"Muchos hablan, pocos riman, solo los mejores improvisan" ("many speak, few rhyme, only the best improvise,") is what they say at the Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, where Texas-born Jordi Esparza will represent Austin as one of 16 MCs in the U.S. finals.
One of 36 rappers chosen from hundreds of applications, Esparza, who uses Jordi as his stage name, was chosen to compete on Sept. 18 in Los Angeles for the 15th annual finals.
And the pressure is on. Red Bull Batalla is one of the most-watched music events of the year, counting 1.5 million concurrent viewers at the 2020 finals. Esparza had already placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing the 22-year-old a spot in the 2021 finals.
Going to the finals again is a dream come true for Esparza—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
"Red Bull Batalla is the biggest thing I want to do," Esparza told Austonia. "I don't know what the next mission is."
Eagle Lake, Texas, born and Torreón, Mexico, raised, watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is how Esparza spent most of his days. The show's theme song was what originally got Esparza interested in rap, and he even recorded his first freestyle to the tune of the theme song on an MP3 player in 2012.
"I remember the intro, you know, perfect lyrics and good tongue," Esparza said. "I remember when I was a kid, I removed the words from the song and I put in my part."
Esparza moved back to the U.S. in 2015, first to Dallas for a year and then to Austin, where he started to work in landscaping.
The first rap battle Esparza saw on TV planted a seed—he had never seen a rap battle outside of a movie. A YouTube search led him to stumble upon the Red Bull Batalla, where he would take the stage and win at GVK with La Liga De La Calle for the first time in 2018.
"I remember the first year really feeling so bad—a lot of nerves," Esparza said, despite his win. "This year, I don't know why but I feel so relaxed, so happy, I just want to enjoy everything. I'm going to enjoy my dream and I think I'll do a good job."
This Batalla will be a renewed chance at the title for Esparza and an internationally acclaimed award for Austin. Though he's nervous for the final, where he'll battle another rapper in 60-second intervals, Esparza said he's determined to stay in his zone.
"When you take the mic and you say the first words, everything is just you and your mind and the other guy, and you don't feel anything," Esparza said. "Maybe in the future, I can leave my job and I'll make a living doing freestyle."
- Austin vs. Nashville: How the growing Southern capitals compare ... ›
- 11 ways to get your Austin live music fix online - austonia ›
- Austin Bergstrom brings live music back to its terminal - austonia ›
- Some Austin live music venues reopen to smaller crowds - austonia ›
- Argo AI 'robotaxis' partnering with Walmart for driverless delivery - austonia ›
After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.