In the nearly 50 years since hip hop’s first inception, the genre has been deeply steeped in competition. Rap battles were once seen as a rite of passage towards limelight discovery. But nowadays, battle rap has morphed into a sport of its own, with battlers leveraging their samurai spirits in no-holds-barred verbal warfare to assassinate their opponent’s character. Be advised: these battles are not for the faint of heart. Through the use of witty word play and cleverly crafted slurs, rhythmically shouted between the echoes of cheers and boos, viewers can feel the tension through the screen after every gut-wrenching line spouted.
Travis “Organik” Fleetwood and his pioneering battle rap league King of the Dot are largely responsible for helping catapult this underground subculture into a profitable endeavor. With more eyes on the sport than ever before, King of the Dot recently inked an exclusive deal with Twitch to launch the first ever full-season of battle rap— pining the top battlers from around the country against each other for a grand prize of $100,000.
We sat down with Organik to pick his brain about King of the Dot’s new Twitch-exclusive show S1 and the future of his relentless, standard-setting organization.
What was/is the inspiration behind the show and the “S1/seasonal format”?
Battle rappers are some of the most talented human beings on earth and people only get to see them perform a few times every year. S1 is all about giving our artists the chance to be a part of something larger, something that runs year-round and something that can change their life. The format gamifies battle rap. It rewards consistency and it elevates new talent quickly because you end up having match-ups that most veterans wouldn’t take in a regular battle. We’re excited to get our artists paid year-round and open up new monetization opportunities so that they can make careers out of their unmatched talent.
Why were LA, Detroit, NYC and Atlanta chosen as locations?
Our divisions are North, East, South and West and they bring talent from all over their region. There is too much talent to just have individual cities represented. Battle rap is more competitive than sports because your pride and reputation is on the line every second of the match. The difference is, you don’t need to bench press 500lbs or run a 4 second 40 yard dash to participate in battle rap so we find our talent all over the map. We’re using LA, Detroit, NY and Atlanta this year but who knows? Next year, you might see one division as America and another division on another continent.
Aside from crowning a champion will there be any other awards, MVP, rookie of the year, all-stars, etc?
The KOTD S1 annual award show will be happening in December. Following the season, we will be having a Fan oriented voting session to help us determine the winners for Battle Of The Year, Battler Of The Year, Breakout Battler Of The Year, MVB (Most Valuable Battler) and Moment Of The Year also. We want to incentivize the artists to push their creative boundaries and our annual awards allows us to show gratitude for the moments in time the artists have created for us to enjoy throughout the S1 Season. Also, the Semi Finalists will receive a cash award also for their efforts.
How would you describe the relationship with Twitch and the programming/development of the weekly content?
Our relationship with Twitch was incredibly organic and grew over many years. One of the partners in the league has worked with their 7th employee and they’ve always wanted us to democratize the live, PPV events to their massive global audience. During the pandemic, there was a chance to do something that has never been done with the Grand Prix 2020 and we took the chance to bet on ourselves and Twitch did the same. They’re known for having some of the toughest community guidelines of any platform online and the Music team went to bat to protect us and the numbers we’ve achieved together are proof of the strength of battle rap culture.
The rest of the slate is all battle rap creators but we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to expand their platform. These guys play sports, they drive sports cars, shop for streetwear and luxury items, cook big meals and travel the world when they aren’t on stage performing. People need to understand they are 360 human beings and we want to spotlight that so that fans can get deeper into our world. It also opens up the chance for brands to work into the space and benefit from true, deep influence that these creators have with their fans because their shows are more than just performances. All told, we love that Twitch has empowered our creators.
How will fans be able to participate?
Fans will be able to participate every day of the week. Depending on how much they want to get involved, they can tap in to watch the battles, they can vote on who they think won, they can ask questions through dropping Bits in the chat and the artists will be able to read them after they compete and they can Subscribe to the channel to ensure they get more content from their favourite league. Aside from the S1 battles, fans can deep dive with our talent on their shows and ask more personal questions, spend time getting to know them in new ways and support them directly with Bits and Subscriptions. If they want to represent S1 or their region, they can also grab some of the limited-edition merch we’re dropping which is color coordinated for each division.
This hasn’t been announced yet but soon they’ll also be able to participate in a new way with battle rap collectibles through a partnership we’ll be unveiling shortly. By the time fans read this, they should be able to register at kotdtv.com for early access.
What’s down the road for KOTD and the season format? Content, venues, expansion?
The future is bright for battle rap and that has always been my main priority. We’ve been the most innovative league in the world for over a decade and despite the competitive nature of the sport, we love helping out other leagues who are in this culture for the right reasons. Every step of the way, we’ve stayed true to fans, we’ve helped grow artists to a level where they can earn a living from rapping and we’re about to take it to another level altogether. The biggest growth regions for battle rap are far from the shores of North America but luckily, I’ve been practicing how to say “Battler to my right,” in a few other languages so stay tuned, ya dig.