Wits and wordplay at 1Outz - New Zealand's only official rap battle league

Most Kiwis have probably never seen a rap battle apart from in Eminem's 2002 film Eight Mile - but a growing group of performers have been slowly building up an organised league in New Zealand for eight years now.

1Outz NZ started with casual meet ups in Auckland parks, but it has slowly turned into something bigger as more and more rappers joined and they have now hosted rappers from across the country, as well as overseas talent.

Rap battling is a sub-genre of hip hop where two performers take turns reciting either prepared or impromptu rhymes and verses designed to either build themselves up, or tear their opponent down.

Battles usually take a three-round format, with other rappers acting as judges to award a final score at the end.

Each battle is filmed and uploaded to YouTube, where the clips attract thousands of views.

At the most recent 1Outz event - 'DISSember' on December 8 - more than a dozen rappers took up the mic at a bar on Cross Street in Auckland.

The three heads of the league - James Murrie aka Dlar Madwar, Toby Jones aka Tokie Konez and Sudarshan Badrinarayanan aka Kamasuda - say what started as a bit of fun has now turned into a strong community.

"It started becoming really big," Dlar says.

"A lot of people were talking about it on Facebook and other social media platforms ... we started getting internationals and saving the money we make and putting it back into the league.

"Battle rap is a lot like something like WWF wrestling - it's very entertaining - it's something you can actually become infatuated and addicted to.

"Maybe you're not even into hip hop and you just see battle rap - a lot of people just become more or less addicted to it, and they just love it as soon as they see it, and they're kind of like ... 'is there one in New Zealand?', and they start searching around and find us.

Murrie says there's a false perception that rap battles are the domain of rough, violent people, but also says many of those involved might otherwise be getting in trouble without a creative outlet.

"We get a lot of different cultures, a lot of different people ... people say 'oh, I won't go to that cause there's a lot of angry people' - it's nothing like that, it's a lot of different people that come and it really surprises us," he says.

"A lot of people who get into hip hop are from a bad walk of life and it definitely gives them something to do, especially if they start becoming a battle rapper or a hip hopper themselves ... they're putting a lot of their time and effort into writing, rehearsing, recording, releasing.

"A lot of those people, to be honest, would maybe be committing crime if they weren't doing hip hop, and they maybe were doing that before they were into hip hop - so it just consumes your time."

Tokie Konez agrees, saying battle rapping "makes people good people as well".

"Battle rappers are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet in the world," he says.

Kamasuda says the participants know the rules - stay one foot away from each other and no physical touching.

"You'll slap hands and give them a hug later - everyone understands it's very much like a facade we're putting on - we're sort of becoming characters of our own," he says.

"There have been people that have pushed the boundaries in terms of what they're saying and there are penalties ... if you go overboard and bring up people's dead family members or stuff like that, then it's not going to be a very good experience for you coming back."

Anyone interested in attending events or auditioning for a battle themselves can contact the organisers through the 1Outz NZ Facebook discussion page.

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The league is New Zealand’s only official organised rap battle league. Source: 1 NEWS