There’s rappers, and then there’s battle rappers. It’s an important distinction to make when talking about the Riot, an OC-based battle-rap league started by Santa Ana MC Kevin Parx. If you think of mainstream hip-hop as analogous to the WWE—a well-choreographed, entertaining spectacle filled with pyro and catchphrases—battle rap seems more akin to the UFC. Bruises, broken bones and spilled blood are its main currency. Underground MCs step into a ring of riled-up spectators who expect vicious bars that cut deep. When a rapper gets destroyed by the right line, the crowd knows the carnage is real.
“These dudes will sit in their rooms and write about a guy for six months until they have their bars ready to kill the guy without ever touching him,” says Parx. “Sometimes they’ll dig deep and bring up something personal, like talking about someone’s retarded mom or some shit.”
As the thought escapes his mouth, Parx smirks, but he shakes his head full of medium-length dreads in disgust. “I’ll be sitting there going, ‘Yo, this dude doesn’t really have a retarded mom.’ Come to find out he does. . . . So disrespectful.” Obviously, the thin-skinned need not apply.
While sipping a cold beer at Proof Bar, the equally chill Parx is the last guy you’d expect to be at the center of the madness he creates, hosting, promoting and officiating quarterly battles for the crowd and YouTube. But beneath his calm demeanor is a savvy businessman and talented MC. As part of the Santa Ana hip-hop collective Get Money Boy$, the towering, husky, 26-year-old Parx has more than half a dozen albums under his belt. However, it was the lack of a solid local hip-hop scene that inspired him to start the Riot about five years ago, intending to put a competitive fire in the belly of local rappers.