Lush One on Ether's Fallout, Rehab and the Future of Battle Rap
Battle rap host and organizer Lush One
Last month, battle rap pay-per-view event Ether promised to be the biggest rap battle event of all time. Backed by Greek billionaire Alki David and hosted/curated by battle rap icon Lush One, the star-studded card, headlined by major label rapper Cassidy against battle rap veteran Dizaster, was set to elevate the art/sport’s reach and maybe even take the subculture mainstream.
Unfortunately, myriad issues plagued the event, from viewers being unable to purchase the livestream to the main event ending due to the venue closing down. The Dizaster-Cassidy battle immediately found a new venue, and footage of the bout's conclusion was uploaded within 24 hours. But what followed were a series of public disputes between battlers and the management, as well as between Lush and David themselves.
With the hatchets finally buried and a new sober lease on life, Lush is back to promote King of the Dot’s Battle of the Bay 7, a three-day battle event starting this Thursday at Oakland’s Venue Live. He spoke with L.A. Weekly about exactly what went wrong at Ether and what further ventures he and David will be pursuing together.
Take us back to the night before Ether. Did you foresee the problems that emerged or were things going according to plan?
I knew it was all bad the week of. There were several signs that weren’t deal-breakers that made me nervous. It was the Monday before the event really, when I realized the budget... that was necessary to complete the event wasn’t coming in, that I was like “Fuck.” I was pretty much at that point scrambling between talking to rappers who were confused and upset, and trying to keep everything together and possibly reschedule battles.
I’m used to undertaking events that are bigger than what I’ve ever done. I try to outdo myself. But it seemed this time it was so much all at once from so many different angles and really, really overwhelming. I wasn’t in the best headspace myself. When you’re so heavily under the influence from drugs and alcohol for so long, a lot of your cognitive abilities and deductive reasoning that are necessary kind of go out the window. Everything was a perfect storm for a disaster, and I was really, really nervous, doing all that I could to keep it together.
You mentioned that Monday before — what was happening with the money? Were battlers at the last second asking for more or was there a misunderstanding with the amount you originally asked of David?
Yeah, at the end of the day, really it was a lack of understanding between Alki and myself on that matter. He had a different vision for it. Now that Alki is back in America, and here 24/7, I’ve been able to be around him in person and build on multiple levels. I know if he had been here in person when it was all going on, it definitely wouldn’t have turned out like this.
There was a discrepancy. I was expecting $100,000 to pay these battlers as well as reimburse the money I had been paying out of my own pocket. A lot of the money I had coming in I was spending directly on that, and you’re not supposed to do that. I was on salary to allocate the event, which was really cool. I always put myself at extreme risk, so to be in a situation where I thought I wasn’t going to take a risk to get paid, and just do what I always do to throw an event for people, it was exactly what I wanted. It didn’t turn out like that, but at the same time looking back, now that Alki and I are developing a rapport again, he’s helping me out with that. There’s a lot of potential for growth.
I hope the world of battle rap doesn’t cast Alki to the side for this misunderstanding. A lot of people seem to have my intentions twisted. He wasn’t giving me a budget and I was blowing it, it’s the opposite. They were paying me for everything except the rappers, and I was eating the cost. I know in the entertainment world sometimes money comes [long after] shows, but battle rap doesn’t operate in that capacity yet. If you make agreements, you have to honor it. I always honor my contracts and what I have to do, and that includes paying somebody on time. If I don’t, I pay a late fee.
But you and Alki David are cool now?
Was there ever a falling out between you two?
We definitely had differences of opinion, but that happens in business with friends and colleagues alike. With Alki, there was times when I hated him and was super mad. There’s so many different reasons and dynamics that it would be impossible to fully capture it. There was a lot of miscommunication, and now that I’m able to communicate with him and [have him] help me repair what went wrong, the fact [is] that he’s still interested in battle rap culture. He has a genuine passion for the bars and is entertained by it. He used to be a B-boy in England. I can’t even tell you what his master plan is, but I know that he has one.
As soon as the actual Dizaster-Cassidy battle footage came out, it seemed people stopped being upset.
I think they were chill for a minute, but once the payment debacle came to light, with rappers being very unhappy on Twitter, that just stirred the discontent back up.
With Serius, he’s a talented guy, I was excited to have him on the card. He contacted us, I was more than willing to make it happen.
Long story short, he got paid his full amount, which was $10,000. There was a discrepancy about wanting more money for extra flights. We wound up buying extra flights; once you get to that upper tier of battling, it’s not unheard of to ask for an additional flight or two. He kept on asking for more and more; there was an obvious miscommunication and he wound up with more than his agreement. We didn’t owe him any more money, [but] I wanted him to be taken care of regardless because I don’t want anybody to be unsatisfied and I want a good relationship with these artists.
We were working on getting more money, but he got to a point where he was being beyond disrespectful, to the point where I didn’t want to look out for him anymore. That in itself is beyond being a breach of contract; that’s not how respectable human beings get down. It made it into a different situation.
He still got booked for [fellow rap battle promotion King of the Dot's event] Blackout. Even though FilmOn and King of the Dot are two completely different entities, I still work for both. I never tried to hate on him. That’s pretty much where it’s at right now.
And as for the Daylyt-Alki David situation?
I think it was pretty fucking funny, like the fake fight between me and Alki that came out. People seem super butt-hurt about it and I can’t figure out why because it was a joke. Everybody looked at Alki as a villain already. It’s a fake fist-fight. It really was just to create conversation because everyone thinks of this dude as a fucking dick, but the reality is that he’s working on mending and doing a lot of things to help out behind the scenes. There’s nobody else putting up that dough. The only person that could help me take care of that is him. I don’t even look at him as a billionaire any more, he’s just a cool-ass dude.
Is it true that on the night of Ether you hadn’t slept for 72 hours?
Probably. I haven’t slept much since Diz punched Math.
At what point post-Ether, during the public disputes with battlers, did you decide to enter rehab?
The catalyst for me deciding to get clean was my friends talking to me and steering me in that direction. I’d been down that road before, I went to treatment when I was 19 years old and I’d been in treatment when I was 16 years old. I’ve been to A.A. and all that before. The first step in A.A. and a lot of rehab programs is you acknowledge that your life has become unmanageable due to drugs and alcohol. I was thinking about it, and the day after Christmas I decided to stop doing drugs. I don’t think I would have died, but I think would have made a couple of bad decisions that would have lead me down a dark place if I didn’t switch it up.
I was glad to have a few days to have my phone off and come back down to reality and re-approach everything with a clear head. I’m still getting used to approaching everything with a clean head. I’m not going back to all of the crutches I’m used to. I feel more like a man than I ever have before.
How much of this week’s Battle of the Bay, headlined by Arsonal vs. Mistah F.A.B., was set-up pre-Ether?
Most of it was already locked in. It would have been wack to have to put it together right after Ether. With Battle of the Bay, I had less involvement in putting the matches together, but everything about it matches my energy and I’ve been putting my stamp on it.