Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Language, Respect and Identity in British Rap Battles


This dissertation studies the transactions of respect within the arena of battle rapping in Britain. With its origins in the heavily racialised struggle of African American ghettos, Hip Hop music, language and culture served as a mode of expression for marginalised Americans then spread internationally. As a street culture, negotiations of respect have powerful social consequences: ‘one’s image is determined by one’s street behaviour’ (Remes, 1991).

A prevalent part of this culture is the act of ‘battling’ (verbal sparring in verse) and rap battle leagues have emerged in the USA, Canada, Britain and Sweden. The rapper Eurgh is a key proponent in British Hip Hop, and the league of which he is president, ‘Don’t Flop’, is recognised and respected in America, with frequent international battles taking place. 

With its basis in previous studies of US battle rap (such as Fitzpatrick’s 2007 study of Eyedea) and with issues regarding Labov’s Rules of Ritual Insults in mind, close analysis of Eurgh’s language choice, and selected use of Hip Hop sociolect within a battle, an interview and an argument with peers is executed. Eurgh is found to assess the levels of respect he can gleam from each situation, and responds accordingly by altering his use of HHNL in both extent and purpose. The connection between these verbal duels and the extra-linguistic implications of Hip Hop Nation Language is explored within the context of respect, and thereafter linked with possible social and historical reasons for its assimilation into British culture. 

  1. Title Page
  2. Signed Declaration
  3. Abstract
  1. Introduction: ‘Any Place Except Home, Church or School‘                
    1. ‘To Disturb the Peace:’ Hip Hop as a Culture
    2. The Act of Verbal Battling: Defining Respect
    3. Blood in the Water: Eurgh and UK Battling

  1. Related Literature                                                                                        
2.1 Overview
2.2 The Features of battling: Remes (1991) 
2.2.1 Roots and means of battling
2.2.2   Linguistic characters of Hip Hop Nation Language
2.3 Fitzpatrick (2007)
2.3.1   An analysis of Eyedea
2.3.2 Bourdieu’s linguistic marketplace
2.4 Personal and Ritual Insults: Labov (1972) and Kochman (1983)
2.4.1   Labov: The Boundaries of Ritual Insults in Verbal Play
2.4.2.   Kochman: The Role of Personal Insults in Verbal Play

  1. Methodology                                                                                                   
3.1 Outline
3.2 Language Choice in Verse: The Battle
3.2.1 Analysis of language choice and rhetoric
3.2.2 ‘I wasn’t even mates with him’: Analysis with reference to Kochman’s approach to personal insults 

3.3 Language Choice in Natural Speech
3.3.1 The Interview
3.3.2 Footage from the World Rap Championships Semi-Finals 2007

3.4 Hypothesis

4 Analysis                                                                                                      

4.1 The Battle
4.1.1 Round One
4.1.2 Round Two
4.1.3 Round Three

4.2 The Interview

4.3 “Eurgh, from Norwich, says fuck Jump Off”- Natural speech inside a Hip Hop context

5 Discussion                         p. 30
5.1   Comparison
5.2 Roots

  1.   Conclusion                                                                                                   

6.1 Findings

6.2 Limitations

6.3 Further Research

7 Bibliography                                                                                                 

8 Appendices           
8.1 Appendix 1: Transcription of the Interview
8.2 Appendix 2: Transcription of Eurgh’s battle verses

8.3 Appendix 3: Transcription of Eurgh at the WRC 2007


1.1 ‘To Disturb the Peace’: Hip Hop as a culture
Hip Hop serves as an active culture with heavy linguistic emphasis. Borne out of poverty and disenfranchisement in urban New York, the ethos of Hip Hop aims to ‘disturb the peace’ and serve as a ‘contemporary response to conditions of joblessness, poverty and disempowerment’ (Smitherman, 1997). There are many facets to Hip Hop, including specialised forms of dancing and graffiti, but the element under scrutiny here is rapping (Kugelberg, 2007, p. 17) and the communicative practices that surround it. Rapping is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as ‘spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics’ (2009) which does not encapsulate the use of rapping not only as a brand of entertainment but also as a linguistic practice that has very real social consequences.

This practice introduced a unique sociolect known as Hip Hop Nation Language (hereafter HHNL) and its use became directly linked to prestige amongst the peer group (Wolfram, 2003). HHNL is etymologically linked to the African pidgin languages from the seventeenth century, formed in slavery, and this suggests that HHNL has been adapted for similar conditions of marginalisation and neglect as a language of unity. The link between language and practice here is palpable: ‘The racialised rhetoric of rap music and the hip hop nation is embodied in the wider communicative practices of the Hip Hop nation’ (Smitherman, 1997, p. 19).

1.2 The Act of Verbal Battling: Defining Respect

This use of HHNL emerges strongly within the practice of rapping, and there are several sub-practices, all of which serve different social purposes. This includes standalone verses, pre-written to communicate the aspects and ethos of ghetto life and the act of ‘freestyling’, an improvised form which began as a way of engaging the crowd during performances (Smitherman, 1997) but evolved through the convening of ‘ciphers’. Rappers would take turns, moving around the circle, each freestyling about their own prowess and the surrounding events and points of reference. The ‘ciphers’ served as a social proving ground for rappers, and the display of prowess brought them very real respect from their peers.

By using the term ‘respect’, this study refers to a specific type of respect. It is a respect that emanates from the gang culture which itself sprang from the political vacuum formed by the deaths of racial activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and inspired many of Hip Hop’s idiosyncrasies (Remes, 1991). Rappers refer to ‘the streets’ often in their music, and this, according to Smitherman, suggests ‘any place ‘cept home, church or school.’ (1997) The anti-authoritarian stance of Hip Hop culture draws young people closer to their peers than any institutions, and negotiations of respect occur in the context of a rapper’s own peers: gaining approval from those of whom the rapper approves, and silencing enemies and detractors. In American gang culture, this respect has real consequences in allegiances and events.

This ethos formed the roots of the rap battle. Rap battling is a competitive speech genre, in which the rapper aims to dominate and humiliate his opponent so as to decrease their status and increase their own (Fitzpatrick, 2007, p. 64). African- American culture and ebonics places a heavy emphasis on orality (Remes, 1991), and this shows in its practices. The Signifyin’ Monkey is a practice of African- American verbal play that has had an influence on battling. This consists of an improvised, vulgar poem that would unfold, moving from speaker to speaker and taking in further obscenities and insults (Remes, 1991, p. 132) and Playin’ The Dozens was similar, beginning with the basic structure of an insult directed at another speaker’s mother, which, with every repetition at the hands of a different speaker, would become more elaborate with the addition of word classes, similes and hyperbole (Remes, 1991, p. 138). Rap battling itself can be defined as the combination of braggadocio (self-glorification) with insults against another rapper and rappers are judged based on how they humiliate their opponent and who has ‘better verses’ (Edwards, 2009, p. 25). This reflected more positively on the region, gang or coast they claimed to represent, as crew members view ethnicity and neighborhood as potential sources of pride (Newman, 2001).  

It is suggested that this act of verbal play is linked directly to the mechanics of the society in which it takes place. Social practices lay the foundations for both language and identity (Pennycook, 2010, p. 125), and it is in this light that battle rapping is considered. Within the confines of the rap battle, the exchange of respect is completed extra-linguistically, over and above what is actively being stated. Certain tools and mechanisms are being used in a battle, to engineer this exchange. This happens both structurally within the battle context and on a social level in the audience and discourses of battling. These features bear considering on an intrinsic level, disregarding the setting and geographical context of the battle.

1.3 Blood in the Water: Eurgh and UK Battling

These factors considered, the discussion is directed towards the UK. British Hip Hop began shortly after its American counterpart (the first recorded British rapper was Knowledge, in 1980 [Hesmondhalgh, 2001]) and battle rappers from either side of the Atlantic regularly engage with one another, providing a cultural connection. Only the mechanics of US battling have been previously considered, and studying the discourses and the functions of respect within the UK subculture could identify possible catalysts for the emergence of a British subculture and thereby, given the Hip Hop’s role as a voice of disenfranchisement (Smitherman, 1997), enable wider connections to be made to social issues and class divides in British society.

