Behind the Eli Porter Rap Battle: Is This the First Meme Documentary?
A new short film digs deep into the most infamous amateur rap battle in internet history.
In 2003, at Chamblee Charter High School in Chamblee, Georgia, a rap battle went down between students Eli Porter and "Envy." By all accounts it was very bad, from the rapping to the lighting to the unenthusiastic host. But the star of the mess was Eli Porter, whose weak stop-and-start rhyming efforts quickly became meme legend: the William Hung of hip hop.
At first unaltered video of Chamblee showdown made the internet rounds. Then there were remixes featuring Porter rapping with the likes of Nas and Drake. One mashup completely removed Envy from the picture and found Porter battling Lil' Wayne instead. In short, Porter became an overnight web celebrity. But like so many memes before him and since, he was quickly forgotten about in favor of the next guy embarrassed on camera.
Today, eight years after trying his hand at hip hop, Porter is the subject of a new documentary that highlights that fateful day in Chamblee all over again.
Titled People's Champion, the half-hour film, part one in a two-part series, explores the origins of the now infamous Porter-Envy battle, capturing interviews with Chamblee staffers, former Chamblee students, and hip hop experts like Jay Smooth. The short also digs deeper into Porter's personal story. Far from making him a laughingstock, the movie humanizes him in a deep way, making you not only question why you laugh at him, but why you laugh at every other "silly" video. It's easy to forget that our memes are often real people's lives.
If you like this installment of the movie enough, the filmmakers, Trent Boddington and Walker Warren, have opened a Kickstarter page to help fund part two. If you don't donate for them, donate for everyone who's ever been laughed at on YouTube.