Saturday night was Ether, the rap battle Internet pay-per-view event that hoped to revolutionize the entire rap battle market. Backed by billionaire Alki David (whom L.A. Weekly profiled in October) and held at the Belasco Theater in downtown L.A., the card read like a series of dream match-ups, headlined by mainstream major label recording artist Cassidy taking on boisterous battle rap bad boy Dizaster.
But while David's FilmOn.TV spared no expense spared on promotion, the most surprising battle at the event was between viewers at home and the event's stream itself.
Yes, despite FilmOn.TV being a business that's thrived based on its streaming capabilities, even paying fans missed over an hour of the broadcast, with numerous hiccups and sound issues along the way. While the event did boast having the largest number of viewers of any iPPV in battle rap history, there's a good chance it will hold the record for most disappointed viewers as well. [Update: Via email, David attributed the streaming issues to a "massive denial of service attack during the show" and added, "sound guys from Balasco [sic] have been dealt with."]
Even when the stream was optimal, the broadcast was marred by a faulty sound system and peculiar mic set-up at the venue as well. Also troublesome was the puzzling inclusion of live performances from up-and-coming artists including V-Rich between the battles. Squeezing a live rap performance in between rap battles of any sort has never been a good idea, something the experienced names involved with Ether should have known. With the show already running behind schedule, and V-Rich's performance marred by faulty equipment, most of over 25,000 paying viewers probably watched the proceedings in unhappy tension.
As for the actual battles, it was a pretty mixed bag. Longtime battle rap icons The Saurus and Arsonal awoke the dead crowd after intermission with rounds that pushed the limits of performance and taste to extreme levels. Illmaculate showed why, after a decade, he’s been welcome in every era of battle rap. Bigg K and Conceited had what many consider to be the best battle of the night, while the veteran Serius Jones and shock-master Daylyt surprised fans by having a good old fashion solid battle with no antics or incidents.
But the main event had to be seen as a disappointment for everyone involved. With the show running almost two hours behind schedule, Cassidy's first round went well over the agreed-upon three-minute time limit. When it was Dizaster's turn, Cassidy and his entourage caused repeated disruptions, frustrating Diz and the live fans. After Dizaster's first round completed, the lights cut out and host Lush One informed fans the battle would be continued at another location, with the footage said to air 2:00 p.m. Sunday. The rematch footage has yet to surface. [Update: The rematch footage was finally posted last night.]
Notably absent was billionaire David himself, who did at least message Lush a few times throughout the night, once to announce the news that at next month's Battle of the Bay 7, Arsonal will be taking on hyphy pioneer Mistah FAB.
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While the highlights were memorable, Ether's production problems have to be seen as a disappointment. We've seen similar issues at other rap league's major events before, most catastrophically last year at URL's Summer Madness. But Ether was supposed to be different, promising the production of Total Slaughter with the competitive street elements of URL/Smack. We got neither. Let's hope their next event is more of a "Takeover."