Belfast boy Vizual is set to rap his name into the top-tier of Irish battle rap. With only five clashes under his belt, Viz’ swift ascent has seen him compete overseas in Premier Battles‘ Academy 19 final, and win performance of the weekend for his debut battle on Irish soil. New York’s iBattle has now caught wind of his potent punchlines, so the future looks as promising as his pen-game. We chatted in-depth about his best battles and future bookings, whilst managing to score some secrets from the scene…
“There’s just something about Ireland…”
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What bar are you most proud of?
“In terms of writing, I’d say there’s not one I’m most proud of, but in terms of the reaction that I got, definitely the Australia/Fire bar against Karni. That’s definitely the biggest pop that I’ve ever got ya know.”
“Stop acting like the king of this shit, ‘Oh but he’s on fire in Australia’ / Fucking everything is!”
Other than your name, how does your study of film/TV play into your battling?
“Yeah so in terms of what I do studying, it all comes into play. A lot of it is what I write, because most of the things I write are film or TV oriented. Most of my bars would be around something like that, and then it’s the editing stuff out. I’d have to remove most of it ‘cos its either niche or it’s just too much to do with film.”
Since Milky has left battle rap are you now Premier Battles’ Academy 19 champion?
“[Laughs] Let’s say yeah, ‘cos I’ve done the LSDean and shaved my head. It is sad about Milky though ya know, but that means there’s no one actively battling that’s beaten me yet so there we go.”
Well you did recently win performance of the weekend against Karni at Broken Resolutions 2, how does that victory feel?
“That was honestly without a doubt the best one I’ve been a part of. As soon as I got off stage one of the first people I saw was The Saurus and my mind was like ‘There’s no way he’s sat there watching my battle,’ ya know? It was The Saurus, Dunsh, and Red Flag came up afterwards. They were talking to me about it, and obviously there’s everyone else, but those three coming up to me and rating the performance, saying how they loved it, it was unbelievable. I’d been watching The Saurus for six years and to win performance of the weekend against some of those guys was unbelievable. The Saurus is, in my opinion, the greatest ever to do it so that’s a massive pleasure.”
Even between the Milky and Karni battles your progression has been insane. How do you plan on levelling up next?
“Honestly, the Milky battle is the most viewed but it’s my least favourite, for obviously reasons like I lost it, but as well, the performance is just nowhere near what I intended it to be. In the hostel before we left for the venue, I was getting off my three rounds and everything was amazing. I had the performance down and I knew what I was gunna do. But as soon as we stepped on stage and I spat my opening eight bars, the crowd I could tell just weren’t going for it. After that I sorta just got extremely awkward because it was my first time on a stage ya know, it didn’t work out at all. With the Karni battle, I was home, I was a lot more comfortable ‘cos I’d already got that first stage battle over with, so I knew what to do. In terms of moving forward, I think I’m gunna focus more on that presence because I think the writing is there. I do like a crowd to bounce off of, which I undoubtably got in Dublin, it was amazing.”
Despite its divisive nature, do you think battle rap has a unifying effect in Ireland?
“Yeah man, the scene in Ireland is really what got me to apply for the Academy. I never would have done anything if it wasn’t for Rap Is Full. I was obviously supposed to debut on Rap Is Full before the Academy, but I went to my first event there, which was Broken Resolutions 1. As soon as I got there, people were talking to me even though they’ve never met me before, they were chatting away, there was no sort of awkwardness and I knew I could have showed up by myself. Obviously, I get a similar vibe over in England, but I dunno man, there’s just something about Ireland and the events they hold and the scene here. Everyone’s just up for a laugh and mates with each other. With that Allstar crowd, although a lot of people there I would consider mates now, there was just a different vibe to anything in Ireland.”
What was that Rap Is Full debut supposed to be?
“[Laughs] Well the reason I started battling was because I saw Scomo battle. I heard the accent and thought to myself, (I love Scomo right, great guy, I’ve got to know him over the last year), but whenever I saw the battle, I was like: ‘I’m not letting people think that’s a representation of everyone in the north.’ So, I messaged the Rap Is Full Facebook page and Podge got back to me and tried to set up me versus Scomo, but it never actually came about. So I applied to Academy anyway and I think that was the best thing I could have done.”
