Pay-Per-(Re)View: Don't Flop's "MCRvsLDN"'s Adam "Mos Prob" Felman reviews the pay-per-view from last weekend’s pivotal Don’t Flop event.

The word “history” has been bandied about a great deal this week in the wake of "MCRvsLDN," (A.K.A. Manchester vs. London) with arguably the biggest U.K. battle ever leading the charge. Tony D vs. Shotty Horroh has been the cause of a wave of to-ing and fro-ing online, and as of last weekend, that battle is now officially imprinted on the genome of battle rap as a genre. I was interested to see how the whole event unfolded around such a definitive game-changer of a match-up.

I struggled to come to grips with KOTD’s "Battle of LA 5" pay-per-view, and the broadcast for Total Slaughter was reportedly the stuff of an armchair aficionado’s nightmares. Don't Flop hosting the stream on Vimeo (which you can purchase at the bottom of this article), it must be said, has worked wonders. Switching between battles was pause-free, the interface was clear and the quality was outstanding. And, except for two minutes of Cloverfield wobblecam during the second verse from Bamalam (ironically the only member of the DF camera crew battling) against Briggzy, the audio was cogent and the visuals were assuredly steady.

The crowd. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. The crowd. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

The battles, though, I will be looking at in terms of the history Don’t Flop purports to have changed this weekend. The roster was a mix of regulars, comebacks, newcomers and champions, so the seeds of something really interesting were already in place. So how significant were these battles? And what place did they have this weekend?


The archetypal kick-off battle for a Don’t Flop event. Both are comedy rappers, and both are accustomed to winning over a crowd with minimal effort. Big J battles on Don't Flop more often than Daylyt threatens to shit, and Seano Mac is a seasoned Jump Off performer. While it’s not the stuff of Earth-shattering relevance, it was laid out as an easy precursor for what was to be an intense afternoon.

Seano Mac. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Seano Mac. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

This was, however, Big J’s laziest performance of the year. From cheap racism and a couple of noticeable stumbles to a running fake personals gag (Your [female relative] is/has [disabled/less than the requisite amount of limbs]), J is simultaneously one of the hardest-grafting yet lethargic battlers in the league. Seano Mac by no means made mincemeat of him, lacking projection and a little bit of character this evening, but his multis were well used and his jokes (yes, even the fat jokes) genuinely funny and inventive.

Big J. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Big J. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

Yet, for all of Big J’s derivative writing and repetitive themes, the crowd absolutely loves him. You cannot fault how he and Mac kicked off the event. But I wish there was more focus in his material, and I wish that Seano Mac had ridden the wave of a hometown opening gig with more gusto. Not quite history ... more like a really entertaining cartoon of a naked George Washington slipping on a banana peel.


Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

Two names that will be unfamiliar to U.S. battle fans, but two that devotees of the street style should pay attention to.

Take Note Tox is maybe one of the most American-friendly battle rappers in Don’t Flop, and certainly during the first round it was hard to believe this was only his second battle on the channel. While the material was a little formulaic (and I definitely heard a bite, flattered as I was, of DNA’s “proposal/let it ring” bar) the performance was boisterous and legitimately a little bit terrifying. Long, yes, but a bold statement for any rapper on their second battle.

Tali is a much more languid rapper, opting instead for curled-upper-lip snarling than barking outright, but his flow is undeniable. His verses are slightly more cypher-y than Tox’s, and that offset the relentless gun talk in an odd way, but he got himself back on form for the second round and had some great material about the call centre Tox supposedly works in. Tox lost a little of that Tay Roc-esque aggression in his second, and that numbed the impact of his material. Tali finished with the momentum despite a late burst from Tox. I'd call this a comfortable 2-1 in Tali’s favor. This probably broke history for the first U.K. gun bars I’ve heard with actual conviction behind them.


Briggzy vs. Bamalam. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Briggzy vs. Bamalam. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

Otherwise blighted by the aforementioned camera mishap, this battle was a startling return to form for Briggzy. Absent for a while, the tiny ginger man best known for being Shotty’s Mosh Team cohort fully laid into Bamalam and, while the crowd was doing a whole lot of snoozing on Bamalam’s material, Briggzy just overpowered him from about two feet below eye level.

For an event typified by intensity, and the tantalising prospect of the onslaught that was about to be the main event, Bamalam’s delivery simply didn’t fit. One of the most notable parts of the event was the way certain rappers used the performance space: Shotty, Raptor, Take Note Tox and Briggzy owned it. Bamalam was static and stilted, and didn’t look like his heart was in it.

