Chapter 3: Rap Battle

“So, you say you wanna date Karma…

What can I say but just:

Bye bye ’n don’t let tha door hit ya

You musta been livin under a rock

coz you never heard Karma’s a bitch.

From under a rock to findin anotha rock

to hit yo head wit.

I just got one question fo ya

… This yo final final answer?

It’s no return no ’xchange round here. It don’ matter

if damaged goods be what you’re after.”


Hoots of laughter from the crowd.


“Are you fo sure fo sure?

You look asthmatic, fur-allergic

– you got yo inhaler in yo purse?

From wheez-wheez-wheezing outta tha crib

Tuh crawl-crawl-crawlin down tuh da grave

… dat you yaself dig…”


Robin complements his performance with gestures. Giggles from the girls in the audience and an air horn sound effect from the DJ.

Karma’s shaking. It’s only Alex’s hand on hers that’s holding her together. They did know something like this was going to happen, and she knew it longer. Breaking up with Robin was equivalent to social suicide. He’s varsity, a UAAP celebrity, a frat boy and a pro rapper. He has tens of thousands of followers on Ynstagran and YuTube, where he regularly uploads his battle rap vids.   


“You got a weak constitution dat defies comprehension

Yo lungs ’n Karma’s sheddin hair

They gonna be a lethal combination.

You be retch-retch-retchin a hairball

stuck down yo throat tha next mornin

From Karma’s head ’n legs when she ain’t waxin.”


Not knowing what else to tell Karma to make her feel better, Alex bluffs: “Don’t worry. We’re going to beat him at his own game.”

“How?” she asks and, as she turns to him, her tears finally spill down her face and a sob escapes her bee-stung lips. “He’s a pro rapper.”

Alex shrugs and keeps up the lie: “I know a thing or two about rap too.”

“What do you know?” she demands, her voice broken in so many places and made cruel by panic.

“I did freestyle on street corners when I was a kid.”

She snorts a laugh through her running nose as she fishes in her bag for some Kleenex.

“I’b dorry,” she says in between sniffles and blows her nose. “I hate this. Always being scared of Robin. Being compared to other girls and, deep down, still wanting desperately to be the perfect girlfriend for him…”


“But fo real, I should give props tuh how fast

you got into dem harem pants

You must be sum kind o’ ninja rabbit who goes fast

… but also cums fast.


You two are so perfect you fill each other’s purpose

Karma o’er there’s a cross ’tween a sloth ’n a porpoise

You gonna be late fo everywhere ’n she’s still puttin on makeup.

’N it’s authentic hashtag NoMakeup

in tha mornin’ when you wake up.

Listen up, boi, remember tha monstah ’neath yo bed?

You just invited it tuh sleep ’n drool on yo chest.”


The Cage Dawgz are nodding and leering while a few girls in the audience look at each other uncertainly.

“I’m being yelled at and publicly humiliated,” Karma’s telling Alex, “but a part of me still tries to justify the humiliation. I keep telling myself that I deserve… everything. I hate this feeling… like being trapped but not having any way out… always caring about the perfect image of us as a couple…”

Alex squeezes her hand.

“You’re not trapped anymore,” he says. “I’m your way out. You’re almost there, Karma. You’ve just got to trust me on this.”

She sniffles with her head bowed.

“Do you trust me?” he asks her.

She lifts her head to look at him, and nods.


“But out o’ all these things prepare yaself fo tha worst:

Karma ain’t got maternal instincts, she’s like a crippled horse.

Dat’s sum Millenial Infernal Itty-Mental mentality.

What kind o’ woman don’t wanna have a baby?


Dear Lord, it’s me, Robin  

I’m down on ma knee

Please forgive ma eye rovin”


Robin, who has knelt down, now abruptly jumps back to his feet.


“Facts: when Judgment Day come at us all

I’ma stand tall

in front o’ tha Lord Almighty.

If I keep lookin tastin samplin diff’rent cookin,

why, none o’ you have got tha right tuh blame me

Don’t any o’ y’all dare tuh judge me.”


Deafening applause and whoops especially from the male and hardcore hip hop members of the audience.

“Everything’s gonna be okay from now on,” Alex promises in Karma’s ear.

Then, he lets go of her hand, rises and starts walking to the stage.

“What have we got here?” Robin jeers into the mic. 

“Anotha battle rapper,” Alex announces. “Why? You scared o’ a lil competition?”

Robin laughs; a real one.

“You must be a glutton fo humiliation,” he says. Then: “Oh, dat’s a good one. I better write dat down.”

“Yeah, dat’s yo MO, ain’t it? You’re just spittin tha same tired, old bars you jot down ’n memorize. Don’t you got anythin new?”

“Ohhh,” comes the reaction from the crowd. One thing Alex is counting on: an audience is impartial and impressionable.

“You talk a big game,” Robin replies, still holding the mic. “I bet you got a tiny dick.”

Laughter and taunts from the audience. Alex has finally climbed the stage via the apron. He shrugs off the diss as he stands in the lights.

“Everybody knows you tha biggest dick round here. Now, are you gonna give me tha mic or what?”

“Give him the mic! Give him the mic!” someone from the back starts and the chant is picked up until it becomes a roar.

Robin reluctantly gives in and slaps the mic onto Alex’s chest, producing a high-pitched squeal that grates on the ears of everyone in the club.

“What did I tell ya?” Alex says to the mic. Then, pointing an open-palm hand to Robin who flashes the finger at him, he announces: “A dick.” 

Most of the audience laugh while the hardcore fans of Robin and the Cage Dawgz try to boo him off the stage.

Now, stage fright is coming in waves as Alex surveys the whole club behind his stunner sunglasses. The random clubbers, who don’t have anything at stake in this showdown, are looking at him hungrily. They’ve gotten a taste of the free performance from Robin so they want more, and they’ve whipped out their recording phones. The true hip-hoppers are casting a skeptical, if not evil, eye on him while Robin’s cohorts and fan base are just waiting for him to slip up. Or freeze up.

Alex searches for Karma through the hot glare of the lights. She has risen from her seat and squeezed her way through the crowd gathered in front of the stage. Her hands are on her chest and her eyes are as wide as saucers. Alex knows exactly how she’s feeling because his own knees are rattling inside his baggy jeans.

“Yo,” he breathes into the mic to buy time.

His mind’s about to go blank. Every note he’s written inside the van is flying out of his consciousness.

The Cage Dawgz intensify their booing and then follow their leader who’s on the side of the stage, in front of the DJ, as he starts chanting: “Choke! Choke! Choke!”

The shouts are accompanied by either a fist pumping in the air or a knifehand slicing in front of the jugular.

“Lemme tell y’all somethin…” Alex starts, still to buy time, still to get on the flow – whatever it is.

{Whatever needs to happen,} he thinks to himself, {it needs to happen right now.}

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