Over the past year, the biggest battle in UK battle rap has been the scene against itself. After UKBR’s struggles led many to hang up the mic, a recent resurgence in energy might be taking the sport to a new peak. Don Papi Hostile is a key commentator within the scene, whose DLYRNT series offers fans candid and reasoned discussions. With a stage pass around his neck, Don Papi has swiftly risen up the ranks of BR vloggers and podcasters. We called to chat everything from Premier Battles to Asperger’s, and URL to drum and bass.
“We just need to stop being dickheads.”
Why Don Papi Hostile? What’s the story behind your name?
“I used to run under the name Hostile but I look older than I am. I’m only 38 but I’ve got a completely white beard, so it’s just come from that. People call me Don Papi, but I was just Hostile.”
Apex has been described as ‘electric’ and the greatest UK battle event, what was the greatest moment for you last weekend?
“There was a bunch of them to be fair, I couldn’t really pick one. Performance and battler-wise it was when Bobby came out. You’ll see it on the YouTube upload but when he came out he was quite aggressive and smashed a drink. It was quite cinematic if that makes sense, it was fire. Also, just seeing all the people at the event was the main one. When we saw the big queue outside it was crazy. I got there late – was supposed to be there at 10:00 but didn’t get there ‘til 11:30 – but there were hundreds of people queuing down the road so it was good.”
A Unanymous vs Raptor rematch is confirmed for Premier Battles’ Allstar in December . What other match-ups would you like to see?
“I wanna see Lazy Arse Jack back on Allstar because I think that he was the biggest surprise on the night for me. I’d been completely sleeping on Lazy Arse Jack but I’ve caught up on a couple of his battles now, and he’s really levelled up. I’d definitely like to see him, and I think I’d probably like to see JShort get someone like Chilla. Shotty said today though that him and Gem won’t be on Allstar, perhaps on a bigger event next year.”
When and how did you get into battle rap?
“Well I started watching battle rap late 2011. The first battle I watched was Calicoe vs Arsonal, it was next to a track that I’d been listening to and it auto-played. It was just before I was about to go to bed and I gave it a listen but then I was literally hooked. I watched all Cal’s battles that night, then all Arsonal’s the following day, and then if you’re into it you’re into it. I got quite obsessive about it because you have all the narratives and I followed the YouTube playlists. But yeah man, I’ve caught up now and have pretty much watched everything! I didn’t start to get into it blogging-wise until this year.”
Why did it take ’til 2019 for you to move from a fan to a commentator?
“I’ve got Asperger’s and I was quite badly camera-phobic, there’s hardly any pictures or films of me before this time. My mum and dad have got a couple of pictures each and there is my wedding photos, but that’s pretty much it. I hated cameras and I couldn’t be around them. I had a really bad year last year and just decided to take the plunge. My life changed dramatically last year so this year I decided to face my fear and this was the obvious choice, this is the subject matter I know a lot about.”
Your new feature DLYBRS kicks off with legend Tony D dropping a verse, how did that come about?
“Ah man I just asked him. I’ve been talking to Tony on-and-off since I started. At the beginning he jumped on quite early as a subscriber and we talked. We’re similar ages, he’s 40-ish, and we like a lot of the same old hip-hop, food, and a bunch of other stuff. I think the only thing we’re not both into similarly is football, because I’ve never been into football. We get on really well, but I only met him for the first time at Apex. He was spitting a round to me that he had for JC and he was just chatting about where to put it. The stuff he had was so specific, it’s not like B Magic who’ll write a bunch of bars, this was a personal character assassination so he couldn’t do anything with it as far as other opponents go. So I just messaged him – this was all yesterday – but I was like “What do you feel about giving me one of them rounds?”, and he was like “Nah I won’t give you one of them that’s trash.” But basically he’s going to write a new round about all them lot ducking and the situation, so it’s gunna be pretty crazy. Obviously it’s dedicated content, and it’ll set the standard going forward.”
— Don Papi Hostile (@donpapihostile) September 7, 2019
You kindly set up a GoFundMe to help PB during their struggles, but what do you think UK battle rap needs to keep up its current momentum?
