B-Dot: Killin’ ‘Em With Consciousness

The San Fernando Valley with a current population of two million people makes up a sizeable portion of Los Angeles County, yet the “Valley” as it’s often referred to, hasn’t really produced much Hip-Hop talent like other areas of Los Angeles have. It’s the place where rappers buy homes and go to live after escaping the inner-city. However, the Valley isn’t just malls, sunshine, and suburbs. As of late there has been a rise of artists coming from that area, with Charles Burnley better known as B Dot, at the top of that list.
If you’ve been on social media for the last year, then you’ve probably seen the clip of his battle against Texas rapper Stricc that’s known as the “Conscious rapper destroys white rapper” battle. That video has made its way on Facebook, Youtube, and other outlets, receiving several million views in the process. As part of the rising LA Battlegroundz league, B Dot has taken a unique approach to his battles. Instead of filling with verses with tales of violence and punchline jokes, he’s taken the conscious lane and raps about knowledge, history, and social issues. Most recently, he battled veteran Danny Myers and the two had a spectacular back and forth that was the talk of the battle rap world. AllHipHop.com caught up with B Dot to find out about the man behind the conscious freestyles and to see what the future might possible hold for him.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s start with a little bit of background information on yourself first.
B Dot: As far as my career as a battle rapper, I’ve been involved in it since 2013. I was battling off camera back in like 2006/2007 but as far as being in a league is concerned, I’ve been doing it since 2013.

AHH: You’re still considered a newbie then since there are guys who have been involved in league battles for years.

B Dot: That works to my advantage because my opponents will think of me as some young new guy, but they don’t understand that I’m very battle rap savvy and polished. I’ve been doing it for a long time – just under the radar. I’ve been in the music industry all of my life, thanks to my father. He’s run multiple independent labels and has worked with the likes of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and lots of others.

AHH: What label was that?

B Dot: He had one called Longevity and another one called Tantrum. When Dr. Dre started Aftermath, he worked with him and also when Ice Cube had Heavyweight Records.

AHH: The guy who ran Heavyweight Records was the one who was recently run-over by Suge Knight.

B Dot: That was Terry Carter, he was Ice Cube’s Heavyweight Records partner. When that label was started, my father worked with them helping to develop artists. My father’s first artist was Mr. Short Khop, who was signed to him under a production deal. He got Short Khop a record deal with Heavyweight. Long story short, I’ve been around this business my whole life. I was even signed to my father back in 2005. The deal itself just didn’t work out, but I was able to put out a couple of mixtapes and albums independently.

One night I was at the studio in late 2012 and one of my boys came through with a camera to do an interview. During the interview, he brought up battle rapping and I told him that I would consider it. Shortly after, the same guy who was taping the interview offered me a chance to battle and I went up against a rapper named Know It All a few weeks later, and I’ve been consistently battling since then.

AHH: How much of these battle verses are prepared and how much is improvised? I know you have to improvise a bit because you guys mention stuff in direct response to something your opponent has said.

B Dot: There is a balance of preparing and improvising when needed. Sometimes you can prepare a response for something that your opponent might say – having those bars ready just in case. There are all different variables to the equation. You can prepare, freestyle on the spot, and have something ready just in case – all of your bases must be covered when you are battling a top notch rapper like Danny Myers. He’s someone that’s arguably one of the best battle rappers in the world right now. I had to come fully prepared for him.

AHH: Have you ever had a moment within yourself while you battling that you were unsure of how you were going to respond to something your opponent said?

B Dot: Yeah, but it’s about being confident in your material. So when I’m standing there and someone like Danny Myers is doing a round, I’ll be like, “This is amazing.” But when it’s your turn to rap, you have to be confident in yourself and know that your material is going to be just as good, if not better.

AHH: I want to talk about your battle with Stricc. Your battle with him went viral and is commonly referred to as the “White Boy Who Got Destroyed” battle. He seems like a cool guy and I kind of feel bad that he’s going to be stuck with that label for a while.

