Anything goes in MC freestyle battles -- almost.
“You can rap about peoples’ mama’s but not if they are in the room,” said Phonte, of the rap group Little Brother. On Tuesday night, Phonte hosted the Red Bull EmSee National Finals at the Masquerade club in Atlanta.
In the deciding battle, Hostyle, an MC from Detroit, deigned to comment on his opponent's mother. And his opponent, Mic Stew, a tall, lanky MC from Philadelphia, responded in kind, closing his freestyle stint with "... and fuck you for dissin' my beautiful mom."
The judges agreed that the battles were tight all the way to the end, but it was really that last line that sealed the win.
“That last line really shut the house down!" exclaimed Mic Stew, who was awarded $10,000 and an opportunity to collaborate with the producer of his choice at the Red Bull Studio in Los Angeles.
"I feel amazing," he went on. "I feel relieved; I've been nervous for 24 hours. I just came to win and I buckled down. I am pumped to go into the Red Bull studio and make a great record.”
Red Bull EmSee came down to eight finalists, who reached the finals by winning their regional competitions. In addition to Mic Stew and Hostyle, the finalists were Dirtbag Dan, from Los Angeles, Bishop I (Seattle), Phranchyze (Houston), Pat G (Boston), D’Meitz (Washington D.C.) and Jonny Storm (Miami).
Judged by legendary producer DJ Premier (of Gang Starr), rapper David Banner and up-and-coming Def Jam star Big K.R.I.T., the MCs faced off against each other, freestyling around a selection of words. In round one, the MCs were shown five photos each and given one minute to deliver a fierce freestyle incorporating themes from each of the photos. Photos included unicorns, money, eggs, gorillas, kitchen utensils and dinosaurs.
In round two, fans were asked to text message words for the MCs to incorporate into their freestyles. Words included: wireless, prediction, peach, excrement, fragile, bikini, magic and lawyer, to name a few.
MCs Hostyle and Mic Stew dominated this round by showing they could attack but flow creatively with humor and quick wit. Several punch lines had both the crowd and judges in stitches, notably a crowd favorite from Hostyle, who dropped: “You’re so skinny you got a job as a pinstripe.”
The judges also treated the crowd to performances. “When I was coming up in the battle rap game, there weren’t opportunities like this,” said Banner. “This is serious for these guys -- to get this type of prize and support. If they want to win they need to bring the creativity, showmanship, flows and be original.”
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