In order to examine British battle rap, the framework of Fitzpatrick is adopted (2007) Fitzpatrick analyses the rhetoric and discourses used by US rapper Eyedea. The importance of regional representation proposed by Newman (2001) influenced the selection which UK rapper justified selection for study. MC Eurgh, as the host of Don’t Flop, the UK battle league that is frequently represented against Canadian, Swedish and American rappers, is the current embodiment of British representation, having battled extensively throughout British and International leagues for four years (Appendix 1). By examining the way in which the linguistic aspects of HHNL have been assimilated into a British culturalcontext, and how this counterbalances the development and utility of discourses within a British hip hop community, it will be possible to demonstrate how these serve the negotiations of respect therein. From this, the connection can be made between these negotations, hip hop as a cultural and linguistic practice and the British environment in which it is practiced.


2.1 Introduction

A considerable volume of work has been compiled relating to Hip Hop culture and its role in society, largely focussed on the US culture. The context of Smitherman’s work (1997), and the sociohistorical context he provides for the birth and growth of Hip Hop, has already been operated within. Also aforementioned is Remes’ ethnographic account of the roots and importance of verbal play in African culture, and their link with the act of battle rapping (1991). In addition, Remes provides some of the grammatical, lexical and syntactic features that appear in HHNL. The extent to which Eurgh puts these to use, and to what ends, is ascertained through examination of the the speech samples. For the battle in particular, and as aforementioned, Fitzpatrick’s Critical Discourse Analysis of Eyedea (2007), a US battle rapper, provides the framework for analysing Eurgh. Whereas Fitzpatrick examines Eyedea’s language from a gender perspective, the emphasis within Eurgh’s battle is on the use of rhetoric and the adoption of HHNL features and how these are applied to increase his status within the Hip Hop community, through his references to popular culture and shared experience. For all of the speech samples, there is a thematic and practical application of Labov’s Rules of Ritual Insults (1972). This, alongside a rebuttal from Kochman (1983) regarding the inclusion of personal insults within ritual play is used as a theoretical backdrop for study the context and usage of insults, and the respect that their accuracy and complexity serves to accumulate. Eurgh, in his interview (Appendix 1) dismisses personal insults, so this will be called into comparison.

2.2 The Features of Battling: Remes (1991)

2.2.1 The roots and means of battling

The sociohistorical backdrop for Remes’ work has already been outlined, but what still requires explaining is the relevance of the rest of his piece to this study. Remes relates one particular verbal game, ‘playin’ the dozens’ or ‘sounding’ to battling in its use of a cyclical insult- rebuttal structure. (p. 138). Furthermore, he identifies the role of insults: each insult is a speech act in the wider speech event of the rap battle, and intended for an effect outside of the language used (p. 139). Of particular utility was his examination of language use in raps, in which he reduces the language to two components: Black English and Slang. The use of slang is a ‘means of separating oneself from others’ (p. 139) and use of this ‘special language’ forms a major part of a rapper’s identity. Slang use and identity are often connected: it is a key tool for the negotiation of meanings and values and the formation of an social identity.(Bucholtz, 2007, p. 252)

2.2.2 Linguistic characteristics of Hip Hop Nation Language

Remes defines a selection of the more prominent features of Black English that transferred to hip hop language, such as the deletion of ‘to be’ (as in ‘she real skinny’ [p. 139]), multiple negation (‘I don’t do no crime’) and the invariable ‘be’ (‘you be on a mission’). Slang is associated with the rapper’s peer group, and so tends vary in extent of use and meaning between speakers even within the same social group (Bucholtz, 2007, p. 243), making regularly occurring features harder to identify. Resultingly, the presentation of the features of Black English is the most consistent framework of comparison between the language used in the Eurgh’s UK battle and standard HHNL. 

2.3 Fitzpatrick
2.3.1 An analysis of Eyedea

Fitzpatrick (2007) focuses on the discourses, rhetoric and narrative at play within battle, rather than the act of battling itself. He achieves this through a study of a televised battle between Eyedea and Shellz which is largely informed by Critical Discourse Analysis in the field of gender.  By examining each of Eyedea lyrics and the way in which they function to emasculate his opponent, Fitzpatrick suggests that ‘users of HHNL consciously modulate their speech to appeal to the notion of covert prestige and in-group acceptance which comes with the use of hip hop language’ (p. 66). This is particularly relevant to the study of a British rapper, as a boundary has to be drawn between the adoption of HHNL, a culturally African American sociolect, and the use of their dialect. The emphasis Eurgh places on each will show how he aims to negotiate status through language choice and the delivery of his verse. 

2.3.2 Bourdieu’s linguistic marketplace

Fitzpatrick links the discourse of battling to Bourdieu’s ‘linguistic marketplace,’ wherein language is ‘rarely used strictly for communicative purposes’ (p. 65). Language is used as a tool for acquiring ‘social capital’, which lends credibility to future utterances and enables the accumulation of further respect over time. With this in mind, rather than focussing on gender, I will focus on the rhetorical features of Eurgh’s verse, and how he draws in popular culture and context-specific events to increase his popularity. 

2.4 Personal and Ritual Insults: Labov (1972) and Kochman (1983)

2.4.1 Labov: The Boundaries of Ritual Insults in Verbal Play

As far as the aggressive content of battle rapping is concerned, it is necessary to question the veracity of the insults being exchanged. Labov’s 1972 study of inner-city black children suggests that personal insults fall outside the realm of ritual play. The ritual insults present in sounding achieve their communicative purpose through layers of hyperbole and metaphorical excess. However, whenever an insult becomes ‘too ordinary- too possible’ (p. 147) it is removed from the context of the verbal game and into disputable claims in a real social arena that require denial, rebuttal or qualification. Labov establishes rules for the conduct of verbal play but claims that there are exceptions: ‘it is possible to hurl insults and it is possible to join in a mass attack on one person there is always a cost in stepping out of the expected pattern’ (p. 334) and enabling these alters the purpose of the language choice. 
2.4.2 Kochman: The Role of Personal Insults in Verbal Play  

Kochman responds to Labov’s rules in 1983 with a rebuttal, refuting his placement of the play/non-play boundary. Kochman suggests that personal insults fully qualify as part of verbal play, as the movement of the personal into the ritual context reconfigures the dynamics of the insult. Kochman aims to show the functional similarities of accusations and denials in order to display their adaptability as play. Eurgh’s placement of personal insults (and his rebuttal in the second round of the battle [Appendix 2]) and the ways in which they are implemented will illustrate the social purpose of his use of HHNL and rhetoric. In placing personal insults on one side of the play boundary, emphasis shifts within the role of battle rapper.


3.1 Outline

The speech samples in which the HHNL features and discourses are identified occur in different contexts within the UK Hip Hop community. Initially, one of Eurgh’s earlier battles against Kulez, a London-based rapper, is examined. A transcription has been made of each of Eurgh’s three rounds and Kulez’ opening round, which provides the context for one of Eurgh’s rebuttals. Kulez’ round is not analysed, as the emphasis is not on direct comparison with other rappers, but instead on how Eurgh’s own use of HHNL adapts to different contexts. One of these contexts is a ten-minute interview with Eurgh discussing his perspective on battle rapping as a competitive art form, and the boundaries of image, identity and style in UK Hip Hop. This is used as an example of natural speech outside of a verbal play context. This taken in isolation however does not give a clear representation of Eurgh’s natural speech, as the conversation is not within his ordinary cultural context. Therefore a small excerpt of a post-battle outburst in the US, in which Eurgh feels he has been wronged by the judge, will be studied. In this situation, Eurgh stands to lose a large amount of respect, and expresses his anger at American bias, using a noticeable amount of HHNL. This will be used for comparison with the interview to illustrate different non-play contexts for language use. 

These three speech events determine how the respect transactions set into motion with each battle insult affect Eurgh’s external social standing, and to what extent he attempts to use HHNL in non-battle contexts to defend his status.