Props on reaching the second round of iBattle’s Corona Virus Video Tournament. Who do you see winning it?
“Thank you man. Honestly, there would be nothing better than seeing Nugget walk away with a grand from this whole tournament. What I would love to see is Nugget and Marv Won in the final because those are two people we’ve all been watching for years and years. I’d love for Nugget to take it, but again, I wouldn’t be mad if Marv Won takes it, it’s just a bit of bias there on my part.”
Speaking of iBattle, what can you say about an upcoming trip to the states?
“OK so… after the Karni battle dropped on the iBattle app, it started to be getting a bit of attention. It didn’t get much, but one of the people that did really enjoy it was Lexx. Obviously, there was already talk about someone from Ireland flying out for a battle on their league, but this was unrelated to that. Lexx had watched the battle and then invited me out personally, which was insane, I just woke up one day and read it. It blew me away. But yeah, Lexx had wanted me to come out to New York for a battle and obviously I was game for it. I think it was supposed to be early April, I probably would have done it by now, but this whole thing sorta halted it massively. I’m hoping we can still do it in the future, but obviously there’s no guarantees with stuff right now. I had five or six offers after the Karni battle and I’d agreed to a couple of them, but it doesn’t look like a lot of them are gunna go through ya know.”
Would the iBattle opponent be Jack Casserole?
“Well an opponent wasn’t confirmed yet, it was basically just Lexx saying ‘Look, I watched the battle and I’d like to get you out,’ so obviously that’s sick. I saw him post in the iBattle group that he wanted me to battle Jack Casserole and I thought that was a pretty good match. I like him, I feel like I could of beat him as well, but it would have been a challenge especially in New York. Honestly, I would have taken anyone at that point if it was a battle in New York on iBattle. I was talking to Haidees just before Broken Resolutions 2 and I said to him that my end goal is to get over to iBattle, ya know?”
Who’s on your hitlist then?
“One that’s sort of well known is that I want to battle Darko. I really wanna battle Jonny Darko. It’s something that he wants as well, after Broken Resolutions 2 he came up to me and said ‘It’s me and you next,’ and I was like, ‘100%.’ Although, I do really rate him, so maybe I’ll take one battle before that ‘cos I feel like I’ll improve with every performance I get. So before Darko, I’d like to battle Ty if he came back. I know he’s taking a break, I dunno if he’s gunna come back, but that’s someone I wanted to battle when I first started. Like, a young prospect versus young prospect sort of thing. I feel like that would be my last battle in that sorta tier hopefully, and then I could start having the bragging rights and go on to bigger names. Right now, I’m not aiming for anyone way out of my reach. I think I could take on Darko, hopefully I could beat Darko, then after that start making a case for those big names. But there’s no one in my sights just yet, like I wouldn’t go towards any Unans right now.”
In my opinion, Ty would be a bit of a step down from the way you’re currently climbing…
“Yeah, I get that and I kinda agree with you as well. But I’ve had some responses from people who think the Karni battle was literally just a hometown advantage and a one-time thing. So, I’d like to do one more battle to put that at rest and show that I can actually hang with the likes of the Irish top-tiers, ya know?”
What’s next for Vizual?
“I wanna do more on Rap Is Full definitely. I might even wanna go for the title to be honest after a few. I was gunna take a break after the Karni battle, I was gunna take a good few months but now I don’t really have a choice in the matter! But I definitely want to go back to Premier Battles, I was supposed to be on the Anarchy card in April but the dates didn’t really work out for me, and then I was supposed to be on the Undisclosed card in May but… yeah. There’s definitely some things on the table on Premier Battles. I was gunna go up against someone who was making a comeback after a few years, it wasn’t a massive comeback, but it would have been a good battle ya know. But because the momentum for that person has died down since they left, I didn’t want to take it as I didn’t think it was the right step. I am talking to Briggzy, and Matt and Ruairi from Rap Is Full about what the best move is next, ‘cos I don’t want to rush into a battle every month and oversaturate myself. So, definitely more Rap Is Full, more Premier Battles, and I would like the Rap Is Full title.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe
Images: Jack Doyle, John Bolloten & Premier Battles