No discredit from Briggzy. His light-hearted comedy moments missed the mark in my eyes, but the adaptation of the URL style into his delivery brought him bang up to speed. This was historical for being one of the most surprising comebacks I’ve seen in recent years.


Raptor rapping at Villin. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Raptor rapping at Villun. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

Raptor hails from Harpurhey, Shotty’s stomping ground, and with veins popping from his neck, blurting abrasive, almost involuntarily hype utterances between bars and furious multis, you can see where the inspiration comes from. Villun meanwhile, returning after battles with Sonny Bamboo and DNA, has taken up the mantle that Soul left behind in the bid to become one of the top-tier knowledge guys.

Villun has very strong, intricate material but was, like Bamalam, swept under the rug a tad by the Manchester audience. His delivery, despite his now frequent outbursts of anger and vastly improved projection, still needs polishing, and he is plagued with false starts and stumbles. Raptor, in Don't Flop for less than a year, was simply relentless. Rapid-fire, surprisingly direct and very, very mean.

This is historical for Raptor going mid-top tier straight from the newcomer stage. If he continues in this vein he really will be problematic.

Tony D vs. Shotty Horroh

Shotty Horroh rapping at Tony D. Photo by Joel Hoyte for Don't Flop. Shotty Horroh rapping at Tony D. Photo by Joel Hoyte for Don't Flop.

Finally. A battle with so much hype leading to it, happening during it and following after it that actually lives up to all the expectations. Shotty Horroh is the most viewed battler in Europe right now, and Tony D the most accomplished, accolade-wise. So many matches walk themselves right into a letdown, and, truth be told, the U.K. movement has been slipping in terms of views, output and characters this year. The pressure on these two was considerable, and they absolutely lived up to the hubbub.

Shotty Horroh opened with a biblical diatribe about sleeping giants and slowed down not a single notch for two rounds. Time out watching Loaded Lux and Daylyt battles must’ve informed a huge part of what he is writing and the way he is performing, because his bars are far sharper and his performance more varied and more wildly unpredictable than before.

Shotty-Horroh Shotty Horroh. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

Tony D’s material, on the other hand, comes from far too real a place. He is unflappable. He is so laid-back, and so aggressive, so comfortable and so imposing that there’s nary a crack to find in his armor. His London drawl contrasted lackadaisically against Shotty’s sharp Mancunian staccato as he broke down Shotty’s lack of responsibilities and showered him with acute name flips. Tony reached the pinnacle of battle rap whilst making his opponent look silly for wanting to reach the same pinnacle. It was masterful.

This takes nothing away from Shotty. His performance, up until a bout of freestyling that I suspect came from a memory lapse, was impeccable: it was exactly the comeback he needed to make. But his angles in the third round, while polished, were negligible: namely, the parenting angle Pat Stay foisted on The Saurus. And, as in that battle, the whole house of cards came down with a single, beautifully poised flip. It was the soundness of his logic and the earnestness of his approach that granted Tony D the win here — not that he didn’t have to sweat for it.

Tony D. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop. Tony D. Photo by Rob Clayton for Don't Flop.

The first two rounds were the most evenly-pitched, perfect battle rounds I’ve seen on a U.K. stage for a very long time. They were history inasmuch as they were the perfect distillation of U.K. battle rap up until now. The next stage in the evolution of the idiosyncratic British battle rap style, with both emcees taking a completely different approach and rapping in a patois inextricably linked to their hometowns. The third was Tony D running away with the momentum, and making this his defining battle, but that takes nothing from Shotty.

I think Tony’s main thrust was having more of an awareness of his context — not just within the culture, but of the culture itself and how it is seen by the average 35-year-old London dad. And he led everyone outside the situation just long enough for them to think a little about what they were watching. He has a healthy respect for battle rap — you can tell by the care he takes with his lyrics. But his respect for humanity, and his family, and what’s important to him, shone through in this clash. And he knew this battle was not the be-all-end-all. That mentality won him the event.

History is a tentative term — every battle that happens is part of the fabric of the culture — but this event and, more specifically, this battle may define a sizeable chunk of the future of the U.K. scene.

Shotty Horroh rapping at Tony D. Photo by Joel Hoyte for Don't Flop. Tony D and Shotty Horroh celebrating. Photo by Joel Hoyte for Don't Flop.

Massive respect to Don't Flop's photographers. See all of the event photos here.

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