3.2 Language choice in verse: The Battle

3.2.1 Analysis of language choice and rhetoric

The text is transcribed from video footage of the battle. Initially Eurgh’s verses are scrutinised for the grammatical and lexical features of HHNL outlined by Remes, such as the deletion of ‘to be,’ the contraction of ‘going to’ to ‘gonna’, and the use of multiple negation, among others (p. 139). Also, the placement, purpose and syntactic context of these features are examined, as well as any usage of slang. This indicates the wider functioning of HHNL as a tool for gaining respect, and its assimilation into a non-American context. 

It is also necessary to identify, in a similar fashion to Fitzpatrick, how Eurgh calls upon and feeds into the shared narrative of rap battling and the discourses of popular culture. Eurgh uses rhetorical features to engage the community and in doing so maximises his respect-earning capacity within the linguistic marketplace of battle rapping. These are discussed in relation to Fitzpatrick’s work.

3.2.2 ‘I wasn’t even mates with him’: Personal insults and rebuttals

Within the battle, attention is drawn to a feature used frequently by Eurgh: the rebuttal. Eurgh draws reference to a number of insults used by Kulez, and from various viewpoints: in some, the rebuttals are similar to that of a personal insult; in others, the adaptation of Kulez’ themes and content is part of verbal play, and in its expansion and complication of wordplay shows many of the hallmarks of sounding. The approach with which Eurgh handles the insults directed at him illustrates the blurred boundaries between the personal and ritual insult and therefore enables wider assertions about the linguistic mechanics of the culture in which these insults occur. 

3.3 Language choice in Natural Speech

3.3.1 The Interview

The interview (Appendix 2) itself occurs shortly after a Don’t Flop event. The questions give Eurgh as much opportunity as possible to speak naturally and without interruption. Within the interview, both the questions and answers are transcribed, in order to convey the Eurgh’s answers in as natural a context as is possible. The battle will be used as a framework of comparison: the most relevant analysis comes within the interview, and his use of HHNL outside of a battle is the focus of this study. The features that were found in the battle will be used a framework for examining the interview and ascertaining the extent of HHNL use. In the case of an absence of HHNL, it will be necessary to provide an explanation for this active language change. Due to the nature and themes of the questioning, the interview is, alongside its qualities as a lengthy speech sample, useful as an insight into the perspective of a UK rapper on the nature of hip hop and its communicative practices. This then relates the ideology behind Eurgh’s answers to his language choice inside and outside of battling.

3.3.2 Footage from the World Rap Championship semi-finals

With each of these sources, there is still an absent variable: the use of natural speech in a context where respect has been traded or the social importance of an event is magnified via the language used by its participants. This speech event surfaced in the form of a disputed judging decision in the World Rap Championships (WRC 2007), and Eurgh was captured ranting both straight to camera and at local New York rappers. A small section of the footage is transcribed, within which a heated conversation between several rappers provides an interesting chain of speech acts which will be analysed for their HHNL and slang content, and compared and contrastedthis with both the battle and the interview. 

These three samples do not cover every angle or approach to battling, but they provide a variety of contexts in which Eurgh has a different relationship with battling.  The extent and discursive purpose of HHNL use in all three samples will be compared, and set in the context of the related literature and ideas about the accumulation of respect in a Hip Hop community away from America.

Within this study, Eurgh will use HHNL throughout the three contexts, but the extent of this use will be much greater in situations where a higher amount of respect is being negotiated. The purpose for use of the language will alter as well within each context.


4.1 The Battle

4.1.1 Round One
From the outset, Eurgh makes extensive use of fillers like ‘yo’ and the ‘I’m busting + adjective’ construction. ‘Fillers’ are a form of poetic hinge, used to support and pre-empt rhyming words and punchlines. Eurgh is performing ‘cultural code-switching’ with the purpose of constructing his rhyme. Code switching refers to the concurrent usage of two different languages or varieties, and Myers-Scotton’s Markedness Model (Myers-Scotton, 1993) proposes that users of multiple varieties are methodical and logical and use the language that most benefits them within a social context. This is demonstrated in Eurgh’s switching between Standard English and features of HHNL. 

The generic simplicity of the first line of each rhyming couplet and pattern allows the rapper to improvise a more targeted or context-specific rhyme as a punchline. In the filler material, Eurgh’s use of a HHNL lexicon is marked, and when he is finishing his punchlines, he switches to more standard English constructions:

‘everyone here knows  this bitch frail (.) it’s funny it says tusk (.) on your t-shirt cos he’s so black you would never see –im (.) pale (..)

In the first part of this insult, Eurgh makes use of one of the features highlighted by Remes as distinctive to HHNL, the deletion of to be (‘this bitch frail’) during the construction of the rhyme. However, this feature contrasts with the use of a contracted ‘is’ in the following line (‘he’s so black’). The deliberate movement between language designed for a restricted community and the use of Standard English is a defence technique. When Eurgh is not appealing to the audience by forming rhyming insults and wordplay about his opponent, he maintains his position within the social context by using language specific to that community, and this serves to boost his respect in a Hip Hop scenario where authenticity is seen as a route to the accumulation of respect.

Eurgh constructs adverbs in a notable fashion. A feature of HHNL slang is the replacement of adverbs in adverbial phrases with adjectives. This features on several occasions (‘i’m busting it strong’, ‘i drop nasty’ and ‘i’m sounding it well’ demonstrate this) and, as per the HHNL earlier in the round, occurs largely within the filler elements of the round. As before, this serves to support the authenticity of Eurgh’s language, and this authenticity is intending to at as a catalyst for the acquisition of respect.

This verse also draws attention to the use of stimuli from outside of the verbal exchange. Eurgh refers to Kulez’ previous round, beginning by highlighting which insult he is rebutting by making reference to Kulez ‘talking bout big tigger.’ and then forming his own wordplay using the same stimuli (‘it must be e t’ playing phonetically on the physical appearance of fictional alien ET, and relating this through language with Big Tigger, a television personality from Black Entertainment Television, or BET, hence the pun.) Through this overturning of Kulez’ verse, Eurgh undermines his opponent’s performance and esteem in the eyes of the crowd.

4.1.2 Round Two

At the start of his second verse, Eurgh uses a technique highlighted by Fitzpatrick in his study of Eyedea. Eurgh uses the rhetorical “everyone knows that k’s a prick” and within the same rhyme uses “anyone here who’s watched a battle knows…” and although this is not posed as a rhetorical question (Fitzpatrick 2007, p.70) it serves the same communicative purpose in actively engaging the audience through direct involvement in the verse. Through this use of rhetoric he increases his chances of gaining respect by both undermining his opponent and addressing the audience directly.

“everyone knows that k’s a prick (..) talking about how i’m on arkaic’s dick anyone here who’s watched a battle knows til a week ago i wasn’t even mates wi- him”

This provides a rebuttal for a directive Kulez made in the previous round, telling Eurgh to ‘get the fuck off arkaic’s dick’. Kulez ventured too far into territory that was, as Labov posited, ‘too probable,’ and as a result of this, Eurgh provides qualification to ensure that his status is not affected. This is an indication that the battle has moved within the boundaries of personal insults. The rules and structure of the verbal play within the battle, however, are unchanged, and Eurgh maintains the rhyme scheme and uses the same rhetoric and mode of address as he did outside of a personal context. This suggests that personal insults have been adapted into the mechanics of the rap battle, in accordance with Kochman (1983). 

Eurgh combines two different levels of rhetoric via code switching in this round also.

‘i slew emcees (.) i heard the track where you changed your usual steez (.) rapping like r a (.) probably gonna call his album shadow state of lunacy

In the first half of this insult, Eurgh makes two lexical uses of slang. Firstly, ‘I slew emcees’ follows the use of perfect declensions of ‘to be’ and ‘to see’ used in place of the present,  outlined by Remes (‘She seen me lookin’ [Remes 1991, p. 139]) and this is achieved here with the past participle of ‘to slay’, a UK slang configuration of this grammatical feature. ‘Steez’ is a neologism, and means ‘style’. Use of this non-standard form again serves the rhyme scheme of the bar but also aims to show Hip Hop authenticity through language and by doing so accrue respect. In some contexts, members of a social group restrict the use of language socially specific to that group, through the emphasis of language, dialect, or, as in this instance, the use of slang in conversations with outgroup speakers (Bucholtz, 2007).

