Battling another MC is a daunting enough proposition, but Watts MC Daylyt has done it while (at various times) wearing a ski-mask, stripping naked or dressed as Batman.
Through it all, he's become one of the most successful and in-demand battlers working today. We spoke with him about his relationship with Kendrick Lamar (he takes some of the credit for Lamar's “King of New York” line) and preparing for his upcoming battle this Friday, August 23rd, in Toronto against Loe Pesci at a huge event called World Domination 4. (Yes, Drake will be there).
You first started battling at L.A.'s The Pit as a favor for a friend, is that right?
Yeah, my boy Brandon pretty much introduced me to the whole battling scene. I wasn't a battle rapper, I got suckered into battle rapping [after signing a list to get into an event, and then being called to the stage] and it turned out to be a good thing.
You mentioned you got an immediate reaction from the rhymes you had written. Do you remember what you said?
Well, I can't remember the build up to the line, but it was “something…something…I'mma put him in the sky like LeBron James” and this was during the time LeBron just came to the league, and the crowd went completely ballistic. This was 2006. I ended up winning a couple matches that night and, since they wanted me back, I came back the next week a did my thing. I felt completely in love with it.
Were you following battling at all before then?
No. Before that, I didn't know anything about battle rap. While I was battling, I still didn't search out battle rap. I'd pretty much go to the event on Fridays, and that was it.
Were your friends and family supportive?
Yeah, actually, my mom's also a rapper. I come from a very strong rapper background. Her name is Lady P. When my mom found out that I was doing the battle rap stuff, she came down and supported. One time she showed up, and I didn't even know. I'm onstage and I'm snapping, and I hear my Mom go “Get em boy!” And I'm like “Mom?!” I then hurried up and did a line that went “something-something I'll get a deal too / something-something my Momma will kill you!” and she yelled “I sho will!” and the crowd went crazy. She was very supportive.
So you grew up with rap always being a part of your life?
Yeah, rap's a very important part of my background. Even beyond that, I have family tie to the 103rd Street Band that played in Watts way back in the day, and they're tied to my family too.
That might make you the first second generation battle-rapper.
After The Pit, you began making a name for yourself as the worldwide scene got bigger, eventually making your Grind Time debut in January 2009 against Locksmith. Watching that battle now, it's interesting to watch the crowd slowly come around to your unorthodox style. How do you connect with a crowd?
Well, there's a method that I go by. That method is if everybody goes right, never run right. I'm not gonna make my style to please people to follow what they like. I sit in my room and go “What's something that nobody would ever think to say?” They may not like it or get it, but sooner or later they'll be on my style. Take Kendrick Lamar. A lot of people don't know this, but I know him from way back. He came to the Pit a couple of times. Back in 2006, Kendrick was signed to Def Jam. He went by the name K Dot. The same exact way Kendrick raps now, he rapped the same exact way back in 2006 but back then people said he was wack. Now, he's a platinum artist. Me and Kendrick's lives went the same path. Same exact format. I stuck to what I was doing and I didn't switch it up.
Speaking of Kendrick, do you think battling influenced his much-discussed verse on “Control”?
I think so. People fail to realize Kendrick has a battle past. It's not like he's not a battle rapper. He's had numerous battles before. That approach was right on time. I'm about to hit (New York rap battle league) URL and I know the tension's already going to be there, but this shit pops off weeks before I have to go to New York and the east-west beef is rising tremendously. There's only one way to be a leader, and that's to go to war, and Kendrick's leading the Spartans right now. The question is, with everyone making diss records, what's going to happen when Kendrick says “OK, let's get in the ring.” Who's gonna take that challenge? It's a set-up. It's gonna happen, battle rap is mainstream now, so there's no reason for industry cats to not battle now.
In the five year span since you made your Grind Time debut, how different is battling now?
That was the early YouTube era where you find a camera, everybody would meet-up in the street, you would film it and that was it. Now, the events are set up so strategically, everything is calculated. You get all the big names, all the dudes that generate the most views get paid from AdSense, then you also have more ticket sales and need a bigger venue which needs better footage quality, which is going to help YouTube views. It's a format. What battle rap is today was what The Pit was, we just didn't have YouTube and YouTube wasn't popping like that. I think Grind Time really helped making battles a consistent thing for YouTube. Once the names got bigger and fans picked fans favorite things got bigger. But how things are now, it's like boxing. My first battle, I got Locksmith. That's like your very first professional boxing fight you get Mike Tyson. Now, anybody can't fight Mayweather, you have to work your way to them.
Do you see battling having some of the same red-tape issues as boxing?
Yeah, it's almost to the point where you can be the most skilled battler in the world on a 60-0 winning streak, but if all 60 of those people aren't big names, you would never get a big name battle. Right now, it is impossible for a cat without a big name to battle a guy with a big name. A regular Joe can't even pay a Mook $15,000 for a battle. He'll say no. I was dealing with this same problem two years ago trying to get a battle, so big ups to Organik and King of the Dot for the chance to battle Rich Dollaz at the same event Dizaster battled Canibus. I caused so much ruckus, that helped me become a big name. I said so much online that people had to watch.
In all honesty, I had a portion where I was out of battle rap. I took some time off. I didn't tweet, I just watched the format of the game. It went from jokes to people with actual bars. The game was forming into the style I had prior. Once battle rappers learn a format, everybody does it. When I saw everybody was dope, that meant dope is the new wack. What's good if everybody was good? I had to do something different. My trademark is something in the third round. People follow me because they're waiting to see what I do in the third round. I see the feedback, all the hate, and hate travels farther than love. I would have a format of one battle they hate me, the next make them love me. It's almost as if I have full control over the entire internet right now.
Along with the visuals, there's also your facial tattoo inspired by the comic book character Spawn. Tell us about your connection with Spawn.
Me and Spawn have a lot of things in common. A lot of people look at me as a good guy now, but I wasn't always like this. In my younger days, I did a lot of things that I shouldn't have done, like anybody who grew up in Watts. But, as I got older, I understood my purpose in life and what I needed to do. What I do in battle rap I did to make everybody hate me, for the greater purpose of making them love me in the end. Same thing Spawn did. Yes, he sold his soul to the devil. But what did he do at the end of the day? He killed the devil. The singularities in that character and how my life is structured are almost identical.
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