Freestyle emceeing is becoming a dying art as more and more emcees pre-write or recycle their rhymes and the battle format becomes an “insult” contest. Instead Red Bull EmSee participants battled against themselves and their mind’s eye.

In Atlanta, 8 of the best freestyle emcees from across the Southeast U.S. were invited to participate in the first ever Red Bull EmSee. Two lucky consumers won their way on to the stage:  one 13 year-old in an on-air battle at top hip hop radio station Hot 107.9 and the other just before the start of the event at impromptu contest at the Red Bull MXT.

In the spirit of music chairs, the 10 emcees did not know when they would be called to the mic or what beat they would be given. Over three rounds, six giant video screens displayed multiple random images – places, people and things. When the beat stopped an emcee was randomly chosen and a completely new beat was dropped. The selected emcee had 20 seconds to make it to the mic and incorporate as many of the images in the most creative way possible. As the rounds progressed, the number of images increased (from 3 to 5 to 7) and flashed more quickly (from 10 to 7 to 5 seconds each). 

Some of the most respected names in hip hop came out to support this new format.  Adeem the only 2x winner of Scribblejam freestyle battle, RBMA lecturer, the legendary DJ Red Alert, Grammy winning producer 9th Wonder and prolific rapper Talib Kweli.  Over 1000 spectators checked out this new look and brought the venue to capacity.

Designed to have an “in the round” feel the 4’ft high stage extended into the center of the room and 6’x8’ & 7’x10’ screen encircled the runway so emcees and fans alike could not miss the visual cues no matter where they focused.  The final 3 were Raleigh, NC’s Kaze, Orlando’s Madd Illz and Atlanta’s own Manchild.  Just before the winner was announced 9th Wonder took to the tables and accompanied Talib in a 20 minute set.  In the end, father of 6, Manchild took home the $1000 purse and will go into Red Bull Studios in November with 9th Wonder to collaborate on a single.

Judging Criteria:

Quickness (Score 1-5)  How quickly MC starts once he takes the mic.

Incorporation of Visual Clues (Score 1-5)  Did the MC use all the Visual Cues? How many?

Flow (Score 1-5)  How seamless was the presentation? How many um’s, or yeahs? Pauses? Breath Control?

Content (Score 1-5)  How creative were the rhymes? How creatively did he/she incorporate the cues? Did MC bring something extra to the rhymes? Did the MC have a “damn” that was fresh moment

Style (Score 1-5)  Did the MC move? Engage the crowd? Perform or recite?



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