In this round and throughout, Eurgh makes reference to popular culture (‘Bob Marley’, ‘Bloc Party’) and cultural figures outside the battle. By telling Inc, a rapper not involved in the battle, to ‘shut the fuck up’ and by mentioning “r.a.”- the abbreviation of the crew Rhyme Asylum, and using their album name (‘State of Lunacy’ [Rekabet Records, 2008]) as part of his wordplay, Eurgh brings those witnessing the speech event to a position within the discourses at play. Popular culture references broaden the range of those within the community that can identify with Eurgh’s verses.  

The use of immediate stimuli (such as Inc) as rhyming subjects is known as ‘freestyling’ and in a battle context serves two objectives. Firstly, by referring to objects, events or lyrical content present at the scene of the battle, a rapper proves his creative prowess as the material could not have been prepared. Secondly, such referring to other rappers (such as Inc, mentioned on two occasions) and events inside and outside the battle, Eurgh places the battle in the context of a shared discourse, working events being witnessed by other emcees who stake respect in the rap battle into the battle itself. This defines the battle by its events and wider context, and places the lyrics neatly into the ongoing discourse of the rap battle league. By increasing the status of the battle, Eurgh increases his own status by association. 

4.1.3 Round Three

Eurgh bases much of his final round on a reference to the host, Million Dan, by Kulez. The choice is made to focus not on his physical appearance or personal characteristics, but instead on his conduct within the social norms of battling and concurrently of Hip Hop culture.

‘(..) come on man he thinks referencing million’s good? (..) lickin the battle host’s arse come on we all know oldest trick in the book’

Eurgh attacks the authenticity of Kulez’ battling technique. By using rhetoric such as ‘we all know’, Eurgh aims to draw attention to his opponent’s methods. This reiterates the cultural importance of the linguistic elements of battling. Eurgh highlights Kulez’ movement outside of the confines of verbal play and his active engineering of social favour, then exposes the purpose of Kulez’ language. In the following couplet, Eurgh undermines Kulez actions, explaining that Million Dan would not ultimately have a hand in the outcome of the battle.

‘we all know kulez is gay cos he knows full well he ain’t a judge but he’ll lick his arse anyway’

 Eurgh highlights flaws in Kulez’ use of rhetoric, claiming it was misdirected. By stripping bare the verbal play context, whilst remaining within it, Eurgh leaves Kulez social intentions exposed, in essence suggesting that Kulez would favour a winning decision from the judges over respect from the community. Eurgh identifies with the ideology of the Hip Hop community, and dismisses Kulez attempts to do so as misguided.

Analysis of Eurgh’s battling techniques has demonstrated his tactical usage of HHNL in conjunction with the discourses he introduces into the battle context. He balances out the ‘filler’ parts of each insult that do not directly address his opponent by code-switching between HHNL and Standard English. To validate his cultural authenticity, Eurgh involves figures and themes from hip hop and wider popular culture to aid identification with the community, and shows an awareness of the social mechanisms behind the battle in exposing his opponent’s use of rhetoric. Including figures from the audience cements the battle in the ongoing discourse of rap battling, and by bringing status to the battle, Eurgh brings status to himself. The inclusion of personal insults does not stall the verbal play, as Eurgh’s rebuttals fall within its confines.

4.2.1 The Interview

This interview is discussed as an example of Eurgh’s use of language outside of the context of the linguistic marketplace of a battle. This enables the examination of variations between his language inside and outside of battle. The analysis works sequentially through the interview. 

it’s been (..) four years i been doing it now

In section 1, Eurgh uses a feature of Black English. The progressive ‘been’ surfaces whilst Eurgh talks of his battling experience. This contrasts with the construction directly pre-empting this: the use of a contracted auxiliary ‘has’ before the progressive ‘been’. Although Eurgh is not battling, he has utilised HHNL in a conversational context wherein information about his experience and concurrently his prestige is required. As in the battle, this shows signs of cultural code switching when his status requires qualification. What follows, however, appears to overturn this. 

‘i feel like it has taken on as me and cruger’s responsibility (.) to (.) keep putting battles out because there was no-one else providing that entertainment for the people (.)who’ve been watching it for the last three years’

In section 2, one use of the ellipsis ‘wanna’ is the only HHNL use. In this segment, Eurgh uses a standard complex grammatical structure, and in syntactic contexts within battles where he had replaced this with use of HHNL he has opted instead for constructions not restricted to the Hip Hop community. This provides a contrast not only with the battle but the previous response also.

Following this, Eurgh explains the idiosyncrasies of being a rapper in section 4, and the varying purposes different rappers have for their language choice. Eurgh highlights an extra element to the act of negotiating respect in a battle: the notion that different rappers have different approaches to doing so. 

‘i think he never came in this (.) for respect he was never- he never wanted to be (.) the top dog he just wanted to rap and make people laugh’

Again, while the topic of respect is being discussed, we see a resurfacing of non-standard English, with ‘came in this’, and whilst not being listed by Remes, this strikes a contrast with Eurgh’s earlier explanation of how ‘[his] older friends got [him] into it’ which uses an accusative instead of dative preposition. The transformation from ‘into it’ to ‘in this’ shows the evolution of Eurgh’s self-perceived placement within the culture. The use of ‘into it’ implies arrival into the sphere of Hip Hop culture and ‘in this’ suggests the Eurgh has now moved to a position inside of the culture, and the position taken with discussion of other rappers ‘coming in’ is one of authority. Eurgh displays  his status through the changes in his language as different themes come to pass in the interview

Eurgh proceeds throughout sections 5 and 6 to highlight the distinction between US battle rapping, the source of Hip Hop culture, and its UK subculture. Eurgh claims that: 

“the american scene is much more (.) street orientated (.) and it’s much more about (.) who’s the hardest lyrically who’s the hardest physically”

Eurgh differentiates between two different types of respect in this instance. The first is street respect: the establishment of an imposing persona that carries outside of the battle. The second is suggested in this:
“i think compared to the british scene if you watch don’t flop (.) it’s much more about the comedy like today’s event (.) it’s all about who can make someone laugh more who can get the crowd on their side”

The suggestion is that the respect in this instance is not just implemented in a different way to the US, but is a different kind of respect altogether. The emphasiss in UK Hip Hop, according to Eurgh, is on the rhetoric and the verbal play on an intrinsic level. Due to its geographical removal from Hip Hop’s founding stimuli, the dynamics of the battle and the intentions of the language differ. This changes the criteria by which the social group assesses the standards of respect administration. The practice of battling has transferred but, at the exclusion of the specific sociohistorical context from which it was adopted, it is appreciated on an intrinsic and aesthetic level. Respect is still accumulated from technical mastery of the verbal play, but there is less emphasis on the rapper’s social threat outside of the battle.

Eurgh’s use of filler in natural speech is highlighted here. Both in the interview and the World Rap Championship footage (Appendix 3, to be examined later) Eurgh uses ‘d’you know what i mean?’ as conversational filler. In the battle, pauses for thought are occupied with ‘yo’ and ‘fuck it’- syllabically shorter and phonologically sharper, they serve to maintain the aggression of the battling context, and this energy need not apply in a natural setting. This displays a constant reassessment of the levels of respect that can be negotiated in his current context.

Eurgh proceeds to section 7, in which he discusses personal insults and their relevance within battling. The use of slang is negligible in this section of the interview, bar notably the use the expletive ‘shit’ to mean ‘content’ (‘he had personal shit’) which is a feature of HHNL. A pattern is developing within the interview where one or two HHNL features, primarily lexical, are used within each response, but largely Eurgh answers in Standard English. Eurgh dismisses personal insults, claiming that ‘the more important thing is just who’s more entertaining’. This comes down to the aforementioned cultural shift from US Hip Hop to the UK, and the emphasis on linguistic skill rather than social presence.

