King of the Dot, Canada’s premier hip hop battling league, emerged onto the scene in August of 2008 with a small following and big dreams, dreams that one day it would be the battle rap community for Toronto. Just Toronto. Organik, founder of KOTD. The amount of growth the league has seen since its inception is something not even its biggest supporters could have predicted. Over 30 000 viewers subscribe to the KOTD YouTube channel, watching the league’s 600 battles to the tune of over 11 million total views. hop legends such as Drake, Sean Price, Alchemist, Classified, Choclair, Canibus, Jeru Tha Damaja, Maestro, and more have all expressed their admiration of the company, sported KOTD clothes and shown their love. News outlets such as the National Post, Maxim Magazine, Canadian Music Magazine, MTV Canada and Forbes Online have covered the movement and its events which routinely draw crowds of over 500 people. Within three short years KOTD has gone from a few park side battles to one of the most impressive forces in battle rap worldwide.
Today, KOTD is much more than a local battling league; It houses divisions all across Canada, giving emcees the opportunity to prove themselves in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. Events feature all elements of hip hop culture, from beat boxing to deejaying to graffiti to break-dancing. A reality show profiling the business aspect of the organization dubbed KOTD Marketing Kings is on the horizon. Two Grand Prix tournaments have been held with $10, 000 in total prize money and the most respected championship titles in battle rap served to the victors. The league is renowned for its quality product and professional organization worldwide, with battlers from countries such as England, Australia, Sweden and the Philippines all eager to make the trip to Canada to be featured in KOTD’s annual World Domination Event.
HHUG: To get everyone up to speed, can you briefly tell us how you became engaged in the battle scene, and what is your current position in the scene?
LO: Battling has always been a part of my repertoire as an MC. It was a fundamental part of my development.. This goes back to being in high school and freestyling with friends while faded at parties, combined with being obsessed with all aspects of hip-hop culture. Having a competitive nature and wanting to get shine as an MC was the driving force that fueled my desire to improve as an artist, and ultimately test my skill as a battler. I wound up being pretty good at it, and after becoming a known local MC on the party/cypher circuit, I started winning tournaments and stage battles. Since there was such a large talent pool in California, which for the past decade plus has been somewhat of a mecca for freestyle battles. I wound up competing against some of the best in the world. Through years of fierce competition and taking each other's heads offs, many of the elite spitters out here began working on music and touring together. This was the birth of the Fresh Coast movement. When the Grind Time Now [GT] battle league was started, I was the one who spear headed the West Coast division. Due to my previous relationship with many of the world's elite battlers, I was able to set up what are now regarded as some of the most influential and most viewed rap battles and events of all-time. My success led me to eventually being a CEO of GT, but due to internal business conflicts and an unstable structure myself and the entire Fresh Coast movement and joined forces under the King Of The Dot [KOTD], a battle league that started in Canada and is now regarded as the one of the fastest growing and most professionally ran hip-hop organizations on the planet.
HHUG: The current format of hip hop battles has shifted from the improvisation freestyle over a beat, to a more structure-driven written approach without a beat and a mic. Can you describe the current format and its shift?
LO: Well, first of all thats somewhat of a misconception. Accapella battling with written verses has been very prominent, especially in New York City, since the 80s. Some of the most heralded battles of all-time such as Percee P vs. Lord Finesse, Loaded Lux vs. Murder Mook, etc. were all in this format. Freestyle battling was put on blast on a mass media level by the movie 8 Mile and Eminem, even though it too has existed since the 70s/80s. The current format of battling is the most modern in that it strips everything away but the voice. We are focused 100% on all of the intricies of the performance of the MC, including rhythm. Also, although the material is prewritten, improvisational rebuttals and freestyles that incorporate the environment have become an imperative part of any successful emcee in this format's arsenal.
HHUG: KOTD is rapidly growing and gaining massive popularity and recognition. Being part of GT for many years, how did the idea of starting a new KOTD division in the west coast (dubbed as KOTD Fresh Coast division) emerge?
LO: The Fresh Coast merging with KOTD was not only my decision. The MCs, the staff, and myself collectively made this decision because GT is an organization tainted at its core and was never structured properly, business-wise. It lacked and still lacks honest transparency with its behind the scenes business. GT may have had huge community support but without the fundamental business plan to back it up, it was doomed. It's crazy how I hear about how some of the biggest execs in the music industry say that we revolutionized the game but had no solid plan, shit trips me out. Basically, we were tired of being taken advantage of, exploited, and having undeserving people profiting from our hard work, art, and soul. We have been working with KOTD for years and they have a very solid foundation as far as both business and community goes. They are a brand we are proud to represent and shining beacons of integrity in a very corrupted industry. GT had so many opportunities that got fucked up by inept and shady business practices.
HHUG: How do you see GT (East, West, South, & Midwest divisions in general) evolve (or devolve) within the next five years?
LO: I really think it's in GT's best interest to embrace their connection with Guerilla Union with the Paid Dues and Rock The Bells festivals and focus back on the Freestyle battle format. It is an open lane in the game and Madd Illz has a great deal of experience navigating this field and is a well respected freestyle battler himself. That would be the best look, unless they get that reality TV shit jumping off, because GT battles are at all time low for the accapella format. They are becoming the Vanilla Ice of the battle world. It lost the commodity of being "cool" and something that people respect. KOTD, Don't Flop, and URL (Ultimate Rap League) have this level of respect. GT doesn't, and once Drect gets his new battle league launched, all of the successful remaining general managers will move on with him. So GT should go after that open lane or else they will most likely fizzle away and die. I'm sure there will be an announcement about an announcement about an announcement any time soon now though, lol.
