Anybody who’s been in TP or LD debate for any considerable amount of time understands the necessity of delivering a memorable 2AR. After all, being able to give the final speech of the round poses a significant rhetorical advantage to the affirmative–an advantage that, quite frankly, I believe has been underutilized since debate’s conception. Today, we’ll be covering a somewhat controversial rhetorical strategy – rappin’. Or at the very least, off-the-cuff poetry. You heard right–I’m suggesting that what you 2A’s out there have been missing this whole time is some good old-fashioned bars and rhymes.
First, and most obviously, you want your 2AR’s to stick in the judge’s mind long after the round is over. Studies have shown that rhyming increases memory retention, meaning that your smooth bars, beyond hitting all-time high levels of Chad, are actually contributing to your ability to win the round. But beyond that, people also tend to remember that which is memorable, that which is extraordinary. I can guarantee you that your judges can count on one hand the number of times they’ve seen a rapped 2AR, meaning that you, the first debater MC they’ve ever seen, are going to stand out and cause them to pay attention to what you have to say. Most judges are usually bored after more than an hour of debating, and in the 2AR, it’s critical that you take steps to win back their attention, and rapping unquestionably achieves this.
“But Ben,” you might say, “How am I supposed to rap my 2AR’s? It’s not like I can script my speech and roll with it; every 2AR is different.” And you would be right. This strategy requires you to drop bars on command without much advance notice, which may seem intimidating. In light of this, I offer a few suggestions for easing into this practice:
- Don’t take any prep time until the 2AR
Bro, prep time is so overrated. You definitely don’t need any for the 1AC, the 2AC is practically half-scripted anyway, and the 1AR gets free prep time during the CX of the 2NC. And even if push comes to shove, even if you find yourself in a position where you actually need to use prep time, we here at Ethos have several tactics for stalling for free prep:
- The water bottle stall. This strategy is ideal for situations where you just need ten or fifteen seconds to think of an opening quote, think of a response to maybe just one or two arguments, and so on. To execute, you simply stand up, declare that no prep time is needed, and proceed to take a long drink of water from your water bottle. Studies have actually shown that teams with bigger water bottles tend to perform better (the average water bottle capacity of the finalists at my last qualifier was 58 ounces). Coincidence? I think not. These teams have realized that the more water they can cram into their bottles, the more free prep time they can stall for if necessary. By the time you’ve finished packing down your gallon of water while standing there, in addition to being thoroughly hydrated, you’ll also have thought of that one argument you needed without using any prep time whatsoever.
- The evidence gambit. This one’s especially effective in online competition. As you’re announcing that you won’t be needing any prep time, you casually ask the other team if they could “send over X piece of evidence real quick before we get started.” What X is doesn’t matter so long as you have a hunch the other team’s going to struggle a bit to find it and hand it to you. During in-person competitions, this usually should get you about fifteen or twenty seconds of free prep. In online debate, the payoff can be even greater. Teams are potentially forced to go back through their search history if they closed off of a tab, scroll panickedly while looking for a specific quote, copy and paste it, send it, realize that their message is longer than 2000 characters (NCFCA-specific), and spend another thirty seconds splitting the evidence into two messages. I’ve seen situations this year where teams took upwards of four minutes to give a piece of evidence to the opposing team, and I’m surprised this strategy has been underutilized. Granted, since the amount of free prep you might gain can vary, I’d recommend using the water bottle stall first, and then using this strategy only after you’ve used the water bottle stall once.
- The water bottle stall, 2.0. This one should only be used when absolutely necessary; typically, you’ll be able to get about a minute of free prep out of this one. Before the round, you and your partner should have decided on a signal of some sort. If you find yourself in need of free prep, as you’re standing up, you should give the signal, at which point your partner should “accidentally” knock their open water bottle off the table. Well, of course the round won’t continue until your partner has cleaned up their mess a bit, and while they’re doing so, you have just won yourself a solid minute of free prep.
