When JAY Z took to his Twitter account after an extended absence back in September 2012, his first dispatch gave a nod to battle rap’s premier act, Loaded Lux.
“ya’ll gonna get this work” haaaaaa.
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) September 18, 2012
Just one-month prior, Lux used the now instantly recognizable catchphrase as part of his triumphant comeback to the world of battle rap. Matching up with Detroit rapper Calicoe for URL TV’s Summer Madness 2 event, their headlining showdown had fans like Diddy and Busta Rhymes not only in attendance but almost falling off the VIP balcony in excitement at the lyrical warfare. The three-round bout has since scored almost 3.5 million YouTube views and given the art form its most mainstream look since BET’s 106 & Park program launched “Freestyle Fridays” (a contest which in 2007 Lux won for seven weeks straight, ultimately being inducted into the show’s Hall of Fame).
Fast forward to over a year later and Loaded Lux is ready to do it again. The artist whom battle rap fans acknowledge as the most lyrical to grace the culture will face Hollow Da Don, a seasoned Queens, NY native who counts Drake as a vocal supporter, in UW Battle League’s upcoming High Stakes event. The aptly named ceremony is billed as the best line-up in battle rap history; in addition to Lux and Hollow, the card features heavy hitters Calicoe, Tsu-Surf, Hitman Holla, O-Red, B.Magic and Daylyt. Thanks to a partnership with UStream, its Live Pay Per View element is also being heavily promoted. Lux is fully aware of the pressure behind his return to the stage and the Harlem native, who rose to fame a decade ago in the pioneering, street-oriented SMACK DVD series, is ready for war.
Life+Times: Your last battle with Calicoe is the highest-viewed battle of all time. Does that kind of success put strain on you?
Loaded Lux: To whom much is given, much is expected. I don’t want to say its pressure. It’s fuel to the fire for me to live up to not only what I did last time, but also set a new bar.
L+T: When did the magnitude of your performance that night (and in particular, the “You gon’ get this work” line) register with you?
LL: Definitely the JAY Z tweet. It was very overwhelming at that point; it was surreal. I didn’t feel it after I got off stage or even immediately afterwards because, you know, you‘re your toughest critic. I thought I could have done better, in truth.
L+T: We’re less than a week away from your battle with Hollow Da Don for High Stakes. What do you focus on in the home stretch?
LL: Right now it’s more about the performance aspect of it. Making sure we don’t miss a beat. As far as what I want to say, it’s all there. I think anybody tuning in who’s a fan of battle rap will definitely appreciate what I have to deliver on that stage. I hope to have a healthy performance and that comes with practice. That’s where I’m at right now.”
L+T: UW Battle League just released a “Road Of The Warrior: 24/7” feature video, capturing Hollow and yourself preparing for the upcoming event. He speaks directly to his plans yet you don’t mention the actual battle once. What’s your thought process behind that tactic?
LL: There’s a saying we have: ‘I won’t put any bullets in your gun.’ I like to be enigmatic, in a sense. I like to keep my opponent on edge and keep them questioning themselves. Not only that, keep them thinking things like, what is he gonna come with? How is he gonna do it? I get a kick out of that.
L+T: Hollow Da Don’s battle style is noticeably different to yours. How does that play into the way this match-up will flow?
LL: Oh, that’s great! Styles make fights, so there won’t be a dull moment. In terms of delivery, it will break the monotony. A lot of times we’re sponges off one another in the field, as far as artists are concerned. Sometimes you can’t help it. We find ourselves taking bits and pieces from one another’s repertoire; it’s a natural thing to an artist. It helps you find yourself.
In the performance, in the delivery, you’re captivating people for three minutes to four minutes, with no music. It’s just you up there with the wordplay. You got to stay sharp; you got to have something to keep people tuned in. People don’t want to see the same thing and so I believe styles make fights because it reminds the audience there’s something new on offer. I don’t think there will be a dull moment in our whole segment.”
L+T: For those unfamiliar with the culture, how much of your delivery on stage is planned versus reactionary to your opponent?
LL: Usually 100 percent of it is pre-meditated but you never know. When you’re there, your improvisational skills have definitely got to be on point. Anything can happen. You gotta be sharp, ready and think on your toes. Ultimately everybody comes in with a game plan; don’t let anybody fool you. At the point where battle rap is right now and the grand stage it’s on, everybody’s going in pre-meditated. Know that.”
L+T: You’re methodical when it comes to the battles you choose to participate in. What factors into your decision?
LL: I administer my work. I feel like I’m a servant to the people. If people are looking for me to battle a certain opponent, for whatever reason, I look into it. My whole thing is to reach my audience and always have something thought provoking to say. Something that will surpass the experience of the battle; something that could influence life and how you conduct yourself in it. I always say I can only hit what’s put in front of me. If people are asking for a certain opponent, then they’re that much more captivated when the showdown is going down. Of course I take the actual opponent into consideration, but it’s mainly about the conversation between me and my audience.”
L+T: You’ve been very vocal on bridging the gap between battle rap moving from an underground scene to an economically viable movement.
LL: There’s a misconception out there based on an ignorance to understanding how this business works. There are a lot of different revenue streams as far as battle rap goes, and not only that, it’s a very broad audience. It might still be considered underground because it’s not on major networks or coming through mainstream mediums but the internet is worldwide. I get communication from Africa, the Middle East, Australia; you name it. It’s out there. People are tuning in from all over the world, interested in what we do. When you broaden somebody’s horizon, especially in what they know, that allows us to now think on that level. I just don’t want us to stay in one frame of thought based on the conventional ways we’ve done battle rap.
If you look at it, this thing is moving. It’s making progressive steps. You can see that just in the numbers alone plus the quote unquote “mainstream” artists who are major fans of what we do. My whole thing was to be in the fight for the artists who participate to make the culture what it is today. I’ve been putting in a lot of work for battle rap for as long as I can remember, because it’s something that I truly love and believe is the salvation of hip-hop, based on it being credited to the word and the word alone. You have to have something to say. For a long time, so many artists haven’t had something to say. So I believe in the culture, and I believe in it so much that I feel we should be paid accordingly to the work that we put in. I don’t know every person’s perspective on quality work but what we have to do to conjure up and come up with these pieces, they have no idea. ”
L+T: Can you shed some light on rumors you’re working on an upcoming television project based on battle culture?
LL: We’re in talks as we speak but nothing’s in stone just yet. I’m always in the pursuit of happiness though, so we’ll see [laughs].
L+T: Biggie once said, “Who would’ve thought that hip-hop would take it this far.” Considering you’ve been an integral part of the culture since its early days, do you feel the same thing when it comes to battling?
LL: Exactly. That’s exactly my take on it. They didn’t see this coming. I’ve been at battles and seen certain familiar faces, not only just in the audience but the celebrity fanfare in the building, and I say to myself, wow man. Collectively we’re really making headway for something we truly believed in and stuck to. It’s something we truly love to do. And it’s so dope people are captivated by it. At this point, I can see it going so much further than this. I’m talking about record-breaking numbers. Look at the UFC: they didn’t believe in that when it started, and look at it now. There’s no pinnacle for us. It’s as far as we can take it.