Confession: To me, MC battles have been wack like pleated slacks for years. I don't know when it happened (I used to love them in the early 2000s), but at some point, the off-the-dome wordplay and tricky cadence work got lost (or at least seemingly became four-leaf-clover rare) and the wit got shelved in favor of "how many ways can I call you a homosexual" or the ever-popular "things you didn't know about your mother/significant other/baby's mother." Basic shit. People with no sense of rhythm or style—but packing an extensive array of prewritten, memorized punch lines—became champions and encouraged more lames to try their hand. No hate on anyone's grind, but the whole a cappella MC battle network, vast and self-sustaining as it may be, is to me nothing more than a douchebag poetry slam, the shittiest circle of hell imaginable. (Maybe I'm mad because I never did terribly good in them; the champion of Brainstorm 3 once told me I had bugs in my beard, which certain friends of mine will never forget. Years later in Portland, that guy opened for my group, and after hearing his shit, I kinda felt vindicated.) Plus: the crowd. Who are these dudes? And I mean dudes. Bros, even. Total sausagefest. Most females I know are too smart and cool to be around some stunted-growth boys struggling to apply their own insecurities to each other for a shot at some Comcast-bill money. Not saying there's not a wealth of actually classically dope motherfuckers in this world, 'cause there really is; it's just harder to find them, and rarely does any decent music come from them.
The good folks at Red Bull have surely heard my pleas, and have vowed to change my mind on the subject. The Austrian energy drink giant (full disclosure: They have paid me before) has certainly done good by those passionate about music (the Red Bull Music Academy comes to mind), and hiphop in particular (Big Tune, anyone?). The latest hiphop initiative they've given "wings" to is the eight-city Red Bull EmSee series (which hits the Crocodile on Thursday, July 28); they promise a "head-to-head... battle of sight and sound," where combatants won't be able to rely on writtens. Instead, MCs will spit based on "visual cues and words texted to the screen by the judges and audience." The contestants include some of the best off-the-top cats in the NW, like Illmac, Mic Phenom, 9DM, Billy the Fridge, Bishop I, Justis, and KI Design. The host is none other than Underground King Bun B; the judges, who are all performing, are Hieroglyphics flowmaster Casual, Slaughterhouse's venomous LBC rep Crooked I, and Oaktown's heart, the one and only Too $hort—whose name should speak for itself (beeyatch). That night's winner will advance to the finals in Atlanta, and that winner will have his choice of headlining producers in an LA studio to record with. Safe to say it's about to go down. If all of this sounds like a good time, then getting to the Crocodile early is a must, as it's likely to be as sweaty and packed full of dudes as your... see? Too damn easy.