We sat down with Heretic, one of the biggest new names in battle rap

A chat with Don’t Flop’s Newcomer of the Year 2015

We sat down with Harry Robinson AKA Heretic, one of battle rap’s biggest up-and-coming stars, to find out more about the world of battle rapping and his personal journey.

Hi Harry! So tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Harry Robinson, AKA Heretic. I’m from a little town on the outskirts of Birmingham, but I’m currently living in Leeds as I’m studying Music Production at Leeds College of Music.

I’m best known for doing rap battles on Don’t Flop, but I also make my own music, sing, produce for other people and do sound engineering too.

So what is battle rapping?

Battle rap is essentially a form of entertainment where rappers try and come up with the cleverest and/or funniest rhyming insults for each other and deliver them in front of a crowd. The most popular format at the moment is one-on-one, with three a capella rounds of an agreed time limit – usually 2-3 minutes.

There’s a huge and very diverse scene both in the UK and North America, with people of all different backgrounds and styles getting involved. Battlers’ style vary a lot depending on their skills and personality, from really aggressive and technical to fun and light-hearted.

I tend to go with a more comedic, sarcastic approach because it works to my strengths pretty well. Basically, if you like being entertained and aren’t averse to a bit of harshness, there’s something in battle rap for you and you should definitely watch some. Now.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’ve pretty much been rapping since the age of 14, and between then and now I’ve released two full-length mixtapes and an EP (which are all available for free download on my website). I guess my musical style is relatively new-school hip-hop, I take a lot of influence from the Kanyes, Kendricks, Drakes and J Coles and often try and put a bit of my own socio-political spin on whatever song concepts I decide to run with.

My most recent EP “Stars On The Streets” was incredibly well-received especially by battle fans, which kind of motivated me to push on with making a more ambitious full-length project in 2016. I’m currently working with a few friends of mine at music college who do film scores, orchestration, live jazz etc to try and create something a bit more left field than just a straight forward “bars and beats” type of album, so hopefully I can achieve some pretty exciting results with the stuff I’m cooking at the moment.

How does it feel to have been made Newcomer of the Year?

So I had my first Don’t Flop battle in December 2014, which ended up having a bit of buzz around it and among the highest views on DF’s Extra channel – which they use for tryouts and newcomers. From there I literally took every opportunity to battle over the following year – it’s pretty addictive once you start gaining momentum, and I found myself having an official win streak of five battles with no losses which was pretty gratifying.

By October 2015, another battler by the name of Craft-D had exactly the same record as me – he tried out a few months after I did, so we were essentially the two undefeated newcomers of 2015. Therefore the DF staff team thought it’d be a good idea to put us against each other at the birthday event, which is always the biggest event of the year.

In this case it was at Ministry of Sound in London for a crowd of 1,000+ people, and the winner would be awarded the official “Newcomer of the Year”. Long story short, I won – and it was great.

The award itself isn’t physicalised, there was no grand trophy or cash prize or anything, but it’s more of a symbolic thing I guess. Previous winners of NOTY include Shotty Horroh, Lunar C and Youthoracle, who all went on to do big things, so to some extent it’s just a way of saying “OK, he’s a potential breakout for this year, let’s test him against bigger and tougher opponents and see how far he can go with it” – which has very much been the case already.

As of right now I’m preparing to battle Shuffle-T, who’s one of the biggest names in the UK and has been one of my favourites for a long time.

Is there anyone else you want to shout out?

All of the Don’t Flop staff team, especially my dude Callum Martin aka “Callum From The Forum” who’s always pushed and encouraged me to get where I am. Everyone who’s been watching and supporting so far, plus my composer/producer friend Alessio Scozzaro for making my new music so flame-emoji-worthy recently. If you follow my music you’ll be seeing plenty of him in the near future.

How do we follow you and keep up with your music and battles?

The easiest way to find all my content is just to go to my website, you can direct yourself to my music, battles, social media and contact info from there. Other than that, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – so take your pick!