Aggressively focused on out-rapping his competitors.
Words: Emmanuel C.M.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Rapping is in Calicoe’s blood. The Detroit native is the son of influential local underground rapper Blackface and was raised in the studio around the likes of D-12. Most famous for his bout with Loaded Lux at Smack/URL’s Summer Madness 2 in 2012, Calicoe, 26, has steadily built a name for himself in the battle rap circuit over the past 11 years. The aggressive rhymer is also known for intense battles against popular rappers including Tsu Surf, Tay Roc and Daylyt to name a few.

Calicoe explains how he started his career and why he thinks battle rap is going to get bigger.

XXL: How did you get into battling?

Calicoe: Proof was doing these battles Downtown, him and Bizarre from D-12. Proof, him and my father were good friends. They were doing battles downtown in Detroit and I went and entered a battle, young as hell, 15, 16 years old. They threw me against grown dudes. I went in there and held my ground, and it’s been on ever since.

Do you remember who you faced for your first battle?

I battled in school. I had battles, but my first organized battle was when I was 15 years old against a dude named Hommy Hom from New Jersey. I won that battle and that was before everyone was getting money. I was just doing it to do it. A little frail 15-year-old dude battling these grown dudes and they knew I was a monster from day one.

What was the feeling after the first professional battle?

Even in school, everybody always looked at me. But walking in that building filled with people I never met before, it was different. That’s my first time ever actually being shaken in a battle. If you ask Bizarre or X-Factor, they remember me then, when I walked in and saw all those people I got too shaken. So when we jumped into that first round, all that went away. I won and I actually felt like a monster. There was no stopping me. I felt like I would never lose a battle ever.

What made you continue battling if you weren’t getting paid like that?

I feel like I’m an intelligent dude and the business I was in, I knew it was a growing business. Like a business that started off where we at now, I always knew battle rap would go to where it is now, and I know it’s going further with where it’s going to be. Like everybody thinks this is the highest it will go but I feel like it’s going to be 20 times bigger than this. I always stuck my nose in it because I knew where it was going and I love it. So I can’t walk away.

How do you survive as a battle rapper?

What you do is you don’t lose. If you don’t lose, people are forced to pay to see you.
Everybody wants to see Floyd Mayweather lose, it’s just one of those things. I would pay anything to just keep seeing him win or lose. It doesn’t matter. But as long as he’s winning, you pay to see him again. These guys don’t understand that. There are guys who have been at it as long as me, and they don’t get half the money I get paid because they bullshit. I had a couple times when I was slipping up bullshitting, focusing on other things, when your fans is the most important thing. So when you let them down, nobody wants to see you. Then your prices drop. You generate money by winning.

Isn’t that nerve racking?

It could be nerve racking, if you’re the person on the side that’s losing the crowd. If you’re one of those guys who have crowd control...that’s one of the main things you need in the battle world. You can damn near lose a battle that you won. You can say better things but that crowd control is the most important thing in battle rap. I feel like I’m one of the best at controlling the crowd in the world. With crowd control, you can damn near say whatever you want to say because people are going to feel it.

What does battle rap mean for hip-hop?

Battle rap is hip-hop, at this point. I feel like everything is about to fall over into the battle rap world. It’s one of those things that you can’t get enough of. I know people that take days out of their life and be like, “I’m watching battle rap all day.” When you have something that entertaining, it’s only going up. It hasn’t even reached its potential.

Why do you think battle rap has such a huge cult following? Even mainstream rappers follow battle rap intensely.

I feel like these guys are bored with what they have going on. They’re not bored but the battle rap thing is just so much more entertaining than what’s going on. Any artist in the world who loves music, who loves art, who loves rap, who loves hip-hop is going to be more entertained with battle rap then anything else just because these guys are taking art and performing it in front of you without the intent to mess up. You got to be flawless. You got to be damn near perfect that night. Battle rap is like a magic show. You don’t know why you want to see things disappear but it’s entertaining. And when you see a person destroy another person with words, and he’s putting these words together so well, in a way you feel like you couldn’t, and you’re an artist yourself, you’re going to be entertained every time.

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2016 issue including Big Sean’s cover story, the Letter from the Editor, Macklemore’s thoughts on White privilege, Kodak Black’s Show & Prove interview, Doin’ Lines with Boosie BadAzz, Flatbush Zombies’ serious comic addiction, the producer behind Desiigner’s hit “Panda,” Plies’ career boost thanks to Instagram, Anderson .Paak's Show & ProveLira Galore's Eye Candy interview, What's Happenin' with Fetty Wap, go inside Quality Control Music, Lil Uzi Vert's Show & Prove, Jay Pharoah's rapper impersonations, the history of battle rap, Murda Mook's advice from Q-Tip, Hollow Da Don's rise in battle rap and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Big Sean's XXL Cover Story