As I waited for Callum Martin to arrive at Seven in Brixton, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had met Callum several times at various different Don’t Flop events, he was always friendly and welcoming but he possessed a frantic edge to him. You would never get a decent conversation or face time with former forum nerd turned Don’t Flop staff member because he was always off greeting the next battler to walk past.
I was surprised when we sat down to talk. Callum was engaging and open, he was talkative and honest, straight off the bat you could see that his friendly demeanour at events was no facade – he really is just that excited to see everyone.
Callum stumbled into the world of battling after some lads a few years ahead of him in secondary school started to make a name for themselves on Don’t Flop. One was Ceezlin, the other was Rizzle of Rizzle Kicks fame.
That’s pretty much how I got into it and then I started watching YouTube, looking at Jump Off, WRC, stuff like that, and didn’t really watch it as much as I do now. It was a bit more like, “oh, let’s watch a rap battle” whereas now it’s bit more, “well, what battle haven’t I watched yet?”.
But this was just the start of the interest. Soon Callum transitioned from fan to staff member. Originally, former Don’t Flop digital chief, Sam Ridgway, asked Callum if he’d like to be a forum moderator…
And after that I got promoted to web staff which is like ‘Extended Family’ – that’s what we call it – which includes stewards, resident DJs, all that jazz.
When Ridgway left the team, Eurgh was quick to get in touch with Callum to discuss a promotion. It struck some fans as an unusual decision. Callum, known to many as ‘Corny’, was somewhat maligned by Don’t Flop fans for his outspoken manner – and Callum knows it.
I was young and snappy on the forum, reacted to things I shouldn’t have, trolled people, got trolled, you know, that’s how it ended and that’s how it got started really. But I kind of grew out of that.
Whatever ‘snappiness’ Callum employs in his moderation of ViewPoint is very clearly counter-balanced by a genuine humility that not everybody gets a chance to see.
It’s hilarious, really. It’s odd. I went from being on the sidelines to being Sleepy Gee’s mate to being the guy that puts things on the website to being Callum From The Forum. Which is why I’m called that, because that’s how people know me, and I don’t want to take it all too seriously. Because it is hilarious.
But it can work negatively and things can go horribly for you. You see some battle fans get trolled, and some battlers to the point that they leave. But generally, it’s cool, it’s fun.
Callum knows what he’s talking about. Unlike most, he has a unique insight into battle – as a fan, as a staff member and most recently… As a battle rapper. He’s enjoying his latest role in the culture.
What made me want to do it again is the adrenaline. You say one thing and the crowd go crazy.
Is there a burgeoning desire to be in the limelight?
Nah, not at all, it’s just a fun thing to do once in awhile – to spice things up. Being behind the computer all day, you just get a bit of an itch, you see battles, you see tryouts and some of them are just a bit lacklustre. And you just get that itch, the competitive side of you comes out. I could do better than that person.
Hearing these words straight from the horse’s mouth, I believe him. I don’t see that drive in his eyes to want to do this more. After all, he is hyper-aware of battling’s pitfalls.
When I prepare for a battle, I expect the worst. Well, I dunno. I’ve only had one battle. But people could go through Facebook and the forum and find 50 Shades of Shit on me.
It’s that 50 Shades of Shit that is the interesting part because we’ve seen Callum in the past get heated when people have brought up personal information about him as a means to attack him.
In a battle, you go there expecting to be insulted. But if it’s on a forum and people are doing things like posting pictures of family members, it’s so out of line. But in a battle environment it’s like a gladiator’s colosseum.
Generally it depends how creatively they use the angle. The thing with Caustic, it wasn’t creative but it worked. It made Jefferson Price quit. It got under people’s skin, like Soul’s skin, but some people take personal angles and just don’t use them well.
Callum does not shy away from sharing his opinions on the state of UK battle rap, and where the culture is headed.
Don’t Flop is still very young. Battle rap in the UK is very young. It’s infantile. It’s so accepted in the UK to be one of two types of battler. You’re either a jokes battler or a bar battler.
Encouragingly, Callum can all speak fluently about battle rap’s teething problems – homophobia, misogyny, racism – worrying, as most fans do, that these issues will mean that battling will never branch out into the mainstream, and forever remain a subculture.
I think there will always be battlers who do that for shock factor. People in battle rap always want to see how far they can go. But this past year, it’s not quite been exterminated, but it’s been almost pushed out. People don’t go crazy for it, they just kind of groan.
It’s a subject that I feel strongly on, and Callum speaks with real knowledge about it. He references a Soul Khan interview where some of his homophobic bars impacted a gay fan negatively. “There’s always got to be a line” is Callum’s view, finding that line is where the challenge arises.
With Callum, as with battle rap itself, it is easy to judge a book by it’s cover. But if my time with him has taught me anything it’s that this is never a reasonable thing to do. Here is a young man with a passion for battle rap that is working hard to get direction and success into his life, he talks openly about his aspirations to go to university to ultimately pursue a desire to become a writer. One thing is clear, Callum From The Forum may just be a persona, but Don’t Flop is lucky to have Callum Martin.
Words by I AM SPARTACUS
Follow on Twitter at @marcus_bernard