One further comment from Eurgh requires expansion, from section 10. When asked about the importance of degrading the opponent, and if a rapper can claim victory purely by display of his prowess, Eurgh maintains that it varies with the opponent and Eurgh’s relationship with them.

‘it’s been literally eighty eighty five per cent in my head i just wanna make you look shit (.) and by making you look shit (.) in turn i will eventually (..) you know (.) t- i will turn out (..) to look better… but there’s been a lot of ones where it’s been the other way round all i’ve cared about is spitting some good bars and i’m really not bothered if (.) they- how it looks to them i just want to get respect for sounding good’

In the first half of this section, Eurgh discusses the embarrassment of opponents, and does not make use of HHNL within it. However, when he proceeds with the discussion of his own prowess, and ‘respect for sounding good’, Eurgh uses the slang verb ‘spitting’ (as used previously to discuss US Hip Hop culture) and ‘bars’. The use of ‘bars’, meaning lyrics, is taken from a musical semantic field, and reinforces the musicality of African American oral culture, solidifying the link between language, music and the wider elements of the culture upon which Hip Hop music draws. As soon as his own reputation or prowess is mentioned, lexical items from HHNL are used. Eurgh is using this linguistic toolkit selectively to consolidate his authenticity and, consequentially, his status while reflecting on it.

This is the last section of the interview examined in detail, as it exemplifies the way in which a culture-specific linguistic practice has been assimilated into new cultural surroundings. The remainder provides very little that does not already mirror the features that have already been discussed. Thematically, the interview continued to discuss the conflicts between recorded rap music and battling, and the degrees of separation between his name as a rapper and his real name. The extent of HHNL use in sections 11, 12 and 13 is negligible, while this does highlight the limited use of these features in Eurgh’s speech outside of battle, it does not present non-standard lexical items or grammatical structure to analyse.

One of the issues with conducting an interview in this manner is that it does not represent Eurgh’s conversation with his peers. The use of HHNL will naturally emerge with those also immersed in the culture and its practices. In addition, and despite the fact that Eurgh discussed several themes within respect and battling, and used slang in contexts to defend his status when the interview focussed on it, there were no active transactions of respect- this interview occurred outside of the Hip Hop community.

4.2.2 Footage of Eurgh’s outburst during the World Rap Championships 2007

It is necessary, then, to examine a natural conversation between Eurgh and another member of a Hip Hop community. Eurgh competed in the 2007 World Rap Championships (hereafter WRC 2007) with a rapping partner, Arkaic. Large financial prizes and international acclaim and respect were at stake, and in the semi-final, Eurgh and Arkaic were defeated due to a decision being overturned by the judges. Eurgh expressed his anger vocally directly to the camera. The straight to camera tirade is examined, in addition to the proceeding conversation Eurgh conducts with the surrounding US rappers. This demonstrates Eurgh’s language choice in a context where a great deal of respect is in negotiation, yet natural speech is used. This will display more clearly the social purposes Eurgh has for HHNL outside of battles.

Eurgh begins, amidst a flurry of expletives, with a reference to his hometown.

‘yeah eurgh from norwich says FUCK jump off’ (Appendix 3)

The inclusion of his hometown amidst emotive language use, such as expletives, reinforces the idea of representation. As Newman posited, those involved in Hip Hop culture use neighbourhoods and origin as a source of pride and identity (Newman, 2001, p. 2). This is represented here in Eurgh’s inclusion of Norwich as both a statement of identity and a tool for conserving the respect he is angry at having lost. Specifically in the context of an international battle, this serves a double purpose. Eurgh later claims that Jump Off ‘always favour americans’ and is therefore within his language using his hometown as a negotiating tool to defend his status. In accentuating the British element of his identity, he appeals to those in his own community for respect. 

Eurgh proceeds to use a heavy concentration of HHNL lexical items. Use of the lexical item ‘bars’ to mean ‘lyrics’ is semantically shifted further still from its musical context.

‘every bar –sessed and reain told us man (.) true man (.)’

Eurgh transforms the meaning of ‘bars’ in this instance to ‘units of information. By semantically introducing the context of ‘bars’ from music to the battle, and then from the battle context to natural speech, Eurgh relates the importance of language choice in battling its social context. In this case ‘bars’ is used to refer to information they were told by two previous British rappers in the competition. Drawing this connection legitimises the act of battling in the wider context of its social impact, and conveys the magnitude of Eurgh’s defeat on such a level.

Eurgh again uses ‘shit’ as a slang synonym for ‘things’, and a double negative construction in ‘they ain’t care about nothin’ man’. Use of multiple negatives is listed by Remes as a feature of Black English, and this is the only occurrence of it in any of the speech samples. The usage of these features show an increased effort to use respect acquisition tools within contexts where status is directly under threat. The need for identification with the cultural norms has invaded his natural language use. The display of adherence to these norms cements his position, relevance and authority as part of the culture.

In the proceeding conversation with Arkaic and a group of US rappers from the local community, Eurgh makes the use of explicitly British slang ‘bruv’ and follows this with another culture-specific discourse marker from HHNL, ‘straight up’. At the linguistic home of HHNL Eurgh combines HHNL and British slang, maintain his geographical identity, but by the same token grant access to greater identification with the US rappers. Eurgh utilises this in order to maintain his authenticity in a social setting to which he is not accustomed.

The mechanics of respect operate here in both examples of natural conversation. Eurgh constantly reassesses his positioning in terms of HHNL use according to the context and theme of conversation. Through his targeted use of lexical items and discourses from within the Hip Hop community, Eurgh legitimises his own role in this community and thus brings credibility and respect to his utterances within the social confines of Hip Hop. In the interview, Eurgh highlights many of the themes that define his language choices. He identifies the differences between the criteria for the administration of respect in US and UK battle rapping. These were connected to the issues surrounding the establishment of a linguistic practice outside of its founding sociohistorical setting, and how this alters the framework of respect to its own values.


5.1 Comparison

The battle and the interview have presented different purposes for the use of HHNL in both British and overseas contexts. Eurgh’s natural speech has displayed tendencies to adapt to situations according to the potential levels of respect that can be acquired or lost in each. The use of HHNL features is sparser in speech than in battle, and it is primarily the lexical features that are cross-contextual. The battle is the only situation in which the grammatical and syntactic aspects of HHNL are present. In the battle, these deviations to standard construction are used as a framework that support Eurgh’s punchlines, so as to create equilibrium with the insults, most of which take the form of Standard English. This maximises the level of respect he can accumulate. Conversely, in the interview Eurgh’s speech is being used for a different purpose. Eurgh places more focus on maintaining his status outside of the battle, as oppose to negotiating more respect.

The social mechanics of US Hip Hop culture described by Fitzpatrick (2007, p. 2) are at play within a British context also. Fitzpatrick highlights the extra-communicational purpose of the language used within Eyedea’s battle, and suggests that the language is delivered with wider negotiations of respect and status in mind. As established within the analysis of the battle, the methods by which respect is negotiated in a British context do not endorse an aggressive social presence, but prioritise the careful manipulation and aesthetic value of language. With this in consideration, it is evident that the culture of British Hip Hop shares this notion of a ‘linguistic marketplace’ with its US equivalent. The development of a similar system of respect negotiation points to a similar value system in both cultures. However, the shift in the values of those administering respect indicates a cultural assimilation of the act of battling to a different set of sociohistorical stimuli.

5.2 Roots

The language and practices of Hip Hop are linked to its African American roots and the reasons for its genesis are grounded in racial tensions in American society. This results in the heavily racialised discourses and rhetoric that function within Hip Hop and their representation within wider linguistic practices like battling (Smitherman, 1997, p. 5). Despite the shift from social aggression in US Hip Hop to linguistic dexterity within British Hip Hop, it is necessary to examine possible social stimuli for the existence of a British subculture in the first place. This will contextualise the respect negotiations of the British Hip Hop community.

