WARNING: RAP BATTLES FEATURE TONS OF CURSING, OFFENSIVE MATERIAL AND BLATANT SEXISM, RACISM AND ESPECIALLY HOMOPHOBIA. NOT FOR THE WEAK STOMACHED, SENSITIVE, UPSTANDING, CONSCIONABLE OR PRINCIPLED.
Time for my waaay-overdue review/play-by-play of the final rounds of the second annual World Rap Championship in New York City. Refresher: Portland MC Illmaculate and Cali's The Saurus have thus far dominated the competition, and Jumpoff.tv has announced that half of its video footage was stolen just before the final battle. It's all kinda sketchy, but there's still $40,000 on the line for the winning team ("But Casey, I thought this was a $50,000 rap battle?" Apparently the runner-up gets ten grand, too.), so let us proceed.
Finals, Round 2: Illmac and The Saurus vs. Quest McCody and Marvone
This should really be called semi-finals, as the winner proceeds to take on Frankie Wapps and Jaze Juice, from New York, for the real final round. All these rounds are comprised of the best of three battles (oh, and there are no beats, if this is your first time watching the WRC). If there's a tie, they go into overtime. You'll see plenty of that.
Personally, this was my most highly anticipated battle. McCody and Marv retain a rhythm that a lot of MCs lack in Jumpoff's beatless battle style, and these guys' bars are aggressive, hilarious and incredibly timed. You already know how I feel about Illmac and The Saurus. Round one, let's go!
Right off the bat, Marv hands "Yo music sucks, you're better suited for karaoke" over to McCody, who adds an extra dis for The Saurus: "You look like a scary oak tree (sound it out) from a Scooby Doo mystery." Of course, Ill and Saurus jump back with the fury and rattle off a never ending stream of fat jokes. But McCody and Marvwon aren't easily phased (as evidenced by their expressions). They just get fucking mean. But where earlier contenders would have lost their punchlines while blinded by rage, team Detroit keeps on killin' it. "You a homo activist," McCody says to Illmac before turning to Saurus and adding "You know Manolo fashion tips
. He yell go-go faggot shit and use his low-blow action grip." Relentless homophobia aside, the great poets would appreciate the cadence, phrasing and rhythm those words. It's a filthy, beautiful thing.
Before the round is over, Illmac stutters and The Saurus picks him up again: "Hold up, you're talking about Spin the Mic [another MC Battle]/ Cause that takes me back, dog/ Ain't he that broad that got stomped by the Maniac Squad?" That kills McCody's flow until he starts repeating lines, but Marv gets his back. "He's half Mexican, half Polish. When they get half-breeds in Oregon? He doesn't know if he should be shakin' some maracas or playing an accordian." Now that's personal. Quest McCody and Marvwon take the surprise lead after an energetic round of overtime.
Illmac has been lagging throughout the competition until the second section of this battle, when he unleashes "Your rap's soft/ Go back to the hotel and jack off/ You need to read a book on diet and fitness/ 'Cause breakfast lunch and dinner's the only time he's ambitious/ He looks at every meal like the sky is the limit." The Saurus chips in: "You look at McDonald's/ No need to wonder why they're in business." Illmac stumbles over his last lines, opening the door to another slamming from Quest and Marv. McCody starts: "Illmaculate, you're more than a little coochie/ He just mad cause his bitch look like Lil' Boosie/ And that bitch would eat dookie for a loosey
and a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity
/ This cat drove here from Portland in his little hooptie/ Wearin a little koofy
/ Backing that ass up bumpin' to lil' Juvie." But it's Marvwon's dis on Saurus (whose very face is a constant target) that's most memorable: "He played you like a true slut/ You had it cool where you grew up/ You was the man with the junkies 'til your meth lab blew up."
Even though Illmaculate gets held up on some verses, the judges and audience react to the immediacy of his rhyming process. When Marv waves off an insult with his right hand, Mac catches the gesture and comments immediately: "You droppin' it weak/ Stop it. You're street?/ [impersonating Marvone's hand motion] This is the most exercise hes gotten in weeks." It's not the power of the rhyme, but the real-time reaction that flips the crowd out. And it intensifies the pressure on Quest and Marv to craft their verses with similar spontaneity. They don't, losing the plot exactly where they need the momentum. Aside from McCody's not-at-all-an-insult "Portland Oregon, Surprise Surprise/ He ain't like Jordan/ He grew up watching Clyde the Glide." The regular round should have been enough to propel Saurus and Illmac to victory, but they go to overtime instead. And Quest and Marv don't have a lot of verses to fill their 90 seconds, choosing instead to drop a variety of references to cartoons from the late-'80s. Illmac returns the Clyde Drexler joke by calling team Detroit "gayer than Christian Laettner
." Then Saurus finally breaks Detroit's facade by saying Marv looks like "the Kool Aid man, in grape flavor," initiating tears of joy from the token reaction-shot guy, and is pretty clearly the
reason Illmac and Saurus take the victory.
There's a noticeable drop in sound quality for this third battle, with lines coming in and out of audibility. Nonetheless, the increased intensity both brings out the best and worst in the competing MCs. Illmac and Saurus start strong, but their second sequence is confusing and unintentionally psychedelic (Illmac busts the baffling "This motherfucker should change his name to Urgh/ Cause that's the sound of frustration"). Leading into the Detroit team's final verses, there seems to be no clear winner. Then they start in on the Full House/Family Matters references.
