In the past few weeks 2 battles have been released onto YouTube which have proved incredibly popular; Shuffle-T and Marlo’s ‘bad bars’ battle has over 100,000 views, and their latest 2- on- 2 against Big J and Lefty is set to do the same.
I’ve spoken to Shuffle a few times at different Don’t Flop events, but I think it was when I gave him my second apple pie in Mc.Donalds after Checkpoint that this interview was properly on the cards, excuse the (future) pun.
Why the name Shuffle-T?
I used to be a card-based magician and I would just ALWAYS shuffle cards, it was kind of a split decision to use it as a rap name, but it just kind of made sense in my head. The T… doesn’t really have a point. I used to call myself ‘Titan’, so it could stand for that, but I think it’s just because it sounded cooler to me. I think Shuffle by itself might sound a bit better thinking about it now.
When did you get into battle rap? There must have been a moment when you decided to go for it…
I can’t remember the specific battle that got me into it, but it may well have been Cruger vs LNC you know. I didn’t really have a moment that said I should try and enter – it was a bit of an accident really. I went to watch my first event quite late – like mid-2012 and it was a freestyle event. I was drunk enough to give it a go and came 3rd I think. It was a lot of fun and I asked for a written one and got it about 3 months later.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is pretty simplistic. I really like having multi-syllabics, but I don’t like that diluting the point I’m trying to get across, so usually I write in monosyllabic rhymes so my point is as clear as I can get it, and work back, adding as many syllables that rhyme as I can. I usually start writing as SOON as I know who I’m against as well. I need as much time as possible to learn it, so I don’t take the risk. In terms of finding angles, I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s pretty easy to find angles on people after watching a few past battles. People with a shorter back catalogue are a lot harder to write for.
What is your favourite/least favourite of all your performances?
To be honest, it’s got to be my try-out. I think it went OK – but the angles were really cheap and I regret using them now – I didn’t know as much as I do now about writing and battling as a whole, so I would say for that reason my try-out is my worst – even though I choked against Jack Sexton! And people would probably expect it to be the 24 hour prep with Marlo, Double L and Micky, but that was just too fun to hate. My favourite one was probably the 2on2 compliments and the bad bars. I think I’ve never felt better in a performance at all than those 2.
Have you got a favourite UK battler?
My favourite UK battler is Soul – for a lot of reasons, but mostly, I just really like the intricacy of the writing and the way he frames punches through the set-ups. He was amazing against Wize Guy.
Have you got a favourite international battler?
This is a toss-up between Bender and Pat Stay, and I will probably never actually make my mind up on this. Top five in no order is probably Bender, Pat Stay, Big Kannon, Math and Henry Bowers (Illmaculate and Thesaurus are obviously in there, but people like them exceed a top 5 – it’s just too obvious).
Is battling just a hobby or would you ever consider making music?
Battling is a hobby and a passion of mine – I love it, but I do separate it from the music side of Hip-Hop. I love hip hop music, but I can’t make it, so I won’t. It’d be like me taking pottery lessons, it’s just not where I feel I can do my best job. Battling, however, I think I can do alright, so I’ll keep going until everyone’s properly bored of me, or I get bored.
What do you do when you’re not battling?
I work on sketches and scripts for ideas me and Marlo do. I also do card magic now and then, I work a classic office job, read the odd book, watch a lot of films, Office, Simpsons, Day Today, Brass Eye etc etc.
Your average battle rapper probably isn’t yourself, no disrespect. You addressed this in your Jack Sexton battle, saying your life was easy but you still have the drive to improve, how do you think this idea of having had a comfortable upbringing has helped or hindered you? Do you think battling is naturally going this way? Potentially becoming more representative of the fanbase?
I hope not – I think battling, as with every art-form should grow, but it needs it roots. I think the good thing about DF is that they accept a really wide variety of people. I think I’m a bit out of place, but people are people and I get along with most of the guys I’ve met through DF. So I hope it doesn’t middle-class kid rapping is the future of it, neither do I think it should represent the fanbase – I think it should remain as it is, which is a diverse collection of people from all walks. Also, in regards to it being used against me, EVERYone has an angle to get used against them – every battler has that one obvious angle: Fat, Ginger, Annoying, known for being bad, so for me being ‘middle class’ or ‘posh’ is mine, and that’s fine, I won’t freak out about it, so I think it’s a good and a bad thing, the same as every obvious angle is.
In the 2 on 2 tournaments you teamed up with Gibbo, as an outsider I would have thought you would have gone with Marlo? It seemed that despite the loss you came out well from the battle. Knamelis said ‘shuffle t was the most interesting in the battle’. Will you be working with Gibbo again?
I was originally meant to team up with Marlo as we have been best friends for years and lived together – when personal things with Marlo’s uni course kicked in, it was too big and he wouldn’t have had the time to compete at the point the contest is in now, so I think it was a good thing he didn’t. Gibbo was the obvious choice for me after that – really get along with him, think he’s sick. I think the comments were pretty harsh on him and I actually think he killed it, but we were just a bit outmatched by Giz and Ceez who killed it. I think Knamelis’ comment was probably borne out of the previous point, as you say, I don’t really come across as the typical battler, so it was probably because of that – I doubt I was any better than anyone else, just unintentionally different I think.
At the recent April Fools event your novelty battles went down really well. How do you feel about the publicity that has got you? Do you think you may go for a more humorous, tongue in cheek direction in your future battles?
You know I would love to do that, and just roll with that approach in all future battles, but I think the ‘bad bars’ specifically should probably be a one off – it wouldn’t really work against people doing serious bars. Also – I enjoy writing seriously a bit more than bad bars. I want to incorporate more comedy into my battles in the future as I think I’m missing a bit of that, but not in the Bad Bars sense of it. In terms of the publicity – it’s been a bit mad to be honest – I think I’ve been recognised about 3 times in the last 3 days, which is a bit crazy. Certainly didn’t expect it to get to that kind of view count. But happy with it for sure. I just hope it helps with the Sketch views.
How much do you read into trolly YouTube comments? It must be hard to ignore them 100%…
Sure, there’s always negativity on the comment sections, and I don’t really ignore them or take them to heart, I just take them on board, you know. If someone says ‘Shuffle-T fucking cunt mother shit head’ I can’t use that, but if someone says ‘I think Shuffle-T is annoying, his delivery is annoying’ or something like that – I’ll take that on board, because they usually reflect how I actually feel about myself. So when someone else affirms that, I know it’s something I need to work on. I’d never change in any big way over a YouTube comment, but I take it on board, the same way as you take compliments on board. It’s still a person at the end of the day, just because they’re typing it rather than saying it doesn’t mean it’s any less valid – that’s actually why I like the forum – most people on there are pretty cool… Well not ‘cool’ but… you know… good.
What are your views on video judging?
I think it’s good – to me it probably has as much validity as judging on the day. You’ll probably get as much out of both. But to be honest – I think if there’s a decision made on the day – most people who are there usually agree and people who watch it back have the issue. It should just make you want to go to a live event more. Which you should. All the time.
Who do you next want to battle?