ANDREW MacKenzie stands in front of a fervent crowd at Glasgow’s Afillion Studios throwing down a biting, rhyming challenge to his rival in one of the increasingly popular rap battles taking place in the city.

McKenzie is taunting Wee D, criticising his decision to vote No in last year’s referendum and wearing a Better Together T-shirt just to rub salt in the wounds.

When he rips off the T-shirt at the climax of the round to reveal a Yes T-shirt underneath the crowd yells its support.

Rap battling is said to have originated in the New York hip hop scene of the late 1970s but the Glasgow events have a uniquely Scottish flavour.

Judging from the reception to Mackenzie and Wee D’s joust, battle nights are the next thing to watch out.

The format hasn’t changed much since its Big Apple origins: two rap emcees trade rhymed insults, witty comebacks and comical punchlines.

The art form saw a resurgence in popularity in 2002 after Eminem’s movie 8 Mile presented the phenomenon to mainstream audiences.

Over the past decade, battle leagues have sprung up all over the world and Scotland is no exception.

One significant change in that time is that, instead of freestyling, battlers are now expected to pre-memorise their lyrical material.

Tonight’s battle was expected to be a classic as it was the tournament final of the ‘Breaking the Barrier League’. Coatbridge veteran Wee D taking on MacKenzie from Renfrewshire, with promotion and prizes at stake.

“People are starting to pick up on the entertainment aspect of it,” says local emcee David MacWilliam. who’s also performing a set tonight. “We have a great crowd in Scotland, one that actually respects the artists, but the audience is starting to grow because of that entertainment factor.”

Wee D and MacKenzie’s three rounds certainly fit this description, Wee D, also known as Danny Quinn on his day job, comically breaks down MacKenzie’s ginger complexion with perfect cadence and vocal delivery.

“In Scottish battles you have to stick to jokes in order to win,’’ says Quinn. ‘‘English and American rappers take battling very seriously with intricate wordplay and rhyme schemes. In Scottish culture we tend to value humour over everything else.”

As MacKenzie’s referendum-related rap demonstrates, no topic is out of place when it comes to rap disses. “It wasn’t just a stunt, really,” explains MacKenzie. “In a battle you use the angles that are available to you.”

The tactic proves to work as he wins a contentious judges’ decision, but the highly diverse content from both emcees is the most strikingly impressive element of the battle.

If slam poetry is at one end of the competitive performance art scale and low-brow comedy is at the other, tonight’s event would fall in between.

Though hip hop has long been marginalised in Scotland, MacKenzie and Quinn both agree that the genre has at least found its own distinct voice within the context of Scottish music.

“What we’re doing is engaging a younger audience in order to re-write people’s preconceptions of Scottish music,” stresses Quinn.

“Hip hop is incredibly organic in that it’s very easy to teach, and you don’t have to be musically minded to take it up. That’s why our listeners quickly become fans. Rapping seems like an obtainable talent to have.”

MacKenzie echoes these sentiments, arguing that “hip hop represents the voice of working class people and young people in this country.”

It’s hard to argue with them when looking at the bill. At 24, David MacWilliam is actually the oldest musical performer on tonight’s card, with Ransom FA and headliner Blizzard both only 20.

So why is hip hop, a 30 year old genre from urban America, finally starting to resonate with young people in Scotland? MacWilliam sums it up:

“As a scene we’re still behind England, there is definite growth up here. Rap artists of this generation can post a video and receive plenty of listens and likes within minutes. Increasing numbers of people are taking up rapping and battling all of the time.”