‘'UK rap' is a broad sonic church, encompassing anything made in Britain by musicians informed or inspired by hip-hop's possibilities, whose music is a response to the same stimuli that gave birth to rap in New York in the mid-Seventies.’ (Batey, 2003)

In Britain, tensions had arisen from the growing level of post-War immigration and peaked in the Notting Hill riots of 1958 which resulted in violent conflicts in concentrated racially charged areas including Nottingham and Notting Hill (Ramdin, 1987). This was followed three decades later with an event chronologically aligned with the genesis of UK Hip Hop: the Brixton riots of 1981, which have been summarised as ‘an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police.’ (Scarman 2003). While these events in isolation may not provide sufficient bases for the formation of a counterculture, it does indicate the presence of tensions and unbalances that could have informed the creation of British Hip Hop. Hesmondhalgh, however, maintains that British Hip Hop has been cross-racial from its inception (2003). US Hip Hop was founded to portray the resilience of the black ghetto (Smitherman, 1997) but Hip Hop culture was assimilated into British society with a different purpose.

UK Hip Hop instead stems from experiences with poverty and disenfranchisement on a national level, given that race is a factor referenced in battle but not central to the UK Hip Hop ideology. The first registered British Hip Hop record was “London Bridge” by Newtrament, released in 1984 ( In 1982, Britain under Thatcher saw unemployment increase to over three million for the first time in fifty years, and this became one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe (BBC News, 26/1/82). UK Hip Hop was forged in a time of great economic disruption, and dissatisfaction with the government: Hirst posits:
‘Not only did she fail to modernise British industry, the years of her reign marked the UK’s fall from being one of the wealthiest countries in the EU to being in danger of being overtaken by Spain’ (Hirst, 1997, p217).

Therefore, considering its cross-racial nature, UK Hip Hop relates more to the socio-economic factors that saw the development of Hip Hop in the US than its racial cultural elements.

The variation between the emphasis on image in the US and on the aesthetic value of language in the UK comes as a result of these differing stimuli. Language use is dependent on the social and cultural activities in which users engage (Pennycook, 2010, p. 1) and these in turn are dependent on the origins and catalysts of the culture in which they occur. The differing roots and contexts of US and UK Hip Hop have resulted in the adoption by the UK of a similar linguistic practice, but one that is dictated by the different norms and values prescribed by the surrounding society. In attempting to negotiate respect from members of this culture, UK battle rappers have had to adapt their themes and content from that popular with the original culture. In doing so, UK rappers more easily fit the paradigms and expectations established by UK Hip Hop community members, and accrue respect more efficiently.

6.         CONCLUSION

6.1       Findings and hypothesis

This study suggests that Eurgh assesses the levels of respect within different speech situations and his use of HHNL varies accordingly, both in terms of the purpose and extent of his language use. Within a battle context, Eurgh uses the highest concentration of HHNL, as a means of forming ‘filler’ lines upon which to hang insults, whilst still maintaining respect when these elements of verbal play are not being used. In a non-play context within the social boundaries of the battling social group. Eurgh uses HHNL in a different structural capacity: to maintain authenticity in light of heavy negotiations of respect. Outside of a Hip Hop community, within the interview, Eurgh uses HHNL primarily when discussing notions of the identity and prestige of himself and the British ‘scene’ in general. This works in synchronicity with the hypothesis posited earlier. Also within the interview, Eurgh highlights themes and notable differences between different rappers in the UK and between US and UK rappers, and most importantly highlights the focus of British battling on the skillful manipulation of language rather than the importance of an imposing ‘street’ image. He sets these wheels in motion within the content of his own rapping. This ideology then pointed to wider discussions about the links between cultural values and language practices, and this allowed for a suggestion of social discrepancies and historical stimuli that laid the foundations for a UK Hip Hop culture.

6.2 Limitations

There are fundamental issues when analysing a single rapper to the exclusion of others. As Eurgh states within the interview, a rapper’s stylistic and linguistic choice all ‘depend on what kind of person [they] are’ (Appendix 1) and it is these idiosyncrasies that prevent this study from being generalised to every UK rapper. It was never intended to be so: what Eurgh has demonstrated is a manifestation of cultural influences and this will not necessarily apply to other rappers. Others may use these stimuli to different ends. There are many factors that impact on the delivery and content of battle verses: accent, dialect, class and ethnicity are all factors that may affect a rapper’s stance and style within battle verses.

Region is also a decisive factor. In studying UK rap, one must also consider that ‘Don’t Flop’ has battle divisions in Scotland and Ireland also, as well as separate divisions representing the north and south of England. Within these boundaries is not only a wide variety of dialects and language varieties, as well as localised slang, but also specific sociological and cultural factors that would not be found in the language of an English rapper such as Eurgh. Due to the restrictions of the study, there are many interesting and relevant variations on the sociolinguistic pattern exhibited by Eurgh that bear scrutiny and are yet to be examined.

The use of qualitative data itself introduces complications. Without quantitative statistics, the study cannot be used as conclusive proof of patterns in the use of HHNL. As aforementioned, this study was never intended to act as a framework for generalisation: Eurgh was chosen as a representative example of British Hip Hop culture, in terms of his significance and not the study’s wider applicability. A quantitative study would not so easily permit the analysis into the utility and purpose of the language choices he was making. The social mechanics behind his language use were the focus of the study. It oss more logical to identify the linguistic motives of one rapper rather than trying to generalise fixed rules from a culture filled built around anomalies and exceptions.

6.3 Further Research

Given the limited body of work that exists on British battle rapping, there is ample scope for further research. A viable study would be one within the context of the ‘Blood In The Water’ events (Appendix 1, p. 2) which see UK rappers compete against US rappers. This would allow for a more direct comparison between transatlantic usage of HHNL, and point to further distinctions between the sociohistorical source of Hip Hop and its British counterpart. Given UK Hip Hop’s cross-racial profile, some interesting analysis could be made of racial insults and their use within a British arena. In general, because of their structural similarities, the framework of any existing study, such as Fitzpatrick’s or Remes’, could be adapted to a British context and used to address the external stimuli that influence battling’s development more directly. In addition, the study of the growth of battling in different countries (such as the ‘Basementality’ battle league in Sweden, in which HHNL slang terms are adopted into the Swedish language) would be useful in exploring the malleability of Hip Hop within different cultures, and further explain how a culture that emerged from very specific stimuli is being adapted as a voice for the marginalised on a global scale.


Anon. "Low Life/British hip hop, UK hip hop: the story". Archived from the original on 10 October 2006. Retrieved 2 November 2006. Available at: 

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8.1. Appendix 1: Transcription of the Interview

micropause (comparable perhaps to an average syllable duration) <0.5 sec
brief pause >0.5 s <1.0 s
pause >1.0 s <1.5 s
longer pause in seconds
point at which the current utterance is overlapped by that transcribed below
asterisks indicate the alignment of the points where overlap ceases
relatively high volume
lengthened syllables or speech sounds
= =
latched utterances, with no gap
not a punctuation mark but a rising intonation contour
draws attention to location of phenomenon of direct interest to discussion
glottal stop, self editing marker
(( ))
used to indicate some phenomenon that the transcriber does not want to struggle with or some non vocal action

Sections are numbered for ease of reference.

