The worst thing I ever did….

SIHLE MANDA

 

Curiosity killed a cat, you know.

 At first, I was quite baffled as to how I go about recalling the highest perking regret that I’ve gone on to designate the prestige of being: “the worst I ever did”. It was like having to look for a needle in a haystack. Then it suddenly dawned upon me. Still not sure if it’s the worst, but it certainly is the most stupid.   

It was August 1, 2009, at the annual All Elements Battle of the Year competition, the biggest event on the Durban hip-hop calendar. Here all supposedly budding talents are afforded a platform to showcase their skill and earn the much coveted street credibility everyone longs for. From rappers, graffiti writers, b-boys and DJs. That year, I was one of these hopefuls.

In the rap category, the one I had entered for, you are expected to literally think on your feet. Your wordplay must be cunningly witty. You are expected to be the last man standing. Do none of this and you’ll be deemed nothing but a failure. All of this, may I add, while at least a thousand set of eyes are piercingly fixed on you. I wasn’t ready to walk out that door reduced to such. 

At the time, I was probably one the most respected rhyme-slayers in the region, or so I thought. I was at my peak. Spring a topic on me, throw in a beatbox and I was certain to burst a rhyme that would make even multi Grammy award winners look like amateurs. I had invested time crafting my art, even putting my studies in jeopardy. I could see my name engraved on the prize. Besides, I knew almost all my threats’ traits. “What could possibility wrong?”, I thought. Victory was certain.

How wrong I was. The announcer called us to the stage for the freestyle round. “Procedural,” I arrogantly thought. Some went through, while some fell on their swords. Fortunately, it was the former for me.

What was to unfold in the next round was nothing I had anticipated. All those who had made it through to the second round were called up on stage for what was called ‘battle royal’. I was introduced to my opponent. Continued to be my lax, assured self because I knew the guy and didn’t think he’d be a hazard. I was suddenly taken aback. His rhyme slaying technique and sheer brilliance was nothing I had expected. He was that good. The crowd approved. I froze. For some reason, I couldn’t utter a word. There was hardly a murmur from the audience. You could hear a pin drop. Then suddenly a chorus of boos filtered the auditorium. The bulging buoyancy crash landed, face first! I was numb and paralyzed for a few seconds. I felt the credibility I had invested so much time earning gradually fragment…

No, no, wait! This can’t the worst thing I’ve ever done? It can’t be, because I remember this one time when…Oh, Lord, you unfortunately capped me. Now you’ll never know. Bummer.

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