B Dot: Unfortunately, yes, but the interesting thing is that the clip that went viral was just the third round of the battle. Most people who have watched the entire battle agree that it was a great one. Stricc is phenomenal as an MC – incredible! In my opinion he’s just as good as Danny Myers, and I think that when it’s all said and done, he’ll go far in the battle rap world. He will move past that label of being the “white kid who got destroyed.”

AHH: You did kick a lot of knowledge in that battle and I think that’s the one thing that has impressed a lot of people Most rappers turn these bouts in to a glorified bagging/snapping contest using insults to get crowd reactions. Knowledge seems to be your lane.

B Dot: It’s part of who I am on an everyday basis. I did see that there was a void in the battle rap community and in the hip hop genre altogether – there has been an oversaturation of violent content and fake macho attitudes. Everybody feels like in order to be a successful hip hop artist, you have to be a gangsta or from the streets. All of this happened after conscious rappers subsided from the business. Before that, hip hop was about telling stories about the streets but without glorifying them. You look at groups and acts like KRS-One, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Rakim, and many others and what they spoke about, I want to help bring that back to the industry.
I looked at battle rap and I saw that nobody was really doing that. Shout out to Loaded Lux – he’s someone who inspired me. He brought that kind of consciousness briefly but didn’t really dive in to it like I felt it should have been done. I felt like somebody really needed to come in to battle rap, clean it up, and come with consciousness for three rounds – and still do the other entertaining aspects of battling. I get it that battle rap is a bit of a blood sport but I myself want to mix up consciousness with it and be more consistent with an intellectual approach as opposed to street stuff.

AHH: I’ve seen a few people make that Loaded Lux comparison. How do you feel about that?

B Dot: I’m over it now. At first it bothered me but there’s a couple of things; first off, he’s one of the greatest battle rappers of all time, so I’m going to start taking that as a compliment. Second, when someone does something great and another comes along who is reminiscent of that individual, it’s only human nature to make comparisons. I even made reference to that in my battle against Stricc when I said, “Even Kobe played like Jordan but that didn’t stop him from scoring.” It’s the same thing. Clearly, Kobe Bryant plays like Michael Jordan but the argument can be made that he’s just as good if not better. At this point it [the comparisons] doesn’t bother me. I know what I do is different than what he does. It doesn’t mean that it’s better and vice versa, it doesn’t mean he’s better than me. It just means we do different things in terms of the actual content.

AHH: Would you like to have a battle with Loaded Lux one day?

B Dot: He was recently asked that question in a recent interview and he stated that he supports what I do and doesn’t feel that there’s any benefit for us to go up against each other, so I respect that coming from him. However, if he were to say, “Let’s just do it for the sport and give the crowd what they want,” then I would humbly oblige. Until he says that, I’m going to respect his statement and continue to respect him as an elder and as someone who has already put in that work.

AHH: Rappers really say some disrespectful things to each other in these battles. Some fight and some give a hug after it’s done. Is it hard not to take some of these insults personally?

B Dot: It’s like you’re in a zone. I compare it to playing a sport – someone is trash talking on the field and you can’t respond physically because you’ll get thrown out of the game. You get your payback by performing. When I’m in a battle and someone is saying the craziest things to me, I know I can’t do anything physically but I’ll just give him the chance to say whatever he wants, and then I will get that chance too. It’s a blood sport, people are going to come after you and talk about you anyway they can – including your family members. You have to be prepared mentally for that.

AHH: Is there anything at all that’s off limits in a battle? Or that you consider to be?

B Dot: For me personally, there are some things that are off limits. Some rappers have gone as far as to say crazy things like raping someone’s kids or mom. I would never say things of that nature and I feel that I don’t need to. I feel like I can take an intellectual approach to break somebody down and not say the foulest disgusting things just to get under someone’s skin. I believe I can do that more effectively by using knowledge, truth, and facts. I’m just speaking for myself and my character, there are other battle rappers that have the attitude that anything and everything goes.

AHH: I know the crowd is a part of the battle experience but as I watch your battles, I can tell that you get very annoyed when you have to start a verse over again.

B Dot: That’s something that I personally have to work on and I think other artists handle that better than I do. I’m used to that – I’m used to rapping on records. When you’re coming up with your raps, you don’t know what line or word that the crowd is going to react to. The crowd response is spontaneous and on the spot, with all that energy in the room. I think out of all the battle rappers, I think that I might be the one that gets the most irritated.

