Yartzi a.k.a. ‘El Cacique’ has graced the microphone and stamped his legacy in the world’s largest Spanish freestyle rap battle competition platform Red Bull “Batalla.” Repping Puerto Rico, Yartzi shared some insights and what it takes to wow the judges during battle.
Red Bull Batalla is a global freestyle rap competition that, since 2005, has provided a platform for the best hip-hop improvisers in the Spanish world to connect, develop and compete.
Within the last few years, the Red Bull founded project has become the world’s biggest international freestyle battle competition, uniting Spanish Latin America, and Spain.
Spanish battle rap hits different…
The roots of this improvised rap scene are as deeply connected to hip-hop as they are to the improvisation styles of traditional folk troubadours. It has evolved into a style completely distinct from that of hip hop in North America.
With Red Bull Batalla, Red Bull gives an opportunity for young MCs to train, perform and improve their improvisation and rapping skills.
“We go into competition with the mindset of trying to win each year. For me – each year that goes by it’s a little less about winning and more about making a statement, enjoying myself and getting the most out of every experience but there’s still the desire to win.”Yartzi
Kulture Hub: What does the grand prize look like?
Yartzi: They give you an incentive for every round that you win and if you win the whole thing they give you another big incentive as well as the trophy and all the media coverage. Red Bull National and International can give major mainstream exposure to get more views. If you know how to handle things you can get two years of work from winning this competition.
KH: So given the fact that this is off the top of the dome, this is just what you can come up with – What type of freestyle format do you prefer? Are you a quick hitter? Or are you more of the slow let it sink in and marinate type rapper?
Yartzi: It depends on the adversary and it depends what technique you think you can use against them. Some people are more skilled rappers that elaborate more and you have to see what they lack so you can use that against them.
If they are a skilled rapper that constructs everything with a slow pace then you go at them with the fast pace and punchlines.
“The judges are going to evaluate for what the other one lacks. If the artists are on the same level it’s like cancelling. If you cancel the variance, then what’s left after that?”Yartzi
KH: How do you get a feel for the best time to deliver your strongest punchline? Is it from the crowd? Is it just from instinct?
Yartzi: Giving out your best punchlines is like a fight, if you hit a mark three times from the start, then he’s gonna be all wobbly. If the judges see that he’s not responding the battle can get lopsided in your favor.
Me personally I give out the best punchlines when they do cheap shots. I always keep it respectful within the battle but when I see that my opponent throws that out the window then I immediately throw it out the window too.
KH: When it comes to the beat selection, do you have any decision upon what beats are chosen? And if you do, how do you go about choosing the beats?
Yartzi: No, the DJ that’s on set has the responsibility of choosing the beats, and we just got to be ready for the beat that drops. You know, that’s a part of the game that’s part of adjusting to whatever is set up for you.
“It’s still a competition that gets you ignited and by winning you get the most out of it. I want to defend the title and try to take it for the third time. So even though I want to win I mostly want to enjoy myself to get the best out of the experience and learn from it.”Yartzi
KH: Does the crowd really influence you? Or is there something you might see in the crowd? Or something that someone might say that just changes the entire way you go about it? Are there any defining moments?
Yartzi: When you get a good punchline, well, that’s obviously good because when you hear the crowd cheering you on, you get more hyped. But then again, that can be tricky, because if you just focus on throwing punchlines that will make the crowd scream, those might not necessarily be the punchlines that judges evaluate to make you win.
KH: Do you guys remember the show, Yo Momma with Wilder Valderrama? In what ways is this like that show? And do you ever dig up dirt on your opponent prior to the battle?
Yartzi: There’s always dirt. You can choose to use it or not. If you bring it into the competition it’s because you have a personal problem and you want to try and get your opponent distracted. It doesn’t do anything because the judges don’t really know if it’s true. I don’t really use that much [dirt] because it’s not relevant and does not focus on the concepts and formats judged in battle.
“The time you have to concentrate more and demonstrate what you’re made of is when you get hit with a super punchline.”Yartzi
KH: What region were you placed in battle and where might you travel if you advance?
Yartzi: I do not have to go to the qualifiers since I came in first place last year. I go directly to the National on September 18 in Los Angeles. If I had not automatically qualified I would have been in the South Beach Miami region.
“The rapper that loses is the rapper that loses his cool.”Yartzi
KH: What does your pregame routine look like? The day or maybe the week before? How are you guys preparing? And what might you be doing to help yourself be in the optimal shape for this performance?
Yartzi: I try to get as relaxed as I can and try to get good sleep. Try not to eat anything that’s heavy. Those are things that cut you off. Mentally, if you’re sleepy, if you haven’t eaten, those are things that can take your focus out. Also, don’t over-practice because that can affect your voice.
Yartzi makes his presence felt, carries himself with confidence, and exudes poise in the battle arena.
More than just a Spanish battle rapper, he is certainly a seasoned veteran, he is primed to make another valiant effort in this competition. Will he stay atop the elite or will a newcomer come crashing his party?
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