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Mateo Collins
Mateo Collins

Bodied Movie Buy !EXCLUSIVE!

For Kahn and Kid Twist's paean to uninhibited speech, the choice of arena is key. Bodied takes place in the underground world of battle rap, where two wordsmiths stand toe-to-toe and insult each other as viciously and poetically as they can, and the winner collects the most "ooohs" and "aaahs" from the crowd. (If someone has received a verbal beatdown, they've been "bodied.") The language tends to trade heavily in racial stereotypes or any other surface traits that can be easily exploited, and it's expected that lines will be crossed. After the film's hero summons the most offensive references he can muster about an Asian-American opponent, his apology afterwards is waved away: "At least you knew I was Korean. That's culturally sensitive by battle rap standards."

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This movie takes a lot of fucking risks. It juggles these concepts of cultural appropriation, the power of words, and the ethics inside of rap battles, all while having bars that are legitimately offensive, to further these points. Fortunately for the movie, it handles it extremely well in my opinion. And it makes for a great movie.

Bodied was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, acting as something of a hometown triumph for Larsen and his first published script. "The crazy true story behind this movie is it started from a DM on Twitter," recalls Larsen, "[Joseph Kahn] saw a battle where someone said I was a writer as a line of attack and he was like 'Oh, I'm looking for a writer, let me holler at Kid Twist.'" The two worked on an unusually tight schedule and managed to land Eminem's support thanks to Kahn's prior video work with Em, along with starring roles and cameos from battle rap luminaries like Dumbfoundead and Loaded Lux. Larsen drew from some of his own experiences coming up in Toronto's then-DYI rap scene ("Shout out to, that's how everything got organized back then"). His first battle was in 2005 against Prolific, an event that also got Larsen introduced to future KOTD founder Organik. Larsen ended up winning the very first KOTD championship in 2008, and he's a recognized face in battle rap internationally.

When you first got into rap, did you know that you immediately wanted to do battle rap?So I started rapping in high school as a joke with my friends. It's something we get into in the movie a little bit, how white people get involved with rap culture ironically at first because they're afraid to not be ironic about it. I just took it more seriously and I started getting deeper and deeper into it. All my friends stopped rapping so I was the one rapper left.

How much of the screenplay for Bodied draws on experiences like that from your own life?A lot of it does. I think people are gonna read this movie as more autobiographical than it is because of the similarities between me and the main character but it really is drawing from what I've seen in the battle world. There's a lot of easter eggs for battle fans, they'll know exactly what I'm referencing at specific parts of the movie. It's not so much about me as it is the scene as a whole, but seen through my perspective. I hope I wasn't that much of a white kid growing up [as the film's main character Adam] but it was pretty close.

Was being offensive a hurdle you had to get over when you started in battle rap?I'll tell you this: the realest scene in that movie in terms of being autobiographical is where Adam makes a choice about what kind of material he's gonna use. He knows that one way, the crowd is gonna be on his side and the other way, he gets to keep his sense of morality. I'm not gonna say what he goes with but I know that it's a choice I've certainly had to make. I don't think I've always made the right choice and it is something that I think about and grapple with. I have to give a big shout out to my wife here, who is amazing and has incredible insight and is awesome at coming up with incredibly offensive rap lines but is also awesome at telling me when I shouldn't say a line. So it's a conversation I have with myself, it's a conversation I have with my friends, with my wife. That's what it is, man. These are conversations that do happen but we don't see them onscreen [in rap battles].

Okay, tough question. Right now, especially in North America, there's much discussion about what "free speech" means because you have visible Neo-Nazis using the term as an excuse to be racist, counteracted by language awareness activism from progressives. Bodied seems to be satirizing both sides of this issue, so what do you think battle rap has to say about that?I think there's a really interesting point to be made about the idea of a "safe space." We have a very particular connotation for that phrase nowadays but in one of the Q&As, Joseph mentioned that battle rap is a safe space for saying offensive things to each other, which I think is a really funny reversal of how we view safe spaces now. It's true! When could there ever be an appropriate time to say these horrible things to each other except when the other person has explicitly agreed to say horrible things under specific rules and a specific structure. So if there's gonna be any time to make these jokes, I think battle rap is that time. That being said, what the movie hinges on is that you can never have a completely isolated safe zone. It always collides with the real world, especially now when everyone is constantly tuned in to everything on social media. That's where a lot of the tensions come from and I think we have seen that emerge in the battle scene and of course in society in general. 041b061a72


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