HHUG: In your opinion, what differences and similarities do you see between KOTD and URL?
LO: URL and KOTD are similar in that they are both very professionally ran platforms that have a lot of time and care put into them. They are both leagues that both battlers and staff enjoy working with, with a heavy emphasis on quality control.
HHUG: What are your views on the international battle scene, most notably in the UK and Australia?
LO: The international battle scene is incredible. In this new age hyper-connected world, the world is truly a much smaller place. This is exponentially true when related to battling. I am ecstatic to witness and even help shape the growth of the international battle scene. What Don't Flop has done in the UK is inspirational. It is an incredible way to have a glimpse at different cultures and the eccentricities of each region's flavors. Battling gives us a window into these realms. It's only getting bigger - South Africa, Malaysia, The Philippines, Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, Brazil, and the list goes on. Battle leagues popping up everywhere!
HHUG: With many different battle leagues, do you think one day it would be possible for all battle leagues (domestic & international) to come together in a single tournament, showcasing their best emcees in their league to battle others? Do you think we will start seeing rivalries or tournaments against different battle leagues?
LO: I think it's entire possible.. It's a great way for everyone to expand our demographic and reach an audience that we previously were not in touch with. To be honest, these collaborations have been going on for a couple years already now and are showing no signs of ceasing..T-Rex vs. Okwerdz was co-presented by GT Fresh Coast and URL. In fact, it was the Arsonal vs Okwerdz battle which was the first juxtaposition of the more street styled SMACK/URL rappers with the more comedic underground styles of the Scribble Jam set. From there the floodgates have opened. Just look at KOTD's "World Domination' event series which incorporates MCs from every MC in every league in the world.
HHUG: KOTD Fresh Coast division announced a mega match - Dizaster vs. Canibus. Please break it down for us as how this event emerge and how this match is of significance in the current battle scene as a whole.
LO: Canibus vs Dizaster is incredibly exciting for everyone in battle rap. Pitting one of the most diverse and well respect battle gladiators against a battle-tested legend like Canibus is literally hip-hop history. The homie Christian 818 who is running KOTD Fresh Coast with me orchestrated the entire deal overseen by myself. The connection was made by our patna Zodiak from SicFuc clothing who had a good repoire with Canibus. We aim to deliver a top quality battle that will entertain and inspire for years to come and be looked at as a benchmark in MC battling. The match has the potential to be literally explosive and inspire many other legends to enter the battle realm.
HHUG: With an artist like Canibus returning to the battle scene, do you think other veterans or high caliber rappers in the game be motivated in engaging in the battle scene? We noticed many fans already setting hypothetical dream matches such as The Saurus vs. SuperNatural, and others. Do you have any hypothetical dream matches you hope you would like to see one day?
LO: Lets just say that we are already working on making more of these potential dream matches into realities. Canibus being brave and confident enough to step into the ring and generating the largest positive buzz he's had in years as a result of it is already paving the way for more legends to creep out of the woodwork.
HHUG: The Fresh Coast division of KOTD has left fans excited and eager to see what this new chapter will bring to the battle scene. What has made KOTD so rapidly successful?
LO: KOTD has risen to success based on consistency, hard work, removal of ego, genuine passion, and integrity. KOTD does legit straight up business, never makes promises they can't keep, and put the value of the KOTD brand above any personal agendas. KOTD has a solid business model, and a involve a community of thousands all working towards the same goal.
HHUG: Besides emcee battles, will KOTD Fresh Coast cater to other type of battles or competitions?
LO: Yes, we will be eventually be doing freestyle battles, producer battles, DJ battles, beatbox battles, comedy battles and more. However, rap battles are our bread and butter and we will never sacrifice the aspect of the game that catapulted us to recognition. There is a time for all of that other shit in the future; rap battles is number one for KOTD FC though.
HHUG: An old saying in hip hop goes, "good battle emcees can't write or make good songs". What is your take on that?
LO: A stereotype that is completely dated and untrue. Sure, if an MC focuses solely on battling the quality of their music will decrease, but it's all about finding that balance. But on another tip, the success of artists such as Eminem should instantly refute that theory. Really, every classic MC of all time has battled at one point. It's a necessary part of anyone's skill set. On top of that there are some very successful rappers from this modern KOTD/GT/URL era who have made a large impact on the music landscape initially through battling that has translated into stellar music careers (Dumbfoundead, 360, Soul Khan, Professor Green, etc.)
HHUG: Who are your top 5 favorite battle emcees and why? Top 5 music artists and why?
LO: Dizaster, becuase he is the most tenacious and unique battle rappers in history.. Head ICE, because he personifies that OG hood mentality with a hilariously leftfield approach. Arsonal, because he adapts to any environment yet always retains his aggression and percision. Illmaculate, for his incredible heart juxtaposed with pure ruthlessness. And PassWurdz because of his incredibly overlooked style and insane pure/natural rapping ability. For top five music artists are: 2pac for his passion, Jigga for his artistic prowess, Mac Mall for the game he drops, Andre 3000 for his mystical street ad life knowledge, Scarface for his trillness.
HHUG: With the success of KOTD, do you think other division in the US (and perhaps other countries) might be interested in starting their own divisions with them?
LO: The KOTD Fresh Coast came to be due to a very close comraderie and personal relationships between their entire staff and myself. I don't see that happening anywhere else in the US at this point, but it would be very exciting possibly if it did.
HHUG: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Any closing comments?
LO: Thanks for the opportunity to speak on all of this.. Westside worldwide, shout out to the trill heads across the map, SPLASH.