How Freestyle Rap Became Big Business In The Spanish-Speaking World: The Story Of Urban Roosters

By Hernán Panessi and Javier Hasse.

Hundreds of millions of views, a barrage of new stars, the creation of unexpected jobs, rap materialized from an original side, a hobby that became a business. Professional freestyle rap is one of the most amazing phenomena of the last decade. And it’s big business too.

“The launch of the league was the consolidation of our years of discourse,” says Asier Fernández, director and co-founder of Urban Roosters, the most important freestyle platform in the Spanish-language (and probably the entire) world.

The Birth Of A Behemoth

Urban Roosters is the undisputed leader of the freestyle rap market in Latin America and Spain – and is already getting ready to conquer new markets including the U.S. However, the task of Fernández and Pedro Henrique, his partner, was not easy: the friends built a media empire where there was hardly an emerging cultural scene.

Their main vehicle? The Freestyle Master Series, a professional freestyle league that brings together the best MCs in the world, a league that managed to articulate the jump of freestyle rap to a more sporty world: ordered, syndicated, hierarchized.

Like a kind of FIFA or NBA but for rap, Urban Roosters manages FMS leagues in Spain, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Peru, as well as an international league that faces the best rappers from each country.

And its strength partly derived from the generation of an invisible thread with the underground competitions: according to their relevance, reach and trajectory, each underground competition helps MCs accumulate points to one day get drafted to the highest category, the Rap Champions League.

Rap As A Raw Material

"Both my partner and I are rappers," says Asier.

Since the age of 15, Asier and his friends have been fans of freestyle. This love sealed an unbreakable routine: every Thursday they’d gather to improvise some bars.

“When I went to Madrid for work, I had to leave that routine. But I thought: Why not continue practicing that hobby via the Internet? ”

This led Asier to design an online platform to battle alongside his friends, no matter where they were.

“Pedro and I worked in an advertising agency. We launched this platform and, with many years on the circuit, we realized that, to grow, freestyle had to follow similar paths to skateboarding, surfing or the UFC ”.

– Why skateboarding, surfing, and the UFC?

“Because fashions perish but sports don’t.”

"When working in advertising, we came from creating campaigns for brands," he continues. “That was our background and we didn't know anything about the business world. In 2011 we set up this project as a 'trucho' [a project created to be shown without commercial purposes] to sell our book and get a job.”

The duo offered it to their clients to no success. After several failed pitches, their boss began to look at them differently: “The next time you pitch this, you’ll be out of a job!” – he told them.

But the seed was already planted. The vision of freestyle as a sporting discipline was fixed in the minds of Asier and Pedro. The challenge now was to find the intersection with the cultural side of it all.

And so, Urban Roosters was born. But not without hard work and perseverance; the last man standing is the one who prevails.

"We were convinced of what we needed to become what we are today," he says, convinced.

Pedro and Asier insisted with other clients, appeared in incubators, closed with accelerators, built synergies with various organizations…

"Competitiveness was well received," he recalls.

Meanwhile, the group of creatives continued …

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