By David “The Mast” Masters
What IS a choke? A choke is not a stumble and it’s important to tell the difference. Whilst the line does become blurry at some points, chokes are generally very different and very noticeable. In fact, they can also be very damaging.
A choke, for those with such boring lives as to not know what rap battles are, is when the participant forgets his or her rhymes and is forced to either freestyle, move onto their next part or just pass on the round. It’s generally considered fatal in almost all cases, with rare exception. Some people have minor chokes that are overcome, but generally they’re seen to be somewhat insurmountable.
A stumble, to me, is when someone clearly knows their part, but trips over their words a bit. This is nowhere near as serious, but can cause an unfavourable judgement if they occur too frequently.
How do you judge these events? There is no one answer. Some believe a choke loses a battle, some believe a choke loses a round, but some believe that you can win with multiple chokes. Here are some examples and how I judge them:
Porich vs. Soul Khan
Soul Khan has a noticeable lapse in memory during is second round, which seems to only be made worse when he forces himself to recite some of his other bars. Granted, he finishes his round, but it was a pretty large choke for someone like him.
In his second, Porich says, “Your obsession with short, black men’s a scary omen, guy. Hey, where were you the that night Gary Coleman died?” Capping off his third, he compliments Soul Khan rather sarcastically regarding the choke. Soul Khan, not to be outdone, brought forth the rebuttal, “Motherfucker, I could beat you if I did or didn’t choke. Where was I on the night Gary Coleman died? Giving your mum a different stroke.”
This is one of the more layered and effective rebuttals of all time. Why? He took note of his choke, and the fact that Rich made fun of it, and included it in the rebuttal. That indicates freestyling ability. He also replied to Rich’s S.O.N.S./Gary Coleman line, too. He cancelled out the choke, while also hitting Rich with a rebuttal, taking weight and damage out of both. It stood fresh in everyone’s minds and made Rich look bad. That is the very definition of a flip. He literally flipped the situation on its head by hitting every point needed.
Should he have lost based on that choke? The round? Possibly. The match? No, because he rectified it. This ties into the placement of chokes. Had Khan choked in his third, anyone who gave Rich any of the first two would have likely given it to Rich, simply because he wouldn’t have been able to perform the flip. Soul Khan went first, so his third round could flip the material in Rich’s second, but it would’ve been impossible to rebuttal anything in Rich’s third as that was the final verse.
As long as you have the ability to freestyle well or, at least, perform a really on-point rebuttal, you will always have a shot are recovering from chokes. Unless you do what happened in this next battle.
Disciple vs. Dose
Dose was undefeated (undeservedly so, but we won’t go there) when he headed into his first international battle at Don’t Flop’s To the Test 10 against Disciple. Many had the rounds to be very even, and they were, right up until the third round. Dose unfortunately forgot all of his third round, and as a result, it cost him the match.
I believe a full round choke IS an automatic loss, and I think anyone else should agree.
Lefty vs. Double L
At Don’t Flop’s ‘The Hunger For More’, Double L had a third round choke that was identical to Dose’s. The difference is that many had given Double L the first two rounds before he chokes. Do you give him the benefit of the doubt, or do you count the whole round choke as a loss?
Again, I believe it’s a total loss, but as you can see, there are multiple points of contention, however fruitless.
The Saurus vs. Pat Stay
This one is also met with contention. Pat, after winning the first (in my opinion) and looking to be taking the second, suffered a choke mid-round. He made the excuse that he wrote his “shit” the night before, but that doesn’t wash with me. He should know better. The material he claims he forgot, which he rapped in the post-match interview, was dynamite and would’ve have bagged him the round, I think. So, it’s very unfortunate.
However, lots of people feel he won the first and the third, even without rebuttaling the choke. Saurus had a monster rebuttal in his third (having gone second), but didn’t really have much else (I felt it was his weakest round), and thus people apply the rebuttal to Saurus trouncing Pat’s second as opposed to winning the third.
I personally feel Pat won the first, lost the second due to the gravity of the choke, and the third is honestly so close to call based on the factors. Pat’s third was amazing, but it’s a case of Pat’s third vs. the HUGE rebuttal in an otherwise sub-par round from Saurus in his third. Then you factor in that Pat didn’t rebuttal the choke, either. Had he, I think I’d have gone with Pat. I maintain that the third was Saurus’s by the thinnest of hairs possible, but this is a prime example of how chokes aren’t always easy to work into a judgement.
Deffinition vs. Jefferson Price
This one, also at ‘To The Test 10’, that comes under a lot of fire.
Deffinition won, many claim, due to Jefferson Price’s choke in the third. He finished his round, but it was large enough for him to stop rhyming and comedically say, “You said this would happen!” to Deffinition. He handled it with class, even through the frustration, but I do feel it cost him the match.
I don’t think this was Deff’s best at ALL, and I’m sure he doesn’t either. I believe Deff took the first with a degree of safety, Jeff took the second with a larger degree of comfort, but the third wasn’t working out. I’m of the school of thought that if you choke, you lose the round.
Many claim that because Jeff’s first two were very good, and he finished his third despite the choke, that he should’ve won. That only works if you give Jeff the first two. I do not feel you can say Jeff deserves the L based on his third round choke, at all. I believe he lost that round and, due to Deff taking the first, lost the match as a result. That adds to two rounds to one in favour of Deffinition.
I don’t believe his choke definitely means he lost, but I do believe it’s madness to claim someone can win a round they choked in.
O’Shea vs. Sensa
This battle is one that I will never understand.
I have a great love for what O’Shea has done for Don’t Flop and he is easily one of the more entertaining guys to watch. If you go back and watch his battles with Loe Pesci, Dirtbag Dan, Lego, and Flex Digits (his best performance in my opinion), you will see he was the inarguable king of jokes/bars in unison. He had both to a high enough degree that there were few people he couldn’t beat, I feel. In this battle, the first ever Don’t Flop title match, O’Shea had stumbles throughout every single round, and choked a few times in addition to that.
I don’t believe there’s any justifiable reason for him winning that match. I don’t say that as a hater, because I am a fan of O’Shea and will remain so until given reason to feel otherwise. I say it because he faced off against Sensa. The importance of the match, the calibre of opponent and the fact that Sensa never choked is what baffles me about all of it. People say Sensa’s angles never hit home, but that’s irrelevant. O’Shea choked and stumbled his way through the match.
He choked in his battle with Ness Lee at Blood in the Water 5, too. It’s a growing problem of which Don’t Flop’s current champion is blatantly aware.
Everyone judges chokes differently, but I feel there are criteria in place enough to make it so that the decision isn’t a hard one. Once in a while you get a battle like The Saurus vs. Pat Stay, where it is very odd to judge because of the choke. Then, maybe you’ll get a battle like Porich vs. Soul Khan, in which the choke is made to not matter in the slightest.
It IS a big element of battling, but one that isn’t often discussed with any level of interest or equanimity. That’s all I wanted to do here, really.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this article, and the one before it (which got 2,000 hits in a day!). It’s much appreciated and, honestly, it’s a pleas….wait…it’s a pleasure to….ahh….FUCK!