Kid Franklin, a young battle rapper and Cold Lake native, has been waving the banner for up-and-coming hip-hop talent in the Lakeland for the last few years, and it looks like he’s just getting started.
“I was always a big hip-hop fan in high school, and one night I was going down this YouTube rabbit hole of music, and I came across this video of a rap battle, so I checked out the channel it was on–it was called King of the Dot–and from then on I was a fan,” recalls Franklin, whose full name is Paul Franklin Poirier, hence the alias.
King of the Dot is a Canadian rap battle league founded by Toronto based emcee Organik in 2008, and has seen hip-hop talent Drake, Raekwon, and MC Hammer as hosts.
Battle rapping, which pits two individuals head-to-head in a contest of rhythm, rhymes, and responses has become a world-wide phenomenon with particularly strong followings in England, United States, Germany, and even Botswana.
Participants are given a few months to prepare their verses, but improvisation and freestyling is an inevitable feature of the matc.
The winner is determined by the crowd response.
“I kept watching more and more, and then in 2014 I went to my first live battle in Calgary,” said Poirier.
“From then on I just kept following the scene over the years, but I wanted to find something a little more local and grassroots, and that’s how I found out about Smoked Out Battles.”
Smoked Out is a rap battle league that first began in Surrey, BC around six years ago and has since grown to include divisions in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.
Rappers of all skill levels are welcome to compete in their brackets, but it’s the hopefuls with real talent, like Kid Franklin, that stand out and start making a name for themselves.
“I got an idea of what the average skill level was from watching some of the battlers starting out and I figured, okay, I can easily do at least this well, so I signed up for my first battle later that year, and the rest is history.”
Poirier has since travelled to Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Vancouver, Surrey and other cities across Canada to compete in different Smoked Out brackets, while also participated in other national leagues.
The furthest he’s traveled was to Minnesota to battle American rapper Shake for Snowcoast 4, a Canada vs US match for a total of 11 matches, including a match against noted rapper Canucklehead.
“We discovered Franklin in Medicine Hat, and even in that first battle we could tell there was some talent and promise with him,” said Smoked Out promoter and current owner Jesse Jacobson. “He’s been moving up the cards consistently ever since.”
Jacobson has been involved with battling rapping for many years, and has been associated with Smoked Out since its early days, being responsible for helping it branch out into Alberta.
Though the league is currently a non-profit organization, Jacobson has been pushing to have more professional elements brought into the fold in recent months.
“We’re looking at having prize money and a golden chain for the league champion, because in the past rappers competed for bragging rights or they placed bets on each other,” said Jacobson. “That created our slogan ‘Kenya’, as in can you put your money where your mouth is.”
Smoked Out has continued to host events in spite of COVID-19 hurdles thanks to programs such as Zoom, but its higher-ups and competitors are looking forward to a time that they can meet in person.
Kid Franklin, meanwhile, is busy preparing for his next bout.