2,000 per million views on YouTube. The majority of the money is made at the door or on pay-per-views, and "up-and-comers" don't have the draw to fill Grand Live. A realist can appreciate that and understand the symbiotic relationship between leagues and battlers.

My approach (as well as Young B's approach) has been to battle bigger names in smaller leagues. Madflex vs. Reverse Live is a Battle of the Year candidate on RMBVA. I battled Emerson Kennedy for Battle of the Zae 3, and it was in's Top Battles From September.

The best thing a person seeking exposure can do is find an opportunity that shows they belong on the same stage as the people being booked instead of allowing themselves to be part of a permanent farm club. At this point, Ground Zero has too much of a connotation of a lower division of KOTD, which makes it nearly impossible to be autonomous. Making a career in Ground Zero is detrimental to your hope of getting booked for larger cards because you've sent the message that you don't deserve better for yourself.

Look at who's getting booked for cards like BOLA, BOTB, Duel in the Desert and Ether — the similarities are substantial. That being said, whoever doesn't deserve to be there will weed themselves out; the bigger issue is how deserving battlers' brands suffer sitting on the shelf for six months while these events happen.

Talent is simply not enough anymore. Hustle is not enough. You need someone willing to book you on your side, or you need to take my route and have a breakout performance that you set up on your own terms. We've come to a point where there is no middle ground, no matter how much we pretend one exists.