The battle and the interview have presented different purposes for the use of HHNL in both British and overseas contexts. Eurgh’s natural speech has displayed tendencies to adapt to situations according to the potential levels of respect that can be acquired or lost in each. The use of HHNL features is sparser in speech than in battle, and it is primarily the lexical features that are cross-contextual. The battle is the only situation in which the grammatical and syntactic aspects of HHNL are present. In the battle, these deviations to standard construction are used as a framework that support Eurgh’s punchlines, so as to create equilibrium with the insults, most of which take the form of Standard English. This maximises the level of respect he can accumulate. Conversely, in the interview Eurgh’s speech is being used for a different purpose. Eurgh places more focus on maintaining his status outside of the battle, as oppose to negotiating more respect.
The social mechanics of US Hip Hop culture described by Fitzpatrick (2007, p. 2) are at play within a British context also. Fitzpatrick highlights the extra-communicational purpose of the language used within Eyedea’s battle, and suggests that the language is delivered with wider negotiations of respect and status in mind. As established within the analysis of the battle, the methods by which respect is negotiated in a British context do not endorse an aggressive social presence, but prioritise the careful manipulation and aesthetic value of language. With this in consideration, it is evident that the culture of British Hip Hop shares this notion of a ‘linguistic marketplace’ with its US equivalent. The development of a similar system of respect negotiation points to a similar value system in both cultures. However, the shift in the values of those administering respect indicates a cultural assimilation of the act of battling to a different set of sociohistorical stimuli.
The language and practices of Hip Hop are linked to its African American roots and the reasons for its genesis are grounded in racial tensions in American society. This results in the heavily racialised discourses and rhetoric that function within Hip Hop and their representation within wider linguistic practices like battling (Smitherman, 1997, p. 5). Despite the shift from social aggression in US Hip Hop to linguistic dexterity within British Hip Hop, it is necessary to examine possible social stimuli for the existence of a British subculture in the first place. This will contextualise the respect negotiations of the British Hip Hop community.
‘'UK rap' is a broad sonic church, encompassing anything made in Britain by musicians informed or inspired by hip-hop's possibilities, whose music is a response to the same stimuli that gave birth to rap in New York in the mid-Seventies.’ (Batey, 2003)
In Britain, tensions had arisen from the growing level of post-War immigration and peaked in the Notting Hill riots of 1958 which resulted in violent conflicts in concentrated racially charged areas including Nottingham and Notting Hill (Ramdin, 1987). This was followed three decades later with an event chronologically aligned with the genesis of UK Hip Hop: the Brixton riots of 1981, which have been summarised as ‘an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police.’ (Scarman 2003). While these events in isolation may not provide sufficient bases for the formation of a counterculture, it does indicate the presence of tensions and unbalances that could have informed the creation of British Hip Hop. Hesmondhalgh, however, maintains that British Hip Hop has been cross-racial from its inception (2003). US Hip Hop was founded to portray the resilience of the black ghetto (Smitherman, 1997) but Hip Hop culture was assimilated into British society with a different purpose.
UK Hip Hop instead stems from experiences with poverty and disenfranchisement on a national level, given that race is a factor referenced in battle but not central to the UK Hip Hop ideology. The first registered British Hip Hop record was “London Bridge” by Newtrament, released in 1984 (low-life.fsnet.co.uk). In 1982, Britain under Thatcher saw unemployment increase to over three million for the first time in fifty years, and this became one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe (BBC News, 26/1/82). UK Hip Hop was forged in a time of great economic disruption, and dissatisfaction with the government: Hirst posits:
‘Not only did she fail to modernise British industry, the years of her reign marked the UK’s fall from being one of the wealthiest countries in the EU to being in danger of being overtaken by Spain’ (Hirst, 1997, p217).
Therefore, considering its cross-racial nature, UK Hip Hop relates more to the socio-economic factors that saw the development of Hip Hop in the US than its racial cultural elements.
The variation between the emphasis on image in the US and on the aesthetic value of language in the UK comes as a result of these differing stimuli. Language use is dependent on the social and cultural activities in which users engage (Pennycook, 2010, p. 1) and these in turn are dependent on the origins and catalysts of the culture in which they occur. The differing roots and contexts of US and UK Hip Hop have resulted in the adoption by the UK of a similar linguistic practice, but one that is dictated by the different norms and values prescribed by the surrounding society. In attempting to negotiate respect from members of this culture, UK battle rappers have had to adapt their themes and content from that popular with the original culture. In doing so, UK rappers more easily fit the paradigms and expectations established by UK Hip Hop community members, and accrue respect more efficiently.