Interviewer: ::i’m here(.)speaking to eurgh also known as rowan (.) faife (.) uhm i’ve go- uh i’ve (.) uhm (.) acquired consent tuh (.) to u-use his ((his)) uh alias (..) uhm as Eurgh (..) i’m just going to ask (.) talk ((vocal uncertainty)) a few questions about the ideas of language identity and respect in (.) british battle rapping (..) uhm (.) so how ((how)) long’s it been since (.) since you started

1. Eurgh: (…) uhm (.) i started when i was (..) 17 (..) because my older friends got me into it (.) a::nd (.) that was about early two thousand and seven so it’s been (..) four years i been doin it now (..) uhm (.) yeah basically (.) started (.) as (.) a nervous little teenager and then obviously (..) steadily grown every year to what it is now

Interviewer: oh right and i mean that- that growth is that part of the reason that you do it then

2. Eurgh: e::r yeah because it’s always an ambitious thing it’s like basically (..) i’m quite an ambitious person so every time i see ten more people at the event than the last event (..) i think well i wanna keep doing this s-so i can get twenty more people at the next one (.) and then it just goes like that

Interviewer: and so cool so is it uhm (..) is it more of a- a personal journey or do you feel you represent something kind of bigger than that 

3. Eurgh: i feel it’s personal (.) in the sense (..) that (..) I wanna ((as I said)) cos I’m quite ambitious I wanna always set new goals for myself and like I said I wanna (.) see everything getting bigger and bigger cos it makes me feel like i’ve (.) succeeded at something (..) but also i do feel like (.) i’m representing (.) the scene (.) because (.) there was no-one else doing it when we started it so i feel like (..) it is mo- i feel like it has taken on as me and cruger’s responsibility (.) to (.) keep putting battles out because there was no-one else providing that entertainment for the people (.)who’ve been watching it for the last three years

Interviewer: so i mean do you- wha- what’s the kind of (..) split between (.) entertainment and sort of (..) respect (.) you know what i mean (Incomprehensible) the split between (..) what’s the importance on ent- entertaining rather than (.) gaining respect// 

Eurgh: //i think// 

Interviewer: //and where do you draw the line

4. Eurgh: i think they’re pretty exclusive things like I think it depends (.) it depends what rapper (.) it depends what rapper you’re looking at really like if you look at (7.0)

Interviewer: nah that’s all good man

Eurgh: it’s good to go

Interviewer: it’s all good

5. Eurgh: it depends which rapper you’re looking at basically if you’re looking at someone like oshea (.) i think he never came in this (.) for respect he was never- he never wanted to be (.) the top dog he just wanted to rap and make people laugh (.) and uh he did (.) but then you get other people (.) you know who are clearly (.) more driven people who just want (.) they want the respect they wanna be known and i’m not saying either one is (.) you know better (.) but basically it just depends what kind of person you are like (.) you know you can be the kind of person that is only bothered about (.) entertaining the public and making people laugh (.) or you can be someone that wants to take yourself further and further and further (.) and get known as a really lyrical emcee and it just depends

Interviewer: ((and)) how does that kind of (.) how does (..) in your- your view does british battle rapping contrast with (.) sort of atlant- like transatlantic sort of ba-battles i mean obviously you run the blood in the water events

6. Eurgh: uhm (.) i think (.) blood in the water events are interesting because they are such a contrast (..) because (.) i think the british and america i think (.) the american scene is much more (.)street orientated (.) and it’s much more about (.) who’s the hardest lyrically who’s the hardest physically (.) uh i think compared to the british scene if you watch don’t flop (.) it’s much more about the comedy like today’s event (.) it’s all about who can make someone laugh more who can get the crowd on their side (.) and who’s generally a wittier person (.) and i’d say (..) the people getting hundreds of thousands of views in America often are just people who just spit about guns (.) because it seems like that’s what the majority wanna hear but in Britain people don’t really wanna hear that as much

Interviewer: yeah that’s i mean a-and would you say kind of wi- with Americans though that its less of a content driven thing and more of a:: kind of delivery

7. Eurgh: it’s more of a (..) americans i- it’s more of a- an image thing like it’s not really about the image here like there’s a couple of people who’ve got (.) images as (..) the alcoholic or the comedian or this or that (.) but it’s more like (.) in america it’s really really about it doesn’t matter if your bars don’t really rhyme (.) or you’re not really that good (.) if you’ve got a gangsta persona a lot of the time it really really really (..) goes through well (.)dyou know what i mean (..) a::nd (.) over here yeah (.) no-one really gives a shit if you’re hard or not you just gotta be fucking funny

Interviewer: Yeah i mean with that humour obviously (..) the basis of-of battle rapping is about insults and- and kind of taking the other person down (..) i mean how important are personal insults in comp- comparison to like kind of (.) general sort of you know your mum jokes i mean where-whe-where’s the kind of barrier between (..) taking it too far personally and=

8. Eurgh:                           =uhm i think (..) i think personal insults no pun intended it is a personal opinion how you feel about them like i don’t really (.) i don’t really care about them at all to be honest i get re- when i see the personals- when its- cos all it does really personals just- they just show that you care about the battle way too much to be honest and you’re (.) you’re like (.) you know you’re like lookin in (.) y- you’re clearly googling your opponent dyou know what i mean but some people they (.) you see a lot of people when they vote on battles they say (.) i’m winning (.) giving that to him (..) because he had personal shit but to me (.) myself i think it’s a complete waste of time (.) i think really the more important thing is just who’s more entertaining and like if you can throw some personal shit in (.) about you know maybe where they come from then cool but don’t make it so obvious that the battle’s all you care about//


Eurgh:        //in life.

Interview: it’s uh ooh (…) stuff’s going off there (..) uhm (..) yeah so i mean with (.) wi-with that whole kind of (..) w- with the (.) with the insulting kind of thing would you say that (.) that personal insults are (.) a part of it or would you reckon it’s a kind of (.) it’s a different kind of- of- (.) of (..) conflict if you know what i mean=

9. Eurgh: =i think nah i think it depends what battles you set up like there’s a lot of battles in don’t flop (.) that won’t ever happen because the two competitors know it will get too personal (.) and then it does take it from a rap battle into a kind of catfight which is never a good look=

Interviewer: =yeah, yeah=

10. Eurgh: =and it’s really kind of embarrassing and like i said when you see these people who are battling and they’re (.) clearly putting in way too much effort (..) it’s- it’s not really a look for anyone that they want so i think (.) yeah you- you can either just have a (.)straight up (.) i’m gonna make you laugh battle or you can really take it down a different route and it just depends what your tastes are (.) and who the person you’re battling is (.) and (.) also what your intentions of the outcome is like if you wanna really embarrass them (..) then (.) you might go personal but if you’re not that bothered you just have fun with it

Interviewer: and is it more important to make the other person look shit (.) or oh go- (.) the other person (.) look (.) more incompetent (.) or yourself look better like wha- what’s (.) is it the aim to bring em down or build yourself up

11. Eurgh: again (.) it depends on the opponent like there’s been a couple people (..) i think it’s- it’s a percentage thing it’s like there’s a few people i’ve battled where it’s really been (.) fifty fifty (.) you know trying to make myself look good trying to make them look shit (.) but a couple battles i’ve done not mention any names (..) it’s been literally eighty eighty five per cent in my head i just wanna make you look shit (.) and by making you look shit (.) in turn i will eventually (..) you know (.) t- i will turn out (..) to look better (.) but it’s not it’s like (.) me looking better has never been the priority it’s just been i haven’t liked them (.) and i’ve been like i wanna make you look awful

Interviewer: yeah

12. Eurgh: but there’s been a lot of ones where it’s been the other way round all i’ve cared about is spitting some good bars and i’m really not bothered if (.) they- how it looks to them i just want to get respect for sounding good

[7:08- 7:21 of recording consisted of an interruption from a passer-by, this was irrelevant and therefore will not be transcribed. I was asked to repeat the question.] 

