Origins of Battle Rap: Louis Armstrong vs Dizzy Gillespie


I’ve been meaning to rip this for a minute.  It comes from the centennial documentary done on Louis Armstrong.  A part of me feels like it’s a top of the dome freestyle, but can’t find any type of confirmation on that.  Regardless, it is a clear recorded example of one musician performing a song which directly takes shots at another artist over a beef.  Not sure if it’s the first but definitely should be recognized in the history.

I put it up this week aftr watching Skrillex grab a handful of Grammy’s re-igniting the bro-step debate, in which the question is posed whether Skrillex’s success is good for the broader dubstep as a whole.  My european counterparts will have to forgive ny yankee skepticism, but seriously we all know how this type of thing goes – cash grab and then bounce.  In the scheme of things I’ll just use this opportunity to reiterate, The Grammy’s have never done good for genre’s.  NEVER.  I mean shit, just last year, after finally acknowledging a grip of genre’s with categories for awards they did the good ol American thing and took it all back.

So let me just take that into another thought (with the promise that it all swings back to this clip), fompetition is the American way.  Sure it existed before, but it took America to put the good ol ™’d stamp of approval on it.  Success is just eh metric by which one compete’s period, be it from a label perspective, an artists perspective, a critic perspective, or a fans perspective.  When we watch this cycle of hyped up artists and backlash, in essence what we’re watching is the carrot of success be pulled in and out, closer and farther from our grasp.  In the beginning it’s close, “hey they’re just like me, I can do that!” Then it starts inching away when the self critique based on their success kicks in, until finally their success seems flawed because of how separated it is from you.  We do this enmasse.  We watch it as entertainment and live vicariously through it.  We re-enact it to create our own dramas.

This playing out between musicians as art is one of the most fascinating things to me as it’s as indicative of the social organism on the whole as it is for the artists involved.  The means by which the attack their opponent represents an indicator of the social values of the time.  In this clip it boils down to an old vs. new type of thing, specifically around style.  The Hollywood Bowl concert was a major venue, not something that any artist could fill.  For Satchmo to take time out to address Diz and Be Bop, meant they were a threat to that audience.  Sure it could be seen as just poking fun, but he really was trying to make a statement.

Fortunately it didn’t hold Be Bop back.  Now what I really want to find is the Dizzy response record.  Surely he would have done one.

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