How Trump Turned the 2nd Debate Into a Rap Battle

Who knew Donald Trump was a student of rap battles? Because what he did during Sunday’s town hall against Hillary Clinton was straight Hip-Hop Battle 101.

Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Donald Trump and Melania Trump
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Donald Trump and Melania Trump Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Sunday’s debate showed one thing about Donald Trump that I’d never noticed: He is thoroughly versed in the Loaded Lux playbook of battle rap. Just 90 minutes prior to Sunday’s town hall showdown versus Hillary “Supa Predatah” Clinton, Trump hosted a Facebook Live press conference with several women who’d accused the former president and current husband of Hillary Clinton of sexual assault. It was the form of petty usually reserved for rap-ticuffs. It was below the belt and salacious and the type of gotcha moment we’ve become used to when dealing with the Donald.

Battle rap is all gusto. It’s a gladiator-style session of no-holds-barred timed raps in which each person tries not only to best his opponent but to destroy her. Everything, with the exception of going to blows, is legal in battle rap. Talking about another rapper’s mother, spouse, dead relatives or sexuality is not only encouraged, it’s the standard. Your opponent isn’t just trying to win; he is trying to destroy you.

Trump’s faux press conference before the debate was not just a nice use of props, considering that he had to do something to take the heat off the fact that just days earlier, audio footage was released by the Washington Post of Donald “Build the Wall” Trump touting that he’s so famous, he can kiss women and grab their privates without repercussion.

The press conference was a clear indicator that Trump was willing to pull out all the stops for complete annihilation of his opponent. Was this a lowbrow debate move? Of course it was. But it was easily one of the nicest rap-battle moves of all time. It was a prebattle battle. It was a mic-check battle. Like the time Loaded Lux posted photos of Calicoe skinny-dipping on social media before their Summer Madness 2 battle.

It was a pre-emptive strike that Trump needed to shake the derogatory comments that he would later call a “locker room” moment of Trumped-up maleness when it was actually a prison-cell admission of predatory sexual behavior. It was a pure hip-hop moment of braggadocious male-bravado bulls–t, proving that Trump has been pure hip-hop since this whole thing started.

For one, he freestyles all of his speeches. It’s this part that gets him into the most trouble, but it is also the part that finds him most endearing to his base. Like Kanye during a rant, Trump is a soundbite gawd during these moments of off-the-cuff rambling. He can’t stay on topic, he spits things that aren’t even remotely true and he moves the conversation around like a hockey puck to the point where he almost becomes believable. We all witnessed it Sunday night.

Any battle rapper will tell you that you win points by moving the crowd. It’s nice if you can actually freestyle and not spit prewrittens. One of the most successful tactics is having some points that you’d definitely like to hit while freestyling from topic to topic. Donald “Grab Them by the P–sy” Trump did that flawlessly Sunday. He didn’t just diss Clinton; he dissed her whole crew: her husband, her boss, her friends.

Textbook Battle Rap 101: Attack not only you but your crew, too. Claim that they are all shams. Make them guilty by association. Remind people with whom they associate and prove that they are losers because they hang with losers. Doesn’t make it true, but it’s a battle-rap staple.

The second move Donald “Mexico Is Filled With Rapists and Murderers” Trump used Sunday that was pure textbook battle rap was interrupt often and invade an opponent’s personal space. The point here isn’t to actually be aggressive, but to feign aggression so that you can get the other person to mess up. Stand too close to rappers while they are trying to spit, and chances are they’re going to stumble.

This same tactic works when interrupting rappers while they spit. Trump wanted Clinton to bend to his level. If she had done so, he would have touted that she wasn’t fit to be a leader if she was so easily shaken. It’s the battle inside the battle. And Donald wouldn’t leave Hillary alone. He followed her around the stage, leering at her, pacing while she was talking, like he couldn’t wait to get his lyrics out. It was uncomfortable to watch because Trump was playing by rap rules, and this was a debate.

The final battle-rap move that Trump pulled was blaming the judges. Didn’t take long for Trump to cry foul; in fact, while most battle rappers wait until the battle is over to claim that the whole thing was rigged, Trump was arguing during the actual event! Doesn’t matter that Trump actually got more time than Clinton—he still claimed that it was all a setup.

It’s straight out of the How to Battle-Rap playbook, and I was just waiting for Trump to get on the mic and say, “This is for the brothers up North getting full of that jack mac/First smack back and they done gave me a presidential candidate to back smack” (Lux voice), or, “You gonna get this work,” before he started his ramblings. Even a well-timed “Easy” or “Landslide” at the end of one of his more poignant points. Clearly, Trump and Clinton are fighting two different fights, and while Clinton is holding on to her sensibilities and morals, she may want to wade down into the battle-rap waters to take some pointers so she can send shots back.