Pete Cashmore, Editor-At-Large, battle rap fan and the UKs leading pizza journalist, writes a personal account exclusively for DontFlopBlog.
Okay, time to make Eurgh blush.
I’m 38 years old, and I reckon I’ve led an interesting life so far. I’ve partied with porn stars (lots of porn stars), won a series of a celebrated TV quiz show and reported from an active war zone, and above all, I’m doing the job I wanted to do ever since I was a kid. Yep, it’s been interesting. But towards the end of the noughties, it became apparent that something was up. In summer 2009, I was diagnosed with depression.
Now, those that know me from Don’t Flop, with whom I have discussed this matter, are uniformly surprised by this, because they know me to be jovial, awash with bonhomie, and frequently pissed on wine. But depression doesn’t just mean you’re miserable all the time, it’s more subtle and insidious than that, and at its worst, it’s an absolute dick of a disease, sapping you of energy, will, your very lifeblood – it’s a disease that makes you withdraw from the world at large and I curse the day it ever got a hold of me. One way to fight it off, they say, is to keep yourself busy, find new interests and shit like that, as if taking up a cookery course was going to stop me wanting to kill myself. I was 36, what was I going to get into? And then I read a Plan B interview that mentioned O’Shea. Steven, this is the point you should start blushing.
I started out in journalism writing about hip-hop, but as age got a hold of me, I lost the love. I got sick of being threatened by acts for only giving their weak-ass album six out of ten, and generally felt like I’d heard enough. It took one bit of online research to reinvigorate that lost love. I tapped “O’Shea Don’t Flop” into Youtube, his battle with Dirtbag Dan came up, and as U2 wouldn’t say, I had found what I was looking for.
After that, I wolfed down all of Osh’s other battles – Flex Digits, Sensa, him and Rikky’s two on two with Gizmo and Prince Kong, little knowing that the latter would soon become my absolute fucking BOYS. Not long after, one of my writing gigs, The Guardian Guide, asked me if I had anything worth writing about, and I suggested we profile O’Shea because this little buck-toothed dude from Liverpool was hilarious. Later that week, I’d introduced myself to the man on Facebook, to apologise if I’d got anything wrong, little knowing that that simple introduction would change my life yet further…
I started checking out Rikky Wiley’s battles. Then came Innuendo. Then I happened upon battle rappers that weren’t even Liverpudlian, like Enlish and this baby-faced dude with ridiculous, sickening punchlines called Cruger. I revelled in the tension of Jolly Jay against Prince Kong, thinking, “shit, that Kong dude looks SCARY.” In November 2010, I interviewed O’Shea and Rikky in Liverpool and managed to get a track from the DLA mentioned in the NME. And then I thought it might be time to introduce myself to Eurgh and see if there was any way I could help out this thing to which I was rapidly getting addicted.
My first Don’t Flop event was April Fool’s 2011 at the Fiddler’s Elbow. I went down with a load of Nuts T-shirts to hand out, expecting to be laughed out of the place for my middle-aged ridiculousness – instead, I met several people who I now consider to be good friends. I was there for the first battle of the Million Man, Mark Grist; O’Shea namechecked me in his battle against Scizzahz, and when Eurgh asked me to be one of the judges(!) for the Jefferson Price battle against Pherapy, I practically gurgled with delight. And I was right too, because how good has Jefferson proved to be?
By the time Times Change came around, I was fully hooked. The gun-bars battle between Wizard and Scizzahz is still my favourite, encapsulating everything that is right about Don’t Flop in ten hilarious, good-natured minutes. At that event, the scary bloke from the Jolly Jay battle took me to one side and asked me if I’d consider writing up a bio for his Rum Committee group. I said I’d give the album a listen, not expecting that much, and within a few weeks had written up what I’m told by the group is the perfect description of one of my favourite albums from the last decade.
I soon came to realise that Don’t Flop was the thing that my life had been lacking – something to throw myself into, look forward to, revel in. The Midsummer Murders event in Brighton was one of the best days of my later life, a riot of laughter and booze surrounded by new friends in the blazing sun. When I was asked to judge the Bowski vs Mos Prob battle, I threw in the aside that I was indeed holding a pint glass full of wine. Now, I have strangers on Facebook asking me if I am “the pint of wine guy” they saw on Youtube. Well, I am.
Since then, Pamflit, Stowaway, Bowski, Partytime Parker, Impact and The Calcium Kid have all kipped on my floor, and Pam, Innuendo and Bowsk have even enjoyed a few pints in my local pub in Wolverhampton, after watching a local battle event deteriorate into a hilarious brawl. When I split up with my girlfriend at the start of the year, Kong was straight on the blower inviting me to spend the weekend in Brighton drowning my sorrows with the Committee. A few weeks later, with depression looming, I fought back the black tide by rocking up at the 2012 Tryouts and enjoying some of the sickest battles I’ve ever seen, even though I clearly look like a man who hasn’t slept for a week in the judging bits. It’s okay, I know I do. Missing To The Test 10 was a real blow, but Norwich looms large in the calendar, and what a line-up that one has. I’m excited about it. Two years ago I wasn’t excited about anything.
So there you have it. Those T-shirts that say “Battle rap ruined my life”? Baby, that may be the case for you, but battle rap saved mine. And I ain’t joking.
Normally, I’d end the piece here, but I can’t end it without bigging up Micky Worthless, the nicest, most humble, dopest dude I may have ever met in my life. And your hair looks better like that, brother. Real talk.
Hit up Pete on Twitter – @TweetCashmore