In battle rap, time seems to flow differently. It’s easy to get lost in the modern era where there’s a large event happening every month. The promo cycles roll out ad nauseam, creating new stories around battles in an attempt to hype the audience up. But that need for endless hype has a very real cost that not many talk about: If every event is supposed to be the most hype event of the year, none of them can be. This problem used to be sidestepped in the past when battle rappers could be expected to battle around three or four times a year, if that. This populated event cards with battle rappers who we hadn’t seen in a minute, which built natural anticipation for each battle. With so many events and so much battle rap content available, one can forget where they are. For example, you might be surprised to hear that Nome 8 turned 4 years old just a few weeks ago. Featuring battles like Tsu Surf vs Rum Nitty, Shotgun Suge vs Nu Jerzey Twork, and DNA vs JC, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Nome XII a standout event, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t remember it before you read that. In twelve months, it will turn 5 years old and I wonder how many more events we’ll have before that point.
Compare the quality of bars we get in 2022 to the quality of material we had just ten years ago. A battle from Summer Madness 2, an event that’s turning 10 years old in less than a month, is going to sound way different than a battle from Nome 12, which happened just a few Saturdays ago. That might not sound crazy, but consider a traditional sport like basketball: If you rewind the clock ten years back, it looks relatively similar. Nearly seven years ago, Steph Curry won his first ring and just a month ago, he added another to his collection. The battle rap landscape, however, evolves way faster and way more dramatically — that’s one of the things that makes the sport so intriguing.
As someone who analyzes the sport who also happens to be a newer fan, I have to do my due diligence by watching older battles and understanding where the practices of today originated from. It doesn’t take long to notice a lot of the same patterns are emergent in more recent battles. For all the entertainment that the modern era brings, there’s a certain atmosphere that older battle rappers seem to have a monopoly on. It’s more than just the drug talk and the struggle bars, there’s a certain attitude, a way of presenting oneself. It’s not often we see newer rappers like Eazy who encapsulate and maximize those traits, but when they do, it brings back that old familiarity that reminds us where we came from.
But somewhere between the past and the future, is K-Shine. Despite being one of the most battle-tested rappers in the culture, it seems like Shine is expected to prove himself each battle as if he’s one of the new class nowadays. Now, of course, lowered expectations are to be expected following a “slump,” but it’s easy to forget the sheer dominance he had over the vast majority of what battle rap could throw at him for a long time. It’s easy to forget the iconic moments and quotables that forced you to put respect on Shine’s name in the first place.
This is why I think K-Shine and his legacy are interesting. As battle rap fans, we’re prisoners of the moment and we’re not great at evaluating performances with context in mind. And yet, so often throughout his most recent battle with Real Sihk, I heard the term “Vintage Shine” thrown around multiple times; It made me want to see just how stylistically different 2022 K-Shine is from “Vintage” K-Shine. So in this article, I want to both give flowers and analyze one of the most timeless battle rappers we might ever see.
Shine has mastered three main skills that have distinguished him from many other battle rappers, even though they may seem rather insignificant: Flow, Wittiness, and Performance.
I want to start with that last one first, because I don’t think we appreciate just how difficult it is to be truly great in this area. Being a great performer is so much more nuanced than having engaging theatrics and Shine has always been one that puts the difference on display. The next time you watch a Shine battle, notice how much he moves around, how much he engages the crowd, how often and creatively he uses his cadences, how little of the stage he leaves unused. There’s a feeling of urgency, a feeling that K wants to use every possibly available resource at his disposal, leaving no stone unturned.
Of course, this in no way means that his theatrics themselves are anywhere under par — that’s a skill that has persisted from Vintage K-Shine to current K-Shine. This is an area where Shine’s skill as a performer really pays dividends because his mastery of the nuances really helps him excel when it comes to creating explosive punchlines augmented by theatrics. Of course, we all remember a lot of his most iconic material, Professor Shine for instance is a great example of just how well he controls the stage with his performance, but those same traits are present even now, watch how much crowd control Shine gains just by using performance as a predictive tool for the audience.
I think clips like these also display how well Shine is able to control his flow for max benefit. With such an extended tenure in battle rap, Shine’s understanding of how to craft material for big stages is top-tier to say the least. One of his main weapons in that regard is using his flow and tempo as a tool to manipulate the crowd. Intricate flows are often highly regarded, but it takes levels to understand that, sometimes, a simple, static flow that emphasizes high points can be just as effective, if not more on a big stage. Using that flow to his advantage has always been one of Shine’s biggest strengths, he thrives when he’s able to get into his signature pockets and build momentum through repeated rhythms. For example, look at how old Shine used simpler flows as a means to keep the crowd following, eventually leading up to the crowd finishing a punch that would’ve been fire on its own.
Notice how much you’re able to predict what the punchline for these bars is going to be just based on the flow and rhyme scheme; that’s what allows the crowd to participate in the material and it takes a veteran to not only understand that, but to use it to their advantage. This is not something that’s exclusive to old K-Shine either, watch any of his recent battles and you’ll see that same pattern emerge. In fact, that snowball-turned-avalanche aspect of Shine’s style likely influenced other potent performers like Brizz Rawstein who used similar flows as a tool to get the ball rolling downhill.
Lastly, I want to talk about Shine’s pen. This might sound odd because, at least from what I can tell, not many people rave about K’s writing and I don’t know why. K-Shine has a writing style that I would describe as unique, textbook, and witty at the same time. Rarely does he have mind bending schemes or punches that shift the way that you have to listen to battle rap, but for a battle rapper that leans more on flow and performance, Shine has a surprisingly diverse and potent bag of tricks he uses to differentiate himself from other performers.
When I wrote my article about Sheed Happens some weeks ago, I talked a lot about how simple but fire material is some of the best writing you can offer. Shine is on the short list of battle rappers who can deliver these types of punches consistently which really adds an extra layer to his rounds. He employs a litany of one and two-line setups that he’ll throw at his opponent back-to-back and, if any of these land, his opponent is in real trouble. See, the thing with K is that so much of his firepower is tied to keeping momentum and those short punches back to back keep the energy alive. This helps him get around tougher opponents who rely on long-setup haymakers as a main weapon.
This compounds on his other skills too — those theatrics and flows let Shine grab your attention, but it’s the writing that gives the rounds longevity and staying power. In that last clip for instance, notice how much these succinct punches are propelled by the flow, allowing Shine to follow through on the final punch carrying all that energy into the punchline.
Usually when I write an article or make a video on a battle rapper, my first inclination is to observe how they’ve changed with time. As I’ve written this one though, I’ve started to realize that K-Shine’s style…hasn’t really changed much. His style of high energy performances, creativity and back to back punching is more of an evolved version of his fundamental roots to its peak potential. And, I mean, that makes sense — Shine’s been consistent if nothing else, he was Top 5 Champion of the Year (COTY) candidate for 3 years straight starting in 2018, and there was a period of time where many would say Shine was literally unbeatable.
No, ironically, I don’t think Shine really changed, I think the times did. I think battle rap is in a period of renaissance with so many emerging styles and new battle rappers bringing unique traits to the table, it’s easy to forget the people who paved the way for those innovations. And near the top of that chain of command is K-Shine who steadfastly refuses to succumb to a new era. But as battle rap fans, we’re prisoners of the moment and we’ll inevitably soon forget what Shine displayed at Nome 12 in favor of whatever flavor of the month is popular at the time.
It feels like time flows differently in battle rap. Some say “Vintage Shine” as if it’s a thing of the past but, if you ask me, he never left and probably never will.