Interviewer: yeah (.) uhm i mean what’s the kind of (..) the boundary between battling and recording

Eurgh: //okay//

Interviewer: //what- what- how- do you- do you feel you can get the same (.) sort of (..) respect (..) trading that you do wi- with recording as you do with battling

13. Eurgh: dyou know what no i don’t actually i think you (.) you can actually if you get lucky like (..) if you look at the percentage of people who get big off uk rap (..) you know (..) it’s (.) a- like half a percent or whatever like basically it’s like (..) yeah i think it’s much easier to get quicker acclaim from battling (..) and i think that’s why a lot of people do it but then als- it’s also a negative thing (.) because you see a lot of battle- battles where you see the people in it clearly h- have watched battles too long (.) they’ve seen the view count and they’ve just got really (.) you know gassed up in their head and they’ve decided (..) to:: battle because they want the quick way to fame (.) but they’re not very good at it because they haven’t got the right attitude//so it’s like

Interviewer: //yeah//

Eurgh: //some people are built for making music (.) and the people built for making music will if things are right in the right steps (.) get- famous (..) and the people built for battling will (.) get just as much acclaim that way but (..) not everyone’s good at both ((i mean)) there’s only a couple of people that really are

Interviewer: that’s- a::nd just a final question how far are the concepts of eurgh and rowan faife ins- inseparable

14. Eurgh: uh i was talking about this quite recently (.) it’s got to the point now where i can’t really separate them i- i’ve (.) it used to be more of like i could say (.) eurgh did this rowan (..) did this but it’s pretty much got to the point where i don’t really know (.) who’s who (.) anymore but it’s cool it’s totally fine (.) i just- i get on with it (.) i- i organise the events and it’s a part of me and its good fun and (..) you know fifty (.) fifty per cent rowan fifty per cent eurgh and everyone’s happy

Interviewer: cool alright well thanks a- thanks a lot for your time man (..) thank you

8.2 Appendix 2: transcription of Eurgh’s battle verses

crowd interruption (for every time a rapper has to pause for over 2 sec due to crowd reaction)
micropause (comparable perhaps to an average syllable duration) <0.5 sec
brief pause >0.5 s <1.0 s
pause >1.0 s <1.5 s
longer pause in seconds
point at which the current utterance is overlapped by that transcribed below
asterisks indicate the alignment of the points where overlap ceases
relatively high volume
lengthened syllables or speech sounds
= =
latched utterances, with no gap
not a punctuation mark but a rising intonation contour
draws attention to location of phenomenon of direct interest to discussion, with the feature itself italicised
glottal stop, self editing marker
(( ))
used to indicate some phenomenon that the transcriber does not want to struggle with or some non vocal action

(From the start of the battle, excluding the introduction of the host

ey yo i’m loud and free (..) and this guys more of a bitch (.) than the bitch tha- I was on I was on talking about cheese (..) you can’t step to Kul (..) channel four heard you (..) and they left the room (..) listen i spit sicker (.) to leave this shit spitter disfigured (.) while I fuck up the basement so hard they gon have to give big tigger a quick ring up (.) like kulez is BACK (..) while he’s at his nine to five (.) i’m i- up in his lady’s flat (.) filling his lady’s gap with more semen that a navy hat (+++) yo yo yo yo (..) yo yo yo (.) i be hopping out the window ready to take a cab (.) he opening the front door like babes im back (+++) yo yo yo (..) I got the crazy flow I aint even gotta hit this bredder wi dem asian jokes (.) i mean (.) i flow on it (.) you’re so norwich (.) he got his myspace on his t-shirt cos nobody actually goes on it

Eurgh no. 1
yo (..) yo (..) yo he could never see these frees (.) talking about big tigger (.) cos when i looked at him i was like shit (.) it must be e t (..) that’s a fact there (.) yo (.) i’m busting (.) yo actually kulez (.) wait a minute shut the FUCK up inc (.) yo (.) i’m about to ((burn)) (.) listen (.) yo (.) everyone here knows this bitch frail (.) it’s funny it says tusk (.) on your t-shirt cos he’s so black you would never see –im (.) pale (..) everyone liked that (.) yeah i’m busting strong (.) I think this guy’s definitely been in the sun too long (.) yo and don’t act like i won’t smack you (.) kulez looking like a broke papoose (..) mixed with nocando (..) listen (.) fuck that (.) i drop nasty (.) looking like bob marley has a singer with the singer of bloc party (..) yo fuck that (.) yo (.) i’m sounding it well (.) yo (.) i’m busting- i’m busting it friend (.) ((inc)) don’t make me tell you to shut the fuck up again (.) yo (.) yo (.) i’ll drop son (.) i don’t give a fuck (.) both of them are so crap we could do this two (.) on (.) one

Eurgh no. 2
yo (.) everyone knows that k’s a prick (..) talking about how i’m on arkaic’s dick anyone here who’s watched a battle knows til a week ago i wasn’t even mates wi- him (.) yo (.) yo i- i tear emcees (/) he disses me for writtens (..) but the bars he spat at m a in his last battle i know for a fact he prepared for me (.) yo (.) this next bar is honestly phat you talk about rhyme book club ask kruger (.) any time you come on screen (.) i say the words (.) oh my god you’re so wack (.) yo (.) i’m rapping it dude (.) no i’m not saying this for the battling crew (.) i promise you (.)that’s actually true (.) yo (.) it’s right here (.) yo (.) and you know what i slew emcees (.) i heard the track where you changed your usual steez (.) rapping like r a (.) probably gonna call his album shadow state of lunacy (+++) (next four syllables are indistinguishable over crowd noise) you can go to croatia and back and still not be able to rap

Eurgh no. 3
easy man yo (..) come on man he thinks referencing million’s good? (..) lickin the battle host’s arse come on we all know oldest trick in the book (.) yo (.) you’re gay and suck (.) yo and it’s a shame million dan ain’t a judge (..) yo (..) yo (..) and we all know kulez is gay cos he knows full well he ain’t a judge but he’ll lick his arse anyway (.) yo and you’ll get wrecked today (.) yo (.) and yeah you’ll lick his arse anyway but if you wanna try and get a verse as a guest (.) you pay (.) yo i’m right there rappin in a set (.) yo (.)i didn’t recognise you without the stack of rings on your neck (.) and the pot full of water balancing on his head (+++) i flow phat (.) The- there’s an elephant on his top cos he misses the homeland (.) he’s like million dan give me the money so i can go back (.) yo (.) and i spit no unprepared rhymes (.) never prepare rhymes (.) tear guys (.) and he be crashing in this battle like that recent african airline.

8.3 Appendix 3: Eurgh at the WRC2007 Transcription

This key is applies to both parts of the excerpt.

micropause (comparable perhaps to an average syllable duration) <0.5 sec
brief pause >0.5 s <1.0 s
pause >1.0 s <1.5 s
longer pause in seconds
point at which the current utterance is overlapped by that transcribed below
asterisks indicate the alignment of the points where overlap ceases
relatively high volume
lengthened syllables or speech sounds
= =
latched utterances, with no gap
not a punctuation mark but a rising intonation contour
draws attention to location of phenomenon of direct interest to discussion
glottal stop, self editing marker
(( ))
used to indicate some phenomenon that the transcriber does not want to struggle with or some non vocal action

8.3.1 Excerpt of straight to camera tirade

Eurgh: fuck jump off man fuck ju- are you recording this (.) yeah eurgh from Norwich says FUCK jump off dot tv you stupid CUNTS (.) FUCK you all man (.) you’re idiots mate (.) you haven’t got a fucking clue about anyth- fuck all o- you (..) fucking jokers (.) eight and a half hour flight to get screwed over (.) are you mad (.) fucking (.) you’re (.) cunts (.) c u n t- fuck you ((incomprehensible)) man=

Arkaic: =This is why possessed and reain don’t// come back

Eurgh: /     //do you know what i mean?* let’s- let’s say some shit man (.) you know why -ssessed and reain don’t enter man (.) cos they told us from day one yeah (.) jump off are cunts (.) they’ll screw you over (.) they’re selfish (.) they ain’t care about nothin man (.) what are they proved (.) every bar –ssessed and reain told us man (.) true man (.)

8.3.2 Conversation with Arkaic

Arkaic: woulda bin pissed off yeah but like wha-ever innit i wouldn’t (.) go off on one like this (.) but now they’ve- they go on camera (.) say it’s going to overtime and it doesn’t go to overtime (..) it’s just=

=zest and reain told us ma- -ssessed and reain told us from july bruv (.) -sessed told us straight up (.) he was like don’t waste your time with jump off man they’ll screw you over in the end (.) cos they always favour americans (.) and every single thing he told us was // proved right

Arkaic:           //if this was * in London or a neutral ground // yeah it would not happen

// know what I mean *

U.S. rapper: how do you thinks you know what you need to do shouldn’t you go to neutral ground

Arkaic: it does man

Eurgh: do you know what i’m saying=

U.S. rapper:      = period =

Eurgh: do you know what i’m saying =

U.S. rapper:     = period =

Eurgh: =we were battling and you FUCKED us man (.) FUCK jump off