Music by VICE

Portraits of Rappers and Fans at Canada's Biggest Battle Rap Showdown

Photos from Blackout 6ix, the sixth installment of King of the Dot's annual Toronto event.

by Brittany Carmichael & Jess Bloom
Feb 29 2016, 9:53pm

Toronto's King of the Dot is one of the longest-running and most respected battle rap leagues in the world. KOTD live events have been hosted by Drake, Too $hort, Method Man, and Raekwon. YouTube videos of the battles have pulled in millions of views. It's easy to see why: This is rap in its rawest, most offensive, and most immature form—MCs lay down bars that touch on their opponents family, race, sexual orientation, appearance, and whatever else they can grab hold of.

I saw this in action earlier this month at Blackout 6ix, the sixth installment of KOTD's annual blowout event, which was held in a renovated warehouse space filled with vape smoke. Oakland rapper Pass began his second round by telling Toronto MC Bishop Brigante that "your main bitch worship my nuts—that's sacrilegious." Bishop replied with a Netflix shoutout: "You put yourself behind bars—you're Brendan Dassey."

Most of the time the battle rappers are pals and hug when the three rounds are finished. Sometimes they're not friends and punch each other during the battle. It's a tense atmosphere, where the vibe fluctuates from tears of joy to actual anger, then back again. Backstage, rappers smoke weed, drink tall cans, and discuss who beat who.

The crowd around the ring is a hazy mixed bag of city locals, small-towners, and crews that drove from Detroit, New York, Ottawa, and Windsor. It's mostly guys with a dusting of women. There are very few bottle service-type thots, and there are lots of guys who are high and want to tell you about their mixtapes.

Blackout 6ix brought out hundreds of fans, but on the first night of the two-night event, only the front row could see the battlers; everyone else just listened. Before the first battle began, KOTD founder Organik announced that security should remove anyone who speaks. No one was fucking around. Everyone takes this very seriously. "You're so scared of running long distances," Knamelis spat to overweight rapper Big T. "You haven't even watched the trailer for 8 Mile."

The crowd went wild.
All photos by Brittany Carmichael.