Thus, when you finally get to the 2AR with five minutes of prep time remaining, you’re well on your way to dropping SupaHotFire™ bars left and right. You should use that prep time to do four things:
- Most obviously, to outline your speech in terms of what arguments you want to respond to, what you want your voting issues to be, etc. This should take about a minute at most.
- To figure out your rhyme schemes. Sometimes, even the best MC’s find themselves without a bar ready to go while they’re spittin’ fire, and to avoid this, I recommend planning three or four “backup bars” during prep that you can fall back on if a rhyme isn’t coming to mind. This too should take about a minute.
- To absolutely roast the other team. There’s nothing that gives you an advantage like undercutting the credibility of the other team, and y33ting their swag is an excellent way to achieve this. Think to yourself: what’s the dumbest thing you’ve seen them do all round? Did they have a stupid analogy? Did they use wayyy too many filler words? Once you identify their flaws, you should plan on jebaiting the other team during your speech. I recommend spending 60 to 90 seconds of your speech doing this, but no more than a minute of prep preparing this part.
- Silly Songs with Larry. As you mathematicians in the audience have likely gathered, I recommend spending two minutes doing this during prep. Some might say that these two minutes are better used as prep earlier in the round for the 2AC and 1AR. I disagree. To be clear, it’s absolutely essential that this part isn’t ignored; by singing songs with the homies, you are actively building your team dynamics while at the same time hyping up for the bar drop.
So that’s our first main tip (yes, that was all one point), that you should conserve prep time and budget it carefully in order to successfully rap your 2AR. Our second suggestion is to watch rounds where this happens. You’ve likely heard this from your debate coach before: you want to work on condensing 1AR’s? Watch the final round from last year on YouTube and pay attention to how the 1AR does this. You want to work on organization on neg? Pull up a high-quality round online and take note of how the 1NC goes about organizing their speech. Learning how to rap 2AR’s is no exception. To get you started, I’ve enclosed an example 2AR here. It’s not the best, but seeing as the number of filmed, rapped 2AR’s on the web is fairly limited, I recommend taking whatever you can get..
In short, every debate norm was once viewed as weird and outlandish. There was a time when comparative advantage cases seemed stupid. There was a time when “voting issues” were unheard of. But just because something’s new or rare doesn’t mean it’s bad. I genuinely believe that we are on the brink of rapped 2AR’s becoming the meta, and as such, we all should make a point to stay one step ahead of the competition and start practicing now.
Note: this article is intended to be satirical and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of Ethos Debate LLC. Please consult the date on this article for further context.
Before this article, I was struggling to with severe debate depression. Being in my debate midlife crisis, debate has all of a sudden become boring to me. But then I found this article, and my life changed forever. Judges will now never forget me and I’ll be wrecking noobs with simple facts, logic, and rap. My children and my children’s children thank you, Mr. Brown, for your heroic work in the line of making debate better.
Combine this with singing and dancing in all of your speeches and you’ll win for sure.
Ben, thank you so much. My previous strategy of yodeling simply wasn’t working. This has been very enlightening.
Wow! Water Bottle Stall 2.0 – genius! I’ll surprise my 2A partner with this in our next round.
Bro randomly saw this and I wish I could donate to you or something.
I mean, hey, I’m sure we can work something out 😉 jk, thanks though!
This article was so helpful, that even though I’m not in debate this year, I went 9 and 0 at the last tournament, and qualified for Nationals. I won Nats, and now I’m happily married, have two and a third children, and make upwards of 2 million a year. Great article!
Beautiful article. I’ve followed some of the author’s other posts. They are all above average writings, although I wish he would have more articles like this in the future. You don’t get this from any other guy. I will never give them up and Ben never lets me down
compliance hates me, but chicks dig it man!
People don’t understand that the OG flow judges weren’t focused on flowsheets.
This is kind of crazy.
I’m not amused at an article like this being posted on ETHOS publications. Gaming the rules to get “free prep time” is far from ethical.
you can’t stop me
I am dying so hard right now
This is too funny
I was in the middle of spectating a debate and just burst out laughing and now everyone is lookin at me.
Im gonna do this in a debate wish me luck guys