Cultures Explained | 文化解密

Spanish Rap Battles

INTERVIEW

Spanish Rap Battles fill in stadiums and are a whole hip hop subculture on its own, but are hard to navigate without context. In this interview, Carlos Gustavo Salas walks us through this intricate competition that unites most Spanish-speaking countries.

露天体育场里的西语说唱大赛是一种自成一体的嘻哈亚文化。如果不知道它所处的社会文化背景,我们很难去真正了解和理解它。在这篇采访中,Carlos Gustavo Salas 将带我们走进这场连结整个西语世界的神秘赛事。

Aiya

Aiya: Hi! So you wanted to tell us today about Latino rap, right? Can you start by telling us about improvisation and rap battles? 

 

嗨,今天你想跟我们聊聊拉丁美洲的说唱,对吧?那你能先跟我们讲讲即兴说唱和说唱里面的battle吗? 

Carlos: Of course. This movement started in the US, I think it was a way the African Americans found to make their voices heard when talking about oppression and injustice. It became popular after 8 Mile, the movie featuring Eminem.

当然可以。说唱是从美国兴起的,这是非洲裔美国人面对压迫和不公正时为自己发声的一种方式。艾米纳姆主演的电影《8英里》让说唱火了起来。

Carlos

Credit: https://www.mtv.com/news/2370762/eminem-8-mile-deleted-scene-marv-won/ 

Carlos: That was around 2002 but it has been really popular since. When I was very young, in Tlaxcala, Mexico, rappers would perform on the streets, on the bus, and in the plazas. It was an underground movement, so people could not make a living from it.

It only started to become huge in 2005 when Redbull had the first international competition of rap battles in Spanish, held in Puerto Rico. They had people from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, and some other countries. The first champion was an Argentinian called Fresco late. Since then it has evolved a lot. Now, there are guys who dedicate their entire lives to rapping. Some of them have partnerships with brands like Puma for example. 

那个电影应该是在2002年上映的,在那之后说唱逐渐流行起来了。我很小的时候,墨西哥特拉斯卡拉(墨西哥城以东的一个州)的说唱歌手就会在街头、公交车和广场上表演。那时候说唱还只是种上不了台面的音乐形式,所以人们还不能把说唱当职业挣钱,更别说靠它吃饭了。

直到2005年,红牛在波多黎各办了第一届国际西班牙语说唱比赛,说唱才开始变得有影响力。参赛的选手来自墨西哥、阿根廷、西班牙等国家。那年的冠军是一个叫Frescolate的阿根廷人。那次比赛之后,拉丁美洲的说唱得到了很大的发展。现在,有人一辈子都在搞说唱事业,有的说唱歌手还和一些大品牌品牌合作,比如说彪马(Puma)。

Carlos

Frescolate. Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaZ2GST1a2Y

Aiya

Aiya: I see. And what was the primary motivation of Red Bull to do a big rap battle? 

我明白了。那么当年红牛办大型说唱比赛最主要的动机是什么呢?  

Carlos: That’s a very good question. I think the initial idea was inspired by the movie 8 Mile. I did some research, in terms of marketing they try to invest in unusual competitions not only in areas like rap but also, for example, competitions of people who build trucks from trash. They do so to promote their drink of course. 

这个问题很好啊。我想他们最开始是受到了《8英里》的启发,所以有了这个想法。我之前也了解到红牛为了加强自己的市场影响力尝试投资了些不太常规的比赛,所以他们不仅仅在说唱领域投资办了比赛,也办了用垃圾造卡车的比赛。他们这样做的目的主要还是为了推销自己的饮料。

Carlos

Wos won Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos 2018 in front of 11,000 fans. Credit: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/red-bull-batalla-de-los-gallos-history

Aiya

Aiya: That sounds crazy, but at the same time, really cool! 

这听起来挺疯狂的,但也真的很酷!  

Carlos: Red Bull held these competitions for a few years before stopping around 2008. After that, there were almost no mainstream freestyle competitions so the movement disappeared from the public eye. However, in 2012, there was a revival in rap battles as there was this competition called “El quinto escalon,” meaning “The Fifth Step” in Argentina and Chile. It gained huge popularity, they had around 5000 people all together in one plaza.

They even made three movies about the competitions. Since it became huge again, Red Bull brought the battles back. From then on they have been investing a lot in this area. They are the main driving force of this movement, sponsoring professional leagues in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. They are bringing this to Brazil as well. 

