Today is a good day to revisit the old YouTube chestnut “Iron Mic: Eli Porter vs. Envy” and bask in its otherworldly glory, because this past Monday, Trent Babbington and Walker Warren released a documentary short about the clip, entitled People’s Champion: Behind The Battle.
If you’re questioning why anyone would bother making a half-hour documentary about a mostly forgotten Viral Video Of The Month from nearly four years ago, then you must not be remembering “Iron Mic” for what it is: an extremely weird and entertaining rap battles packaged inside an equally bizarre closed-circuit high-school TV segment.
Instead of focusing on the well-remembered line (read: meme) “I’m the best, man/I did it…” People’s Champ tasks itself with explaining the entire clip, because there’s a so much more than just Eli’s line that demands an explanation. The filmmakers tracked down nearly every person who was even loosely involved with the “Iron Mic” segment, and through the interviews, the story behind “Iron Mic” emerges as a true-life example of the cliché of a group of multicultural students working together to make something for everyone—which is the last thing anyone who knows anything about the Internet would expect from a leaked video of a handicapped black student rapping on a closed-circuit segment.
People’s Champion is occasionally bogged down by talking heads from pop-culture sites who don’t offer much commentary past, “Then that happened, and it was hilarious! What’s up with that!?” But anyone who’s interested in examining and explaining the strangest corners of the Internet will thoroughly enjoy this short.
If you find yourself intrigued by Eli’s life post-YouTube, the directors have set up a Kickstarter to help fund a follow-up that would focus on Eli and fully tell his story.