After being crowned the 2020 Red Bull Batalla World Champion, Rapder remains motivated for more. With the 15th anniversary of the largest international freestyle competition in the world – which has amassed over 1.2B combined views across 6M subscribers on YouTube – Red Bull has managed to unite Spanish-speaking rappers from around the globe.
Hailing from a close-knit community within Guadalajara, Rapder isn’t new to the art of hustling. His tenacity stems from years’ of hard work, something that has followed the world champion into adulthood. “I learned to appreciate the world in a different way early on because I was always working with my family,” Rapder shares with me over Zoom.
The cultural nuances of freestyling are deeply rooted within the Hip-hop community. Music is the language of sound, something that can be easily understood and universally embraced. The Red Bull Batalla competition has grown into a global movement over the years, providing unique visibility for Spanish-speaking emcees on an international scale. But for Rapder, the competition is bigger than the notoriety it brings. “I’m excited about the doors that are being opened for the people of Guadalajara.”
This week, Red Bull announced the release of Imparables: Red Bull Batalla, a documentary that provides viewers with an in-depth look inside the 2020 Red Bull Batalla competition. The behind-the-scenes feature finds Rapder in an intimate role as lead protagonist, documenting his journey along the road to victory.
Beyond the music, Rapder wants to be remembered by his work ethic. His quick-witted rhymes have afforded him the opportunity to travel the world and compete with some of the most skilled wordsmiths in Latin America. And yet, he remains grateful. “It’s more than just a job, it’s an experience.”
When were you first introduced to hip-hop?
In general, I was introduced to hip-hop and the culture of rap at 10-years-old – that’s when I first started to pick up on some of the references. Specifically, with freestyle battles, when I was 15-years-old, a friend from school showed me a battle online and that’s when I fell in love. I started to practice, became more disciplined, and bit by bit I started to elevate. I’m 25 now, so that’s eight years’ worth of experience in this format of freestyle battle rap.
Talk to me about life in Guadalajara.
In Guadalajara, we have to work a lot. My family wasn’t rich so we were working all of the time. Since a kid, my family had to go to different markets for work and that’s where I started to see the value in money, the value of hard work, the importance of family. I learned to appreciate the world in a different way early on because I was always working with my family. I grew up in a part of Guadalajara called La Expenal, it actually used to be a jail. My community was pretty close-knit, that’s where I found my passion for rap.
I couldn’t help but notice the accordion appreciation post you shared on Instagram. When did you first become a fan of woodwind instruments?
I’ve loved the accordion my whole life. With me coming from a Mexican family, it’s in a lot of our music. El mariachi, El Norteño, La banda, that has been a lot of my musical references.
Are you a natural competitor?
I’ve always been a competitive person, no matter what it is. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved to win. I haven’t lost the joy of competition through freestyle battling, but even if I were to lose, I love to compete.
What does it mean to be crowned the Red Bull Batalla World Champion? That’s a crazy feat, especially considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the competition.
Well, it’s a huge honor to represent my country on a platform like this. I’m excited about the doors that are being opened for the people of Guadalajara. It’s a huge opportunity for me because it’s giving me a chance to push my limits as an artist. I’m progressing and learning new styles and techniques, the fact that Red Bull has crowned me the World Champion, that just means there’s more opportunities on the horizon. Red Bull has always been the mother of freestyle battle competitions: winning here brings great opportunities to your career as an artist. Me bringing this award back to my country is going to bring more notoriety to Spanish-speaking rappers, and that brings me a lot of joy.
Would you ever stop freestyling in order to pursue your career as an artist full-time?
It’s not one or the other for me. It’s a collaboration within my profession, so I’ll never stop freestyling. That’s where I learn, that’s where I grow. I’m a musician, I constantly have new music that I’m working on. In fact, I have a new album that’s coming out in July. The first single from my project will release the 23rd of this month. I’m participating in these freestyles to help build out my fanbase so that when I do drop my album, there will be people that are interested in hearing what I have to say.
Can you describe the Red Bull experience, in terms of your involvement as an emcee?
If I can sum it up in one word, it’s incredible. That’s the first word that really comes to mind. Red Bull paid attention to every detail. For example, if we were to travel to Peru, we’re not just there for a specific event, they make sure we learn about the culture of Peru, the Inca temples, to try regional foods and to really fall in love with the place. The experience makes me love the brand because this opportunity is helping me grow as a person and artist. It’s more than just a job, it’s an experience.
Were there any female participants in the competition?
Red Bull is actively trying to open doors for women in the freestyle movement, but that currently exists. Women emcees have been competing at a high level for some time now. Marithea (Colombia) and Sara Socas (Spain), they’re some of the best in the game right now.
You had the most-watched live music event of the year (2020). How does it feel to have that much influence come from doing something you love?
It’s a huge responsibility because I have a lot of public attention on me. There’s a lot of people trying to replicate what I’m doing. Personally, it’s important for me is to keep that passion alive for what I’m doing instead of trying to please everyone, because that would take away from my inspiration and what makes me great. I have a phrase that represents me, “You have to do rap because you like it, not because other people like it.”
Let’s expand on this a bit. What inspires you?
In reality, the story of my family and how hardworking they are. That has kept me going. My passion for music has afforded me the opportunity to see the world and grow as a person, and I’m grateful for that.
How do you want to be remembered, what’s your legacy?
My legacy is a point of motivation for me because I always see people try to follow in my footsteps. I want people to remember me by my work ethic. I fought the same battles that everyone else has but I’ve been fortunate to find a way to overcome them.
What would Rapder – the Batalla World Champion – say to a younger version of himself?
If this is what you want to do, you have to practice and dedicate yourself to what you’re doing. There are a lot of people that are going to support you, but there will always be haters out there. Take the opportunity to enjoy every moment with your family and really live in the moment.
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