Underground hip hop legend Gin I Grimes (government name: Dave Coxall) is known around the world for his contribution to the local scene. He earned his stripes with a mic in one hand and a spraycan in the other, making him one of the few artists in Joburg that are respected for using both tools.
Dave has a longstanding love for battling, which led to him establishing the biggest battle rap league on the African continent, Scrambles4Money. It's a name that's become synonymous with quality lyricism and entertaining battles, capturing a growing international following on YouTube.
"I first encountered battle rap during the 90s around Joburg's hip hop events. I was the cat that used to come and get burnt," he says. "It was all freestyle based and, as time wore on, I just got better at it. Took my beatings and learned from them. It's what builds you a good base as an emcee."
Many other leagues have come and gone but Scrambles succeeds because of Dave's dedication to putting on a quality show.
"We started really strong," he says. "I also knew I could get more emcees involved than the other leagues could. We been here a long time and paid our dues, so I think that helped us too, just knowing the scene better."
Even with that great success, Scrambles still faces difficulties with funding. "The main challenge from the get-go and still today is money. I fund the league, I pay the transport of the travelling artists to fly up to Joburg. If we don't make enough at the door, I have to pull out to pay the emcees that win."
In the year since the league kicked off, scores of the best battle rappers in South Africa have crossed the stage and Dave is always on the lookout for new talent.
"Aspiring rappers can enter our Draft division. From there they can either make it or break. End of the day I know what I'm looking for and when I see it, it's on." And what is it that Dave is looking for? "I look for delivery, cadence, performance then obviously writing ability and freestyle. But most important is being able to entertain and have the necessary skills to keep the audience captive for your rounds."
He continues, "The mainstream is already getting it, it's just a matter of them biting. But when they do, who knows? I don't consider this league underground or mainstream. It's just battle rap. End of the day it's meant to be fun. Peeps shouldn't lose sight of that."