这样的比赛红牛举办了好几年,直到2008年左右停办。在那之后,拉美地区几乎就没有什么主流的即兴说唱比赛了,于是说唱就从公众的视线里消失了一段时间。但在2012年,说唱比赛又火了起来,因为在阿根廷和智利举办了一个叫El quinto escalon的说唱比赛,El quinto escalon 的意思是“第五步”。这个比赛大受欢迎,大概有5000人聚在阿根廷布宜诺斯艾利斯的利瓦达维亚公园里给选手捧场。

那几年人们还拍了三部跟说唱比赛相关的电影。说唱又火了起来,所以红牛就又办起了比赛。从那之后,红牛在这个领域又投了很多钱。红牛是西班牙语说唱背后的主要推手,它赞助了西班牙、墨西哥、阿根廷、智利、秘鲁和哥伦比亚国内的职业联赛,同时也在向巴西推广说唱。 

Carlos

Credit: https://urbanroosters.news/la-final-internacional-de-red-bull-batalla-2022-sera-en-mexico/

Aiya

Aiya: Whoa, there’s really a big part of the world involved. Can you just describe what those battles look like? Do people just come to show off their skills? 

哇,感觉大半个世界都参与到这场说唱推广运动里了。你能讲讲这些比赛都是什么样的吗?人们参赛的时候都是在炫技吗?

Yeah, it used to be like that, people just got together to show their skills. Before, people would focus mostly on how you rap and how you flow over the beat, but now, they have come to appreciate more of the lyrical content. In the professional leagues, there are long battles that can last up to 30 minutes.  

是的,以前是这样,人们聚到一块儿就为了炫技。观众以前主要关注的是你怎么说唱,你怎么把握节拍,但现在,他们开始更在意歌词和内容。在职业联赛中,会有那种长达30分钟的比赛。

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: Wait, a 30-minute battle between two people? 

等等,两个人比30分钟? 

Carlos: Yes, this is because they can judge from various aspects. They have two rounds: easy mode and hard mode. In the easy mode, contestants are given a word every 10 seconds that has to be included in their lines. The duration between prompts is reduced to 5 seconds in the harder mode. They go back and forth, improvising for over one minute each time. In addition to that, the hard mode is also thematic, where the contestants are given a topic to rap to as well.  

They also have a classical mode which is a freestyle rap, where there are no prompts at all, and relies entirely on improvisation. You would “attack” your rival for one minute and the other one will have a chance to respond afterwards. You are evaluated not only on what you said but how well you respond to your opponent. Responding to your opponent’s lines can give you extra points in the competition. And finally, you also have the four-by-four, which is when you say one bar and the opponent responds with another. The back and forth is instantaneous. That’s the classic way rap battles are held, where people gather in the plazas and battle it out. 

没错,因为人们会看很多方面才能分出他们的胜负。他们要比两个回合:简单模式和困难模式。在简单模式中,选手每10秒会拿到一个单词,这个单词必须包含在他们的歌词里。在困难模式里,每个单词之间的时间只有5秒。他们你一局我一局,每次即兴表演一分钟多。此外,困难模式也是有主题的,选手们得围绕一个话题即兴说唱。 

他们也要参加经典模式的即兴说唱,而这种即兴说唱是没有限定选题的,全靠即兴创作。在你“进攻”对手一分钟后,对方就有机会反击。评判选手的表现时,你不仅应该看他说唱即兴创作的内容,还要看他怎么回应他的对手。巧妙地回应对手的歌词是可以加分的。最后,他们还要参加“四乘四”的比赛。这个比赛的形式是一个选手说唱一个小节,另一方接另一个小节,选手之间的来回推进得很快——这也就是说唱比赛的老传统了——人们聚在广场上,妙语连珠出胜负。

Carlos

Credit: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-latin/batalla-de-los-gallos-rap-battle-red-bull-767967/

Aiya

Aiya: For people without any knowledge of music theory, could you explain to us what you mean by four-by-four? 

我们也有一些不太了解乐理的读者,你能给我们解释一下“四乘四”是什么吗? 

Carlos: One bar has four beats, so if it’s a four-by-four, rappers will do a bar-long rap. Some will do eight-by-eight, which is double of that. But oftentimes, these rappers haven’t received much education in music theory, so they will just follow the beat and improvise from there on. 

一小节有四拍,所以如果是“四乘四”的,歌手会连着唱四个小节的长说唱。有些人会唱“八乘八”,也就是说他们的说唱会再长一倍。但一般来说,这些说唱歌手并没有太多的乐理知识,所以他们主要就是跟着节拍即兴创作。 

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: So it seems like they are just naturally talented in improvising. You also mentioned beats that the rappers rap on, could you expand more on that? 

感觉他们天生就有即兴创作的天赋。你刚刚提到了歌手的说唱节奏,你能再深入讲讲这个吗?

Carlos: So the beat is the base over what you rap. It can be somebody else beatboxing or instrumental beats produced beforehand. Beatboxing is more common when rapping on the streets, while in most competitions use instrumental beats. There’s now a huge industry around this, with people who only make beats for these battles. Using other songs could cause copyright issues. 

节拍是说唱的基础。它可能是别人事先编好的beatbox(节奏口技:节奏口技是一种人声敲击乐的艺术,利用嘴巴去模仿出有节奏、韵律的敲击乐效果。节奏口技最多出现在嘻哈文化里,自1980年代兴起)或乐器节拍。Beatbox(节奏口技)在街头说唱时更常见一些,大多数正式比赛里用的还是乐器编的节拍。给说唱歌手打节拍已经成为一个规模很大的产业,有人专门在比赛上给歌手编曲,有人给选手制作专门的说唱节拍,但使用现成歌曲里面的拍子(非原创)可能会涉及版权问题。

Carlos

Credit: https://www.becomesingers.com/techniques/who-invented-beatboxing

Aiya

Aiya: How diverse are the beats? 

那么节拍能有多少花样呢? 

Carlos: So that’s kind of interesting because just a few weeks ago it was the finals for the Red Bull Rap Battles in Mexico (Red Bull Batalla Nacional México). During the final round they had this beat that sounded like a traditional music mix. There was also a competition in Chile where they had to rap over salsa and cumbia rhythms. But it can be difficult to adapt and rap over them.  

这个问题很有意思!几周前墨西哥的红牛说唱决赛刚刚结束(Red Bull Batalla Nacional México),而在最后一轮比赛里,选手们用的节奏听起来就像各种传统音乐的大杂烩。在智利也有一场比赛,参赛者必须用salsa和 cumbia 的节奏来说唱,但是要适应并且掌握这些节奏真的挺难的。 

注: Salsa (萨尔萨:指在60-70年代美國的古巴及波多黎各移民所創作的音樂風格,以及在80年代由此發展出來的浪漫萨尔萨(Salsa Romántica)。萨尔萨音樂最初是在拉丁舞廳裡所彈奏的音樂,是拉丁音樂核心所在)。

Cumbia (坎比亚:指拉丁美洲的一些音乐节奏和民间舞蹈传统,其内容通常涉及美洲印第安人、殖民时期被奴役的非洲人和欧洲人的音乐和文化元素)。

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: That must be super hard to rap over! Do rappers have a chance to even draft something at home or have a couple of punch lines ready before the battle? 

听起来就很难!说唱歌手们有机会在赛前准备一下吗?比如提前想好几条“单押”、“双押”的妙句? 

Carlos: Preparing lines beforehand is not received well by the audience, they believe rap is supposed to be improvised. However, the movement is so much more content-focused now that it is hard to achieve that.  

However, there are different ways in which you can try to make sure that they are improvising. For example, fixing certain words that participants have to rhyme with or evaluating how they respond to opponents. If they go off topic or constantly avoid something, people will start to notice. Also, there is a different feeling when you have something that is prepared or something that is improvised at the moment.   

观众对提前准备内容这一出并不买账,他们认为说唱就应该是即兴创作的,但现在的说唱比赛越来越看重内容,即兴发挥是越来越难了。

而且主办方总是会想出些法子来检验参赛选手是不是在即兴创作。比如,参赛者的歌词必须和特定的词押韵,又或者看他们回击对手的歌词是不是切题的。他们如果跑题或者不断回避一些词,那就露馅了。并且提前准备好和即兴发挥出来的东西给人的感觉是完全不一样的。

Carlos

Credit: https://www.thehypemagazine.com/2021/04/worlds-largest-spanish-freestyle-rap-battle-red-bull-batalla-opens-application-period-for-2021-u-s-national-finals/

Aiya

Aiya: I see, I see. And how many people do you think watch these rap battles, are they popular?

懂了懂了。那你觉得有多少人会关注这些说唱比赛呢?这些比赛很火吗? 

Carlos: In terms of the general population, not that many. Most of the people who watch it are young, around their 20s or teens. However, ever since the last international competition, where the champion was Mexican, it has risen in popularity. The Red Bull competition has a huge influence in the industry. Now, they are sponsoring the Austrian tours of the previous two Mexican worldwide champions. 

我觉得关注说唱的人并不多,因为听众大多是一二十岁的年轻人。然而从上次国际比赛有个墨西哥选手拿了冠军之后,说唱在墨西哥的受众又扩大了许多。红牛赞助的说唱比赛在业内影响力很大,最近红牛还在赞助前两个墨西哥世界冠军在奥地利巡演。 

Carlos

Credit: https://kulturehub.com/spanish-battle-rapper-yartzi-red-bull-interview/

Aiya

Aiya: Would it be hard for somebody who does not speak Spanish, to understand the rap? 

对不懂西班牙语的人来说,理解西班牙语说唱会很困难吗? 

Carlos: If you’re not native it could be confusing. Sometimes it could make no sense if you try to translate it directly to English. Rapping in Spanish is a bit tough as well because Spanish is kind of a hard language to rhyme in. You need to pronounce every letter in every word so sometimes it’s hard to accommodate it in a phrase while ensuring that it rhymes and makes perfect sense.  

如果你母语不是西班牙语,理解起来会很困难,因为有些歌词直译成英文后是毫不通顺的。用西班牙语说唱也不容易,因为西班牙语是一门很难押韵的语言。单词中的每个字母都要发音,所以有时候选手很难在押韵的同时让歌词内容也扣人心弦。 

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: What are the common themes or topics in rap battles? Do they try to talk about politics or are they just trying to bring their opponents down? 

说唱比赛中有哪些常见的主题呢?说唱歌手们会试着在歌里发表他们的政见吗?还是说他们只专注于利用技巧和歌词打败他们的对手?

Carlos: That depends. Usually, in written battles they would do something more direct, to bring the opponent down but other times they go into political ideologies. An example is the phrase “I want Cuba Libre”, which can have multiple meanings, it can mean “I want to free Cuba” but it can also mean “I want a free drink.”  

However, some people try to avoid controversial topics. Because even though you might have good arguments, you might lose because of your stance on the specific issue. For example, there was a rap battle about abortion between a guy and a girl and of course, the guy lost because he was pro-life and the woman pro-choice.  

这就要看情况了。在提前准备好内容的比赛中,他们通常会更注重眼前的对手,但其他时候他们会发表一些政治见解。比如说 “I want Cuba libre”,这句话有多种含义,它可以是 “我想解放古巴”,但也可以是 “我想喝‘自由古巴’鸡尾酒”。 

但有些人还是试图避免有争议的话题。因为就算你说得很有道理,你还是可能会因为你在某些问题上的立场输掉比赛。比如有一场说唱比赛是关于堕胎的,男歌手输了比赛,因为他反对堕胎,而女歌手则支持堕胎合法化,提倡人们的自由选择。 

注:“自由古巴”鸡尾酒:一种朗姆兑可乐的鸡尾酒,起源于20世纪初的古巴,当时的古巴刚从美西战争中取得了独立。

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: Oh I see. In Russian rap battles, people usually only try to bring their opponent down. They will actually try to find information about their opponent before the battle to put him at his lowest, but, how would this happen in Spanish rap? 

我明白了。俄罗斯的说唱比赛里,有人会为了打败对手不择手段。他们通常会在赛前搜集一些对手的私人信息,在比赛时攻击对手的弱点来让对手发挥不佳。西语的说唱比赛中也有这样的事吗? 

Carlos: People don’t do a lot of research because you know a lot of them are not well educated. Most of the guys from Spain went to a good school or university. But some of the guys from Latin America didn’t even finish their middle school or high school, so they don’t read a lot, they don’t do a lot of research. They try to work with what they know and with what they can perceive. When people go too personal, it’s not seen very well. It sounds like you cannot win using your lyrics or your abilities but rely on making things personal and uncomfortable for the opponent. It starts to feel uncomfortable for the audience as well.  

人们一般不在赛前做很多这样的准备,因为很多参赛者文化水平不高。大多数西班牙参赛选手都上过不错的大学,但是一些来自拉丁美洲的选手甚至没有读完中学,所以他们不太喜欢读东西,也不会做太多赛前准备,而是用他们已知的东西来创作。当人们关注对手的个人问题而不是音乐本身的时候,比赛氛围就不太对劲了。你不以你的歌词内容或者说唱能力取胜,而是靠人身攻击你的对手才能胜出——这种胜利也会让观众感觉不太舒服。 

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: I actually quite like that, because I feel it is like a very different culture, and it is a healthier one.  

我其实更喜欢你们这种态度。我觉得这是一种更”健康”的说唱文化。 

Carlos: I don’t know about that. Since it became huge, people started focusing more on the results, who wins or loses, rather than enjoying the rap battles itself. I guess it is important since it’s a competition, everybody’s trying to be the best, but it can foster a toxic environment as well.    

我不太确定西语说唱比赛是不是“更健康”,因为近年来,随着比赛规模越变越大,选手们也越来越注重比赛的胜负结果,而不是说唱的过程了。我猜这是因为毕竟这是个比赛,大家都有竞争意识,但是这也确实形成了一种不健康的氛围。 

Carlos

Credit: https://remezcla.com/music/red-bull-batalla-spanish-freestyle-rap-battle-2021/

Aiya

Aiya: Do you think music coming from a more educated or privileged background is able to resonate with people? 

你会觉得“阳春白雪”的音乐更能引起听众的共鸣吗? 

Carlos: That’s a good question. The thing is, people who were into the rap movement in the beginning, were the same people who used to listen to rock. Rap was frowned upon by a lot of people because it was often associated with drugs, alcohol, gangsters…those kinds of things. So people with a more educated background were not that into it. 

But now, people are becoming more interested in rap because of the wordplay, rhetorical figures and sometimes the deep stories told through freestyle. I think it is really cool to see how people manage to use our language, which varies so much from country to country, and play it over a beat and simply rap. 

这是个好问题。但其实最初开始搞说唱的那群人其实就是听摇滚的那群人。很多人不喜欢说唱,因为它通常跟毒品、酒精、黑帮相关,压根就称不上“阳春白雪”,所以对不太上知识阶层的胃口。 

但是现在更多人对说唱感兴趣了。说唱音乐里巧妙的文字双关、针砭时事的明喻暗喻,以及即兴创作的深刻故事,都或多或少地吸引了更多人。虽然不同国家说的西班牙语相差甚大,但看到这么多来自不同国家的歌手们用西班牙语一起玩音乐,一起搞说唱,一起随节拍律动,真的很酷!

Carlos

Aiya

Aiya: What do you think is a distinct feature of Spanish rap?  

你认为西班牙说唱有什么独树一帜的风格吗?  

Carlos: I think English rap is mainly focused on pre-written rap while Spanish ones are more freestyle. With written battles, you really have to dig into what they are saying, so you have to put in effort to understand the references because people usually want to touch on deeper subjects. With freestyle, people are just really passionate about it. It’s really cool, I really like it. You can see a lot of energy. It’s like a crazy mix of seeing a very exciting soccer match while being at a concert. It’s that kind of atmosphere where everyone can enjoy themselves. 

我觉得英文说唱更强调歌手说唱歌词的提前准备,而西语说唱更注重即兴创作。如果比赛里允许有事先准备好的歌词的话,选手们就得更细致地理解对手到底想讲什么故事,听懂歌词里的隐喻是什么,因为歌手通常都想表达更深刻的主题。但即兴说唱的时候,人们更多展现出的是对于说唱的热烈情感,我特别喜欢他们身上的激情,因为我能从中感受到到无限的活力。这种感觉就像是边听演唱会边看足球比赛,这种气氛下每个人都能嗨起来。

Carlos

Carlos

Carlos Gustavo Salas is a rising senior at Duke Kunshan University, directly from Mexico, he is a Data Science student interested in Economics and Political Science. He loves tolisten to music and spend time with the people whom he likes.

来自墨西哥的Carlos Gustavo Salas (郭尧杰) 是DKU的一名即将升入大四的学生。作为一名数据科学专业的学生,他同时对经济和政治科学感兴趣。他喜欢听音乐,也喜欢和他喜欢的人一起共度时光。

Aiya Kuchukova (Anika Kuchukova) is a senior student at Duke Kunshan University, majoring in Applied Mathematics. She is also an editor for Intersections and she likes to sing, play the ukulele, and interview people about their cultures.

Aiya Kuchukova (孔楚安)是DKU的一名大四学生,她的专业是应用数学。她也是《交集》的编辑之一,她喜欢唱歌,弹尤克里里,也喜欢采访人们跟他们文化相关的事。

Austin