AHH: Let’s talk about your most recent opponent, Danny Myers. Do you feel you won that battle, and if so, why?

B Dot: I definitely feel like I won the battle. This is not being cocky, but I feel like I can’t lose any battle because none of my opponents are doing what I am doing. I speak of facts and things that are evidenced to be real. I don’t care if it’s the best rapper in the world in front of me, if he’s saying lies – then nothing he’s saying or how he is saying it is real. The only way I can lose a battle is if someone wants to have a conversation with me about real life or maybe try to nitpick me as a person and who I am. Those are the types of battles that I’m interested in. So personally, yes I feel I won that battle because I said more facts that were aimed at him.

AHH: It seemed like he changed his approach though because he started to drop some science as well.

B Dot: They have to change up – I put the pressure on these dudes, bro. They know how it’s going to look standing there and having someone attack them intellectually – using words, history, religious references and current social issues. They know that rapping about guns and using metaphors about killing me – things that not real – will not hold weight. It’s the same as the Stricc battle. He had to defend himself as a white American because he knew I was going to take the pro-black approach. I made him have to delve in to his bag, so to speak, and find ways to counter that – and he did a great job. The same thing with Danny – I’m making these guys dig deeper instead of using the same tired “I’ll shoot you” rhymes. I feel like I’m turning these battles into debates where you have to use philosophy and knowledge in order to have ground to stand upon. I feel like I’m changing the game.

AHH: Aside from the battles, you’re doing the music thing. I remember not too long ago, you had a song out with Xzibit called “Revolution.”

B Dot: My music career is my goal, first and foremost. With music, I can paint a picture for everybody and create a well-rounded piece of art that can be respected by multiple races and those that have different ideological perspectives. When I battle rap, I will use my philosophy against his, and that might rub some people the wrong way. But when I make music, I can make something sonically for people to enjoy, although some might get offended with the messages. I’m definitely more focused on music than the battles. I dropped my last album in 2014 called “Elevation” including the single with Xzibit that you mentioned. I’m getting ready to jump into my new album that I’m working on. I’ve put two records on my SoundCloud so far just what kind of response and reaction they’ll get. I’m hoping to have my album out by the summer time.

AHH: What are your future battle rap plans? I’ve heard that you’ve received a lot of challenges after your battle with Danny Myers.

B Dot: My battle with Danny is probably going to be my last one. There is a battle rapper named The Saga, who is a devout Christian, and I feel like we can have a great conversation. It wouldn’t be to bash religion but I think with our philosophies we can put on a great conversation that would transcend battle rap. I don’t think that battle will happen because he’s in a league called URL. They have their own set of contracts and obligations that they make their rappers sign. I don’t think I would ever get that matchup and I don’t really have my sights set on anybody else. If I never battle again, I’m cool with that. I feel like I’ve changed the game and did what I had to do.

AHH: You retiring must be a blow to the LA Battlegroundz league though. You’re like their Kobe Bryant.

B Dot: I know, but Kobe also gets that check. Shout out to my boys Alkatraz and Woods from LABG, they’re trying to get that league going. If there was a situation where I could continue to battle and take care of my family, I would definitely continue to battle there. They’re trying to get sponsors and financing to make it all worth everyone’s while. Once they get that together, maybe, but battling just for the love of it? I don’t know, man. I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do already.

AHH: What if some of the other leagues were to offer you a contract? Like for instance, URL?

B Dot: I’m not sure if you know how that works but they have what they call the “Proving Grounds” and it’s basically like the NBA’s D-League. You have to go through those trenches just to make it to the top and I’m not interested in having a bunch of fights. I have no interest in that, and I don’t mean to sound cocky like I’m better than everybody. But the way I battle, I try to have talking points and conversations, and make it seem bigger than just a regular battle. I don’t have any interest in battling every Joe-Schmoe off of the street just to get to battle the guys I want to battle. If I were to go that route, you’d probably get a lackluster performance because my heart wouldn’t be in it.