The Three 8 Mile Battles
Three battles at the end of the 8 Mile movie made Jimmy Smith aka B. Rabbit a reputation in the rap arena. A real challenge for Jimmy Smith who was left with no voice at the beginning of the movie: a typical case of stage fright.
People who are not very much into hip hop need to realize the importance of a rap battle; rap battles can be compared to battles we have to face in real life. Words used in a freestyle or a rap battle are like a sword, they expose your opponent in a total nudity. When you get verbally ripped off, it is your turn to show your teeth and to use your verbal weapons in order to weaken your adversary. It's a matter of honor, you have to expose and verbally annihilate your enemy in order to make him look bad or ridiculous in front of the crowd that expects your answer with impatience. You can feel this kind of fever in 8 Mile when the crowd shouts : « What? What? » which means that it is your turn to respond.
" That's one thing that I want this movie to get across, is that people who live in this world of hip-hop -- how seriously we take this, how seriously we take our music and battling and the sport of it and the competition and everything."
Losing a battle is terrible in an aspiring rapper's mind. Since the time he was unable to spit any word on stage, Jimmy Smith had been humiliated by Alex who had cheated on him with Wink. He had been knocked out by the Free World leaders in real life.
He had to take his lyrical revenge and prove his skills - also in order to keep his honor safe.
Three battles will help Jimmy to build his reputation.
Lickety Split battles B Rabbit on the « whiteness » of his music. He enumerates numerous white artists like Vanilla Ice and Elvis. He wants to prove that Jimmy's music is bad rap or even worse, no rap at all. The reference to Willie Nelson who -by the way- makes country music is intented to ridicule Jimmy. The only reference to a black artist is Tina Turner in a weak position, when she gets beaten up by her husband. He also points out his mistakes and the mistakes of his friend like Cheddar Bob!
« Yo, this guys a choke-artist
The great majority of a hip hop battle audience is usually composed of men:
« He sounds like Eric Sermon
He goes on making fun of the Free World leaders:
« That's ok, you look like a fuckin worm with braids
He also makes himself look in a positive light, he enforces his role as a fighter and shoots at his enemy in a funny way. Lickety is too slow to follow Rabbit's rapid flow:
Like his fellow Lickety Split, Lotto comes with a strong racial argument, which appears to be a bad strategy:
« Huhhh huhhh
His hatred of Jimmy as a white man clearly appears in his whole speech. Jimmy fully counters his attack in the second part of his verse:
« Matta fact dog, here's a pencil
Bunny Rabbit makes the battle become more lyrical as he criticizes Lotto's writing ability:
« Matta fact dog, here's a pencil
Third and final round: Bunny Rabbit vs. Papa Doc.
Bunny Rabbit has managed to get rid of two of his enemies. He feels better about himself and has gained some confidence.
He now rallies the crowd from the 313:
« Now everybody from the 3-1-3
People from the Detroit ghetto are proud to belong to the 313 area calling code. People from the 313 are supposed to be cool unlike the people from the 810 area.
Jimmy's strategy is intelligently worked out. He perfectly knows his worst enemy, who-by the way- doesn't raise his hand:
« Now while he stands tough
He knows that he's a gangsta wannabe. There is nothing « ghetto » nor « gangsta » in him :
« 1, 2, 3 and to the 4
But Bunny Rabbit's best strategy is his huge honesty and it will pay off in the end. He doesn't hide what he is nor his mistakes:
Then Rabbit reveals Papa Doc's intimate and hidden secrets to the crowd:
« But I know somethin about you
Jimmy's great force lies in his total honesty. He is not ashamed of living in a trailer park and even proud to be « white trash »:
« Fuck a beat, I go acapella
Papa Doc is left totally unweaponed and speechless. Happy end for Rabbit who eventually wins his fight for recognition.
These 3 rap battles from 8 Mile also teach us a lesson about real life: don't try to play yourself. Be honest, accept yourself with your imperfections, your failures, your mistakes, but always be yourself.
I do teach English and German at public schools. I am an Eminem biographer and a freelance music journalist.
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