“I think that we just need to stop being dickheads. A lot of people involved are very cliquey, a lot of people involved do a lot of indirect tweeting, it’s kinda quite bitchy and I think Apex did dissolve a lot of that. The vibe in the room, the conversations that people were having outside, it dissolved a lot of that. So just not returning to that petty bullshit and forum mentality is definitely the first thing. And keep building! There seems to be a lot of momentum now behind the Premier Battles team which is good, they fucking earned it as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s all about not returning to old habits. If we see it as a new era and a reset, then hopefully people won’t slip into old habits. I weren’t involved before so it doesn’t really apply to me, but there’s a lot of people who’ve been here from the start. It’s the old lot and some of the new lot that need convincing, but it all depends on what happens on the day doesn’t it?”
“It’s either plain ignorance or it’s collusion.”
URL is getting a lot of bad press at the moment, and you’ve decided never to cover the league again and even cancelled your app subscription. Can you explain your feelings over that situation?
“That was stressing me out to be fair. Angryfan said it best. Five people, well he said the n-word, but five URL battlers pulled out. We know they’re doing more events in England and they’re probably looking to save their talent for their own cards. There’s just too many people and it’s far too coincidental for them not to have a hand in it, or at least know about it. It’s either plain ignorance or it’s collusion, one of the two. But it didn’t affect us in the end did it? That’s why I’ve decided first – leading by example – to not put any effort their way. Don’t get me wrong I’ll still watch URL battles, they’ll put on some fire matches that I want to see, but I’m not paying money to something that actively endorses fuckshit. Like putting ‘almost fights’ in the trailers and it’s endorsing this wrestling type vibe that I personally don’t think has much of a place in battle rap.”
How do you feel about the Battle Rap Boxing match with Dizaster and Math Hoffa?
“To be fair it’s not for me. Last time I had a fight there weren’t cameras and an audience, there weren’t judges there or people buying tickets. The fact of the matter is, if you want to handle your business then handle your business in private. Having the word ‘battle rap’ associated with a physical sport is trash to me, it’s not what we’re here for. I mean, of course I’m going to watch it, I just wish they’d branded it in a different way. I wish it was just celebrity boxing and this was a battle rap edition, then next time it would be something else. It’s bringing in the portion of battle rap that we don’t want in the mainstream of it. Fighting’s not good with battle rap involved.”
“Last time I had a fight there weren’t cameras.”
You’ve curated Magniloquence Sessions on Mi-Soul Radio, and have a few tunes out, so I was wondering what your relationship was with drum and bass?
“We go way back! I have a love-hate relationship with drum and bass. I did promotions, I was a resident for a really good night for six or seven years, I did a lot of stuff. I had a label, which is still going, but it’s love-hate. I love drum and bass but it’s become more complex as I’ve got older. Like I said, I’ve got Asperger’s so travelling and stuff like that is a nightmare so I was finding that I couldn’t get out to perform. Drum and bass is heavily reliant on performance, it’s not a genre that makes a lot of money in record sales or streams, it’s a genre that makes money off live gigs and clubs. So, I’m still producing but it’s just not my main focus anymore.”
How do you feel about Don’t Flop’s Warheads dnb battles?
“I didn’t see any of them to be fair. That’s another thing, I’m older and from the peace, love and unity drum and bass, rather than having a bunch of MCs rapping while all that cool music is going on. I appreciate what Don’t Flop are trying to do, they’re trying to rebrand and rebuild, which is good for all battle rap – it doesn’t matter what league.”
What’s next for Don Papi Hostile?
“I’m just gunna keep doing me man, me has got me this far. Don’t get me wrong, I have been lucky with coming into contact with people like Shotty, Briggzy and Tox. Shotty gave me quite a big co-sign quite early on and has reached out a number of times, it’s all love with Shotty. I just think I’m just gunna be straight with people. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that I say what they’ve been thinking but no one has said yet – that’s what I’m here for. People need kicking up the arse sometimes. They’ve said I take the words out of their mouths. It’s not intentional, but DLYRNT is just me. It’s not edited, it’s just plain as it could be, purely to be just about battle rap and the opinions. The form, the sport and the art of it – that’s all I care about.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe