PBS has released programming examining the art of battle rap with The Art of Diss: Battle Rap Then and Now, which was recently air by the public broadcasting service. Unveiled by PBS’ Sound Field, which is described as “a music education series that explores the music theory, production, history and culture behind our favorite songs and musical styles,” the documentary will take a deep dive into what made battle rap the force it is today.
The second episode of Sound Field’s fourth season, The Art of Diss includes appearances and commentary from URL founder Smack White, as well as battle rap stalwarts Arsonal da Rebel, DNA, and Polo aka Battle Rap Fanatic. Hosted by Arthur “L.A.” Buckner and Linda Diaz, The Art of Diss looks at the humble beginnings of battle rap and covers how it’s turned into a lucrative business through the efforts of figures like White, who has taken URL to unprecedented heights. “We all together basically organized the culture and just made a business out of it. Really making it and turning this art form into the league,” the founder told PBS.
Mentioning genres such as calypso as a precursor to battle rap, the doc showcases legendary rap artists who participated in the sport, including Jay-Z, Nas, Roxanne Shante, and Kool Moe Dee. These rappers helped set the template for what battle rap has evolved into, which is a major business that attracts millions in viewers and dollars.
In 2009, Smack founded the Ultimate Rap League, which is recognized as the most successful platform for battle rap and has produced stars such as Geechi Gotti, Tsu Surf and Charlie Clips. “I’m trying to make this into a household sport,” White told PBS. “What we have accomplished so far is amazing because if you pay attention to what’s going on in this culture, you see so many territories have adopted the style of this art form.”
Watch The Art of Diss: Battle Rap Then and Now below.