illmac1.jpeg
Kyle Johnson/Red Bull Content Pool
Illmaculate did not throw in the towel

Red Bull EmSee rap battle 2011

The Crocodile

Thursday, July 28

Sure, sure,

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Red Bull EmSee's Seattle Edition Brings Out the Stars, Proves More Entertaining Than Your Mom's . . . Oh, and Portland's Illmaculate Wins

illmac1.jpeg
Kyle Johnson/Red Bull Content Pool
Illmaculate did not throw in the towel

Red Bull EmSee rap battle 2011

The Crocodile

Thursday, July 28

Sure, sure, there were some killer one-liners and impressive 60-second rounds last night, but the Red Bull EmSee Seattle event was already a win the second Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton walked through the door (not to mention the fact that West Coast legends Too $hort, Casual, and Crooked I were sitting in as judges). Somewhere, Kevin Calabro did a play-by-play of GP passing The Reign Man a G&T, then the night went on as previously planned.

Though there were a few gimmicks to keep the contestants honest (the preliminary round forced each MC to use image-prompts against their opponent, the second simple word prompts), the format was a traditional single-elimination bracket that went down like this:

Seattle heavyweight Mic Phenom steamrolled his hapless first-round opponent as anticipated; Portland's (two-time World Rap Championship title holder) Illmaculate ousted Justis (not Justice) in a close battle (for which the latter had his afro pulled down over his face, making him an easy target for a few "You must be trying to hide your poor physical appearance" jokes); Oldominion's Bishop I brought perhaps the finest round of the competition against KI Design, the former taking only 40 seconds of his round to thoroughly emasculate his opponent, then adding a final smoldering bar after the audience booed him for dropping his mike for punctuation; a surprised-looking Billy the Fridge moved past 9DM after a close first-round battle.

The second round began with what could have been a final-round pairing of Illmaculate and Mic Phenom--a solid eye-for-an-eye affair that earned the two an encore, an exhibition round, and collaborative offers from the judges after the contest was decided. Illmaculate got the nod after dropping judge-referencing gems like "You really wanna battle me?/Give me a Crooked I and I'll kill you Casual-ly", and something about being made fun of for being Too $hort--as well as this awesome response to Phenom's calling him "ugly like Whoopi": "I am like Whoopi, 'cause you dread when I come off the top of the dome" (maybe the best line of the night). After spitting tough in the first round as though he was going to cake-walk to the finals, Bishop I stumbled a bit in the word-prompt round, but won a judges' decision over Billy the Fridge (although free-speaking judge Too $hort said he would have given it to nobody if he could have).

The finals were solid, but it was clear that both Illmaculate and Bishop I were running low on steam and material. Illmaculate pulled a few "You're racist" lines out of nowhere, but capped things off nicely with a line that went something like "this guy puts the Old in Oldominion," which was nice.

Illmaculate, Mic Phenom, and Bishop I were the strongest battlers on stage, with 9DM and Justis in the second tier, and the big man, Billy the Fridge, bringing the best flair. I have to tip my hat to all the contestants, however. It takes some serious balls to get on stage at a battle, and all the contestants proved they had plenty (or at least referenced them constantly). Here's to next year.

To sum things up: People still love to see rap battles. In addition to a whole slew of fans (the show sold out), and the most explosive 1-2 punch in NBA history, there were more local rap artists at this show than I've seen come out in a good while. Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Macklemore, Onry Ozzborn, Mr. Hill, Xperience, and a gang of other noteworthy local talent showed up to egg the contestants on.

This compared to many high-school parties I remember in that there were a ton of cool kids whom everybody knew--some of whom I avoided because I've talked smack about them on the Internet--there were vodka & Red Bulls everywhere, and I was challenged to a rap battle every couple of minutes.

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