By DaQuan Lawrence,
Special to the AFRO
On Oct. 30, the Pit Fights Battle League will host its second Gubernatorial Battle Rap Debate.
Two contenders have studied the platforms of Democratic nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee, Del. Dan Cox (R-MD-04), and will face off against each other in a rap battle where they take on the persona of the candidates.
The event will take place in Baltimore at BeMore Green, located at 2036 West North Ave.
The personification battle was created to promote interest in political elections, and to provide a space for creatives to learn about the people vying for elected office.
Ira “I-Rap-Alot” Cunningham and Kevin “Kind Chedda” Anderson Jr. will put on a battle of words ahead of the midterm election, slated for Nov. 8. Cunningham will represent Cox, while Anderson will represent Moore.
The contestants will debate about important community issues such as affordable housing, employment, education, healthcare and police reform from the perspectives of gubernatorial candidates.
Shaka Pitts, founder of organization and creator of the gubernatorial rap debate, believes the event is an opportunity for community members to engage in local and state politics, while learning about the various perspectives regarding political and social issues affecting them.
“Throughout the Baltimore uprisings, we held personification rap battles focused on the challenges between civilians and officers, with a White battle rapper representing the civilians and a Black rapper representing the police officers. We needed to have an actual conversation without all the social barriers in place,” said Pitts, a Brooklyn native who has been involved in Baltimore’s hip hop scene since moving to Charm City in the 1990s.
Pitts believes battle rap is an aspect of hip hop that remains true to the culture. The upcoming gubernatorial rap battle is known to have an educational component, but Pitts highlighted other benefits of battle rap– such as conflict resolution, violence prevention, and therapeutic experiences.
“It keeps the mind sharp and gives you lateral thinking,” he added. “We have used battle rap to solve beefs between people who historically didn’t get along with each other and give people a voice.”
Cunningham, who has competed in 13 rap battles, spoke with the AFRO about the importance of hip hop and battle rap in modern day society.
“Hip hop is the most popular culture in the world. Battle rap is one of the first expressions that we had– and still have –
] kind of the basis of hip hop. The exposure has grown, and money has increased, but I still think the culture is in a developmental phase,” said Cunningham.
Founded in 2009, Pit Fights Battle League is one of the oldest battle rap organizations in the nation and one of the premiere MC rap leagues on the east coast. The organization has hosted over 1,500 rap battles and rappers from across the country participate in their events.
Anderson, who is currently the reigning “King of Pit,” has competed as a battle rapper since 2017 and participated in approximately 22 battles.
“I think the whole point of it is opening your mind to a new creative process of doing things. I love doing something outside of the box, and teaching other people in a fun way– that is different,” Anderson said.
The artists first decided to hold their own personified debate dedicated to a gubernatorial election before the pandemic.
“During the 2018 gubernatorial elections, I wanted to galvanize Black people to participate in the democratic process,” said Pitts. “Understanding that everyone does not watch CNN or NBC for multiple hours a day, I figured that rap battles could include and discuss the same information in ways people can relate to and understand.”
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