[The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by Industry Standard does not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or beliefs of the Ultimate Rap League or it’s associated entities….except for TheShootersTDT…because I own them shits…]
I want to begin by giving my personal definition of “Top Tier” to avoid any confusion as we delve deeper into this particular article. My interpretation of “Top Tier” is a performer, whom at a given time, can legitimately main-event a major URLTV event in which it results in the proper RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) of the purse issued to the performer in question. “Top Tier” isn’t just a status or a demarcation of pay tier. Top Tier is a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to create and curate above average social media engagement numbers. It’s a responsibility to be the face of a growing industry that is in dire need to elevate new talent while simultaneously helping to expand the battle rap aesthetic culturally. It’s not solely treating the industry as a stepping stone to segue into another overly saturated industry, but being able to aggregate yourself between multiple platforms while being able to properly engage the casual, but jaded, hip hop fan into checking out a new aesthetic without having them feel as though it’s just another form of everything that is wrong with the current climate of hip hop. Top Tier doesn’t have shit to do with the quality of the battler, but everything to do with the marketability and salesmanship of the battler.
With that said, my written preview for Tay Roc vs Rum Nitty revolved around the premise of Nitty arriving as an upper echelon performer. He’s able to interweave himself in and out of match-ups with relative top tier talent as he ascends to hopefully become cast in that vein of MC. Contrarily, this particular write-up will be about two MCs looking to cement their legacy as a top tier performer in the contemporary era of battle rap, with one looking to climb that final rung on that proverbial ladder and the other looking to reestablish his footing on his.
“[Surf] fucking up his brand, man. We got booked…before him and Suge got booked and before him and Rex got booked…I was supposed to be getting that Surf….it ain’t even the same Surf…”-T-Top on 15MOF
Let’s get one thing straight. In my opinion, the quote above is a response to Tsu Surf’s attempted downplaying of T-Top in multiple media outlets leading up to this battle, but I do feel that it is based on a lot of truth as to how he feels about Surf’s current stature and how it will ultimately impact his own cementing of his legacy against Surf at NOME6. In order for T-Top to stand at the top of this contemporary era of battle rap, he needs for Surf’s brand to be fully intact at the time of the match up. He needs for Surf to live up to his “it only matters on URL” mantra in order for he himself to either take his place along side a Surf, or to replace Surf in the next evolution of the culture.
“If you rapping just like the next nigga rapping, ya’ll both saying the same shit. One nigga got twelve million views, another nigga got two thousand. They doing something different”- TSU SURF (Aye Verb/Brizz Rawsteen In Studio)
The quote above is amiable to my earlier definition of “top tier”. Tsu Surf is from the modern era of battle rap. The engagement era, so to speak. It was an era where the artist had to create captivating stories for their match-ups without using the promoter as a crutch to sell their battle. The energy wasn’t the same as it is now. The East Coast, by and large, was ignorant to the skill level of MC in the middle of the country. Previously, the Midwest had largely become defined by very successful party artist, and it was during this time where a sizable margin of fans saw this as a sign of a diminishing of the culture. In retrospect, I’m sure quite a few individuals would trade that era for this one if given the opportunity, but I mention this for a specific reason. The Midwest had a light shone down upon it, but for those who lived there who did not embody what the music was within their personal art, that light came with a price of now having to fight an uphill battle to show that dynamic lyricism existed outside of the paradigm of party music in that region. This is what gave birth to that hunger that inspired the growth of an industry.
The regional angst that was built up thrust battle rap into a stratosphere where no one most likely could have ever imagined it going nearly ten years ago, and Tsu Surf was there for the maturation of it. There was no “using battle rap as a stepping stone” because battle rap wasn’t yet solidified as an industry to step from. It was just a genuine want and need to be in the mix of all of the organic energy surrounding it. It was an era where having a battle with a 100,000 views was a demarcation of being a main event player. Surf, was an early adopter of the culture, and so the fans were an early adopter of him. Part of why it’s so hard to unseat a top tier talent is because their fan base is an amalgamation of hardcore fans & hype-beast alike. Hype-beast are usually powered by the collective interest of the hardcore purveyors of any art-form in concert with marketing from those with the access to the machine, so usually any damage to stature at that level is almost solely self inflicted.
Surf’s recent publicized incomplete performances vs Shotgun Suge and T-Rex, although engaging from a sensationalist stand point, will ultimately create a level of apathy towards his brand and also continuously for anyone associated with the top tier, and consequently for battle rap as a whole. This is what I mean by being top tier bears responsibility to the over structure of this shit. You are an ambassador for the sport as a whole, and a salesman for those who aren’t interested both directly and indirectly, like it or not.
I’ve seen long time fans of Tsu Surf state that they don’t care what he does anymore, and that’s equally as damaging to T-Top as it is to Tsu Surf. If Surf continues this lackadaisical approach to the cementing of his legacy and T-Top beats him at NOME6, it will be comparable to sneak rocking a Beanie Sigel with one lung as compared to the Broad Street Bully in his prime. In this sport, torches are meant to be taken, not passed, and they sure as fuck shouldn’t be picked up because someone else dropped it.
All in all, I suspect that Tsu Surf is well aware of what’s on the line. If he doesn’t show up ready to kill, win or lose, then he loses a bit more name equity from his brand. T-Top is intelligent and competent enough to know that Surf actually has the brunt of the pressure on himself walking into this battle. I don’t believe that Surf actually believes that T-Top is a walk in the park (pun intended), and coupled with the pressure associated with people expecting him to live up to the self appointed moniker of “URL Baby“, for the first time in a while, I believe that we’re going to see a motivated Surf. But a motivated Surf, in my opinion, won’t be enough to beat a motivated T-Top who I believe will be as direct towards Tsu Surf as anyone that has ever battled him on a URLTV stage. I predict a win for T-Top over Tsu Surf, 2-1, with T-Top winning rounds 1 and 3, with Surf firmly reestablishing his footing on the top tier rung while having to make room for company as T-Top creates his own space next to him and others at that level.