Continuing our 2012 Year In Review, we take a look at the year in URL. Rather than simply recount the battles and events that took place, we’re going to take a look at a few key aspects of URL’s year, that ended up playing a significant role in 2012. We’ll be discussing the year in battles, as well as taking a look at the battle rappers who had big years, in a few future posts in our 2012 Year in Review coverage. Make sure to continue checking back over the next few weeks, as we continue taking a look back at the year in battle rap.
2012 Year In Review | The Year In URL | PG Model Works
If there’s one take away from 2012 for URL, it is that the Proving Grounds model works. Towards the beginning of the year, there was a lot of back and forth between the “rookies” and the “top tier” about why they did or didn’t deserve a shot. By the end of the year, many of them have already had that shot, and the others have big battles lined up for 2013.
Smack and his staff have done a great job of building up and establishing new talent. One of the major distinguishing factors between URL and other leagues, has always been their quality control. If there’s a battle they don’t feel would be a good representation of their brand, or the battlers themselves, they don’t put it out. While fans may not always agree with their decisions, it’s hard to argue with the results.
This is especially true of the Proving Grounds. By letting them gain experience in PG battles, and waiting until they’ve had an impressive performance, before uploading one of their battles, they’ve been able to establishing new talent quickly. People trust in the PG model, and have fully embraced the battlers coming out of the Proving Grounds. There’s a large group of fans who look forward to PG battles as much as some of the main stage battles.
In 2012, Bill Collector, John John Da Don, QP, Chilla Jones, JC, B Magic, Bigg K, and Rosenberg Raw all solidified their positions in URL. That’s eight new battle rappers, who have thrown their names into the mix on various levels, because of the Proving Grounds system. They also have an impressive group to build on and begin incorporating, such as Danja Zone, Ill Will, Tone Montana, Super Writer, Lil Dave and a few others. Add in the URL’s relationships with several leagues in different regions to scout new talent, and you have a solid foundation for the future.
2012 Year In Review | The Year In URL | Battle Rap Arena
Another thing that URL did a good job of establishing in 2012, was the Battle Rap Arena. The radio show hosted by Norbes, Syko and Jesse does a great job of keeping the fans involved between events and battle releases. As dysfunctional as it may seem at times, it’s clear that all three of them are passionate about the culture, and enjoy discussing it with each other and the callers.
It’s also a great platform for the battlers to interact with the fans, and help establish themselves. Fans get to know more about the battlers from the interviews, even speak to them or ask them a question. The battlers are able to show some of their personality, and give a little backstory so fans know who they are. Once the fans become more familiarized with a battler, they’ll probably be more inclined to watch their next battle.
Most importantly, the show does a great job of promoting the events, and building up the anticipation. Battlers come on the show to discuss their battles, and talk to the fans about it first hand. Battlers often call into each other’s interviews, and it helps to build up the hype. Each battle is discussed in detail, and everyone gives their predictions on who’s going to win. Then it’s all discussed again once the event is over, and once more when the battles are released.
Battle Rap Arena has been a big part of making battles something that holds the attention of the community for months at a time, instead of just the three rounds at the event. It keeps people talking about them, from the time a battle is first announced, beyond the point a battle gets released. The show has been a great source for fans who are looking to stay informed and involved in URL, on a regular basis.
2012 Year In Review | The Year In URL | Outside Media
One significant change in 2012 for URL, was all of the attention from media sources outside of themselves. Both large and small, the URL is now covered by outside media in many different capacities. Whether it’s behind the scenes footage from events, interviews, recaps, roundtable discussions, blogs, radio appearances, and even the occasional TV appearance. URL, a media brand in its own right, is now a subject of interest to countless other media outlets.
Of course, there was already quite a few media sources covering URL and their events, before it gained any attention from the larger media outlets. Interviews from Hot16 Magazine and UndeniableTV, behind the scenes footage from Brad Butter and BluudyNuckles, and recaps from No Mercy and Operation Battle Rap, are just a few examples. The numbers continue to grow, as the interest in battle rap grows.
Now, some of the more well known names in hip hop media are starting to report on battle rap and the URL with regularity. Sites like FuseTV, VladTV, HipHopDX, XXL Magazine, and 2DopeBoyz have all begun covering battle rap. Battle rappers are now appearing regularly on radio shows like Sway In The Morning and This Is 50 Radio. Battle rap has become such a big deal, that it’s become nearly impossible for them not to follow it.
It doesn’t look like the attention will be slowing down any time soon, either. With each event, battle rap starts looking less like a niche form of entertainment, enjoyed by a small circle of dedicated fans, and more like a viable source of entertainment, for the obsessed and casual fan alike. It will be interesting to see how much more it will grow in the next year, and whether or not it will level off.
2012 Year In Review | The Year In URL | Webster Hall
Webster Hall played a big part in URL’s 2012, from the success of Summer Madness 2, to the destruction of Armageddon. It’s unfortunate that it appears that URL won’t be hosting events at Webster Hall in the future. The venue had become the home of URL in New York, and the location of some of battle rap’s biggest moments.
Beginning with the first Summer Madness, and building on the success with Summer Madness 2, Smack and the URL proved that battle rap can sell out a major venue. No mainstream artists on the bill, little to no traditional marketing or mainstream media push, relying solely on the strength of the brand itself. The thought of battle rap one day holding an event at Madison Square Garden, suddenly wasn’t that unfathomable.
For whatever reason, Webster Hall decided at the last minute, that URL wouldn’t be able to hold their Armageddon event there as planned. There’s been a few stories on what exactly happened, including an explanation from Smack and Beasley themselves. It’s unfortunate that Webster Hall would handle the situation the way that they did, and even more unfortunate that they most likely won’t be holding events there in the future.
The URL staff did an admirable job of scrambling to keep the event intact, despite having to make two additional venue changes. First, the event was moved to the The Gramercy Theatre, and then moved again to Pyramid. Regardless of all of the problems with the event, they still managed to put out two quality battles, and have plans to host the rest, in the near future.
2012 Year In Review | The Year In URL | Future
Despite a few road bumps here and there, URL easily had it’s biggest year ever in 2012. They established themselves as a clear leader in the battle rap world, and took the culture to levels it hadn’t seen before. It will be interesting to see what they do in 2013, and if they can carry that momentum forward, and continue to grow at such an impressive rate.
A few things we do know about the new year, is the eventual debut of Dizaster, and the probable debut of Daylyt. The potential for the proposed West Coast URL event is still up in the air, and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. Along with Dizaster’s debut, you can expect to see the rest of the Armageddon line up, that didn’t take place, go down in the near future. And of course, there’s the upcoming return of Hollow Da Don, at some point.
Beyond that, other than a few proposed battles here and there, there isn’t much information on what Smack and the URL have in store for 2013. There’s still a few legends that have shown interest in making their returns, and a possible Philly-based “Return Of The Legends” style card, seems intriguing. We could see URL expanding into new markets, and host events in cities they haven’t yet been to. It will also be interesting to see where they will host their next event in New York, now that Webster Hall doesn’t seem like a possibility.
One thing is clear though, URL has a lot of momentum going into the new year, and the potential to take the battle rap culture even further, into places no one could have expected. There’s no reason to think that Smack and his staff can’t build on the momentum they have, and continue putting out a compelling product, that forces the hip hop world to take notice. If 2013 is anything like 2012 has been, it’s possible we’ll be looking at URL and the culture as a whole, in an entirely different light than we do today.