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The Red Bull Batalla USA National Finals 2022 concluded in Miami this past weekend (Oct. 8), featuring some of the nation’s best Spanish-language freestyle competitors. In the end, OneR emerged as the champion and will represent the United States in the world finals in Mexico City.
This was Hip-Hop Wired’s first time covering a live Red Bull Batalla event despite having covered the Spanish language freestyle in previous times via this channel. Given the Hip-Hop roots of Spanish freestyle, which not only borrows from the stylings of American battle rap but also folk troubadours, it allowed us to peer into a scene that is on the cusp of becoming an important part of the nation’s musical fabric.
Ahead of the competition, Hip-Hop Wired caught up with past Red Bull Batalla competitor Jordi and two-time champion Yartzi, this time a judge for the competition, and Adonys. We spoke with the trio last in 2021 and were eager to learn about their journeys since that time.
We asked Jordi about his experience in freestyle and his approach to the battle ahead of the event. When we first spoke, it was conducted in Spanish via a translator. This time, Jordi spoke in English and his enthusiasm and humble nature were present just as it was last year.
“Of course, I respect everyone who comes to the battle because we all want to win of course. But we also just love to do it even if it wasn’t about winning a championship,” Jordi said. The Texas resident added that his dream to continue in freestyle is strong as ever.
“Since I’ve been coming to the events, I’ve only gotten better. Some of these guys are now my friends but on that stage, I want to take them out,” Jordi excitedly exclaimed.
Yartzi, a two-time USA champion, shared that moving the to judge’s chair is different but that the spirit of Batalla is still strong in him. As always, Yartzi’s humility and calm demeanor shined through, and his love of freestyle and music overall shined through.
“It’s different being on this side of the Batalla,” Yartzi began. “I do miss the competition but this is a great time for our scene. I know some of the people in the tournament and all of them have skills for the battle.”
When we asked what he was looking for in the competitors, Yartzi was candid.
“They have to bring it. This is the biggest Spanish freestyle competition in the world. Yes, there are other leagues but Red Bull has given us a platform like none other. We have to go out there and represent,” Yartzi said.
Adonys, hailing from Long Island, N.Y. by way of the Dominican Republic, was laser-focused on the battle ahead of the competition. We spoke with him briefly backstage.
“It’s always exciting to freestyle in front of the crowds. I’m not focused on winning as much as I am focused on getting better. I’m facing some guys in this competition that have the potential to be the best and I want to show them I am one of the best as well,” Adonys said.
We asked what would it take for freestyle to catch on more in the states and Adonys didn’t hold back on his answer.
“We deserve respect like any other artist. It takes a lot of some of us with day jobs or families to put all our hopes into this dream. One day, Spanish freestyle will be just as big as any other form of music and I want to be a part of that, ” Adonys concluded.
DJ Craze, who provided the sounds for the battle, is no stranger to this manner of competition. A self-proclaimed B-Boy, Craze says that Batalla isn’t too different from his days as a DMC World Championship battle DJ.
“It’s kind of the same world in a lot of ways. You’re basically going off feeling and energy and the crowd. DJ-ing is definitely different than rapping in Spanish off the top, but it’s the same thing. Performance, skill, humor, all that stuff,” Craze said.
Craze, who no longer competes but still has his world-class abilities intact, says he’s planning something big that he’s soon to announce that will electrify the DJ battle scene.
“I can’t say too much just yet but keep up with what I’m doing on social media. It’s going to be big,” Craze added.
We also spoke with guest judge Cacha from Argentina and over the course of his career, he’s amassed millions of followers on social media. Beyond his prodigious freestyle abilities, Cacha, like Yartzi, also leans heavily into creating music and wants to help unify Spanish freestyle globally.
“I look at freestyle as a sport at the end of the day. Yes, it’s great to win and be recognized but we should also look at what American Hip-Hop has done. We can be just as big in the Spanish-speaking world and maybe crossover into the mainstream markets,” Cacha said of the potential of Spanish freestyle.
He added, “When we were growing up, we watched movies like 8 Mile and looked up to rappers like 2Pac. We have rappers and artists in our scene who have that same passion and hunger. And when we judge the battlers, we’re looking at not only their skills on the stage but their ability to entertain as well.”
Cacha said that the United States has the potential to be the leader of Spanish freestyle due to all the different cultures and countries represented in the scene. But he did urge that overall, the point is to give light to Spanish freestyle and see all the artists and freestyles as one.
Jenn Morel, a star in music in her own right, served as one of the co-hosts alongside Rasco White Lion. Morel’s infectious energy was contagious ahead of the competition and we briefly spoke with the talented artist.
“I’m just so excited to be here because Red Bull Batalla is about the best of the best in Spanish freestyle and I get to have a front-row seat,” Morel said.
Morel, who made a splash with her hit single “Ponteme,” shared with us that she’s working hard on bringing new music to the fans and said that her bars are nothing to sleep on.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m up next as far as artists who can spit, who can sing, who can dance. And more importantly, being Afro-Latina, we deserve to have more of a presence in music period. I’m ready to do my part but first things first, we’re here in Miami for the battle and I’m so glad Red Bull is having me host,” Morel concluded.
The battle itself was an intense affair inside Soho Studios with 16 hungry freestyles vying for the title. Below, you’ll find how the bracket-style battle works.
From Red Bull:
As a refresher, the night is broken down as follows: 16 battles, four rounds, one winner. In the first round, known as “octavos,” bracket draw-selected pairs of eight MCs battle it out, delivering their best punchlines using screen-projected word prompts like “experimento,” “energía,” and “estado.” Eight of those MCs then move on to the second round of battles called “cuartos,” during which physical props were used instead. Then, the remaining four MCs—in this case MC Betho, Oner, Nico B and Cuban—battle it out in the semifinals for a shot at the final.
Without mincing words, OneR deserved to win this year’s competition. If there was ever an MC in Spanish freestyle that positioned himself to be the face of the scene, OneR just 19 years of age, rose to the occasion. Facing off against last year’s champion, Reverse, all the way to battling the runner-up in Nico B, himself no slouch, OneR showed and proved the entire way.
We caught up with the Venezuelan native and champion backstage, and it was clear he was still processing the moment. We asked how was it being a last-minute qualifier in the Los Angeles competition and now crowned the USA champion.
“I mean I can’t really believe it. I took on some of the best in the states and actually the world. I battled some people I see as friends and everyone was good. I just had something in me tonight that took me over the top,” OneR said with intensity.
We followed by asking what’s next for him as he eyes the world title in Mexico City and beyond.
“I just want to say to anyone in this competition and for all watching at home to never give up on your dream. If you want this, you can do it. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m just happy to represent the USA and Venezuela. I know it’s going to be tough facing the world’s best but I’m so ready. I’m so ready, “OneR said before being whisked off for photos and congratulations from his peers.
Stay tuned as we update the masses on the Red Bull Batalla World Finals in Mexico City. Congratulations are in order again for USA champion, OneR!
Peep the Red Bull Batalla USA National Finals 2022 replay below.
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool