Is URL Really The Only Stage That Counts?

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A look at whether every loss matters.

Aye Verb frittered away his closing rounds against Caustic and Illmaculatein King Of The Dot earlier this year, and in doing so showed just how little he, along with some fans, thought losing mattered outside of the hallowed stage of the URL.

Bishop Brigante recently hit back at the concept that “losing only matters on URL” in an interview with VladTV, firmly stating: “If you lose, you fucking lose.” In a culture where there are a select few leagues with a dominant viewership, does losing in one place mean more than another — if at all?

The URL, without doubt, is the most established and highest viewed battle league in the English language. If you plan to make a career out of battle rap, you put your belongings in a backpack (or whatever street rappers use to carry their things) and head to New York.

The right to battle on the URL main stage is one that only a select few rappers have earned. URL depicts the opportunity to grace their stage — AKA “the only stage that counts” — as a rare distinction. URL rep Norbes has said recently (also on VladTV) “if Smack [White] ain’t walking out on that stage, it’s not a real battle.”

“It don’t matter where you are,” Bishop maintains in his interview. “You lose when you don’t try. You lose when you don’t prepare. You lose when you suck.” An important part of the fiber of battle rap is that drive to win, or at the very least to improve on your last performance and make an impact on those watching. That’s not the copyright of any one league. It’s a crucial part of the battle movement, and one that informs its content and its personalities.

Bishop suggests that rappers taking losses in leagues they don’t take seriously can suck the wind from the sails of their careers. “It matters everywhere,” he says. “If you go to Battle League A, Battle League B and Battle League C, and you get bodied in all those leagues, the chances of you and your legacy even getting another battle booked at one of the majors … it’s gonna be kind of slow for you.”

This hasn’t necessarily proven true since there seem to always be new leagues willing to throw money at battlers, although repeat business from a league that’s been burned by an underwhelming performance does seem rare.

Regardless on the career implications of nonchalantly throwing away non-URL battles, diminishing a loss can often impede actual improvement. And when fans disregard a loss in other leagues, they disregard the journey of each battler who made it to the top.

But losing doesn’t always matter. It affects different performers in different ways. Some battles have two winners. Others have two losers. I, for one, have never minded losing as long as the battle is good as a whole. If you are more competitive, and winning is more rewarding for you, then it should be rewarding anywhere, and you should be putting in that effort either way.

Bishop puts it best. “Why don’t you try wherever you are to the best of your ability and you won’t have to worry about where losing matters?”

Ultimately though, wins and loses are subjective in the promo era. It’s your right to say Aye Verb won both the battles I mentioned above. Every fan creates their own personal understanding of the scene by which battles they choose to watch and how they interpret them. If you’re a fan who only follows URL, that’s valid. Judging from the view count of Hitman Holla vs. Tsu Surf, there are legions of you. But it’s no more valid than a fan who follows the sport more broadly.

Does losing in a smaller league matter? Let us know in the comments section below.




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