Here are some of the finer points of Illmac and The Saurus' last stand:
Illmac: I hate these bitches, you could call me a chauvinist. If he was in prison he'd be looking for some soap to grip.
Saurus: He's looking for some soap to grip/ But he tries to play it like it's accidental/ Play it off like 'Oh, it slipped.'
Illmac: You think this team's fucking fresher?/ You only beat us if you're clever/ And I think they're gonna forget their pre-written phrase under pressure.
I gotta say, hard as I root for the home team, McCody and Marvwon seem to have legitimate gripes at the end of the tape here. They should have wound up in the final round against Illmac and Saurus, because these battles are way more live than the Wapps/Juice battles that follow (you'll see). But more importantly, the team that goes second in the final segment won both previous overtimes, and here that trend continues. Many of Jumpoff's users have called the judging into question, as do McCody and Marv in the post-battle interview segments. Quest insists that he saw the scorer's sheet and that the battle should have gone to overtime. The Detroit team's frustration is understandable anyway, because earlier in the day Jumpoff officials interfered with the results of one of their battles, prompting suspicion at this later juncture.
Now, let me remind you that I witnessed last year's (comparatively modest) WRC in person. By the end of last year's Las Vegas finals, judges had flaked and some MCs were unhappy with the results of previous battles. Victory rings were brought out after the final battle, and when it was noted that they had "U.S.A." engraved on them, the British MCs asked Jumpoff officials, "Did you get one that said 'U.K.' on it, too?" Those shenanigans combined with this year's tape-theft fiasco and McCody and Marv's complaints is enough to worry that the WRC's shortcomings are more than just growing pains. I'm not saying there's a conspiracy going on here, but the competition, for all its improvements, was still a small-scale operation and generally mismanaged. It isn't my $50,000, so I'm not killing myself over it, but hopefully they learn some lessons for next year out of this whole fiasco. Jumpoff.tv should still be applauded for building an entirely different kind of rap battle from scratch.
With that, we march on:
Finals, Round Three: Illmac and The Saurus vs. Frankie Wapps and Jaze Juice
At this point, the MCs have been battling for an entire day, they are visibly tired. See what I mean?
Illmac seems like the only one with energy left to burn, though he starts slowing about halfway though (when we see The Saurus getting extra dope). Still, some great lines get delivered, however sloppily. Find 'em yourself.
By now the energy is really out of the room. They're talking about the stolen tapes, everyone is bummed. Sheesh. Most depressing WRC EVER. The Saurus spits something super suspicious that I originally thought meant they had re-filmed the entire final three battles: "I guess we're making a new video/ And while it might be shitty, bro/ At least some fucking paper is what they'll eventually give me though." After watching farther along I'm convinced that's not the case. Still, despite the fact that tapes went missing, one would assume there'd be more energy in a battle for $40,000. I guess shit got pretty messy. Anyway, everyone looks depressed, and Illmac is having trouble getting the lines out until his home state is insulted, then he goes on a streak:
"Yeah, Oregone—I stay in Portland, bitch/ No offense, but anyone from Portland is twice as hard as a fake New Yorker is/ For real, 'cause I got timin'/ You're not hard or from Yonkers, you're from the most non-violent part of Long Island/ You're not hard, stop tryin'/ This motherfucker was caught cryin' when he saw Bambi's mom dyin'/ Motherfucker, Illmaculate's tough/ I'ma start hackin' 'em up/ It's good that you took a break from tappin' his butt to go practice your stuff."
Jaze Juice's line to Saurus, "You sound stupid when spittin'/ I heard Greeks invented sex/ But Italians introduced it to women," goes into the All-Time Classic Homophobic and Just Generally Offensive
lines of the competition category. It's probably the line that put them over the top, 'cause Jaze and Frankie took this battle.
Did anybody else get the Brinks Home Security ad before this battle? That's weird. Were the folks at Brinks thinking upper-middle class folks would watch Jumpoff and get freaked out about their personal safety? These battle threats are all metaphors, people!
First off, I have an incredibly high ignorance threshold (I grew up in a small town), but Juice's "He has sex with gays/ And then right afterwards he'll ingest the AIDS," is pretty god damn ignorant. Additionally, it's a poorly delivered line. But anyone who infers that AIDS came from gays in 2007/2008 is kinda retarded. Mind you, I haven't been irked by the avalanche of homophobia up to this point. Whether or not it's my thing, I accept that it's a battle rap stand by. But the AIDS thing is pretty dumb.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but this final round should have been held on a different day. That would be an organizational nightmare (hip-hop folks aren't usually the most punctual, organized people, so getting all the judges back could prove a challenge).
Saurus and Illmac snap into action about seven minutes into the battle. Illmac: "Look at these fuckin' slobs/ You're destined to work construction jobs/ But at least you like screwing nuts and rods." Jaze and Frankie pretty much stop trying after that, or they're just exhausted, and Illmac and Saurus's retorts aren't much better.
So the competition ends on an awkward note, but Illmaculate and Saurus are indeed crowned champions once again. The Saurus is rightly given the crown for Most Valuable Rapper (I know, it's weird. They even have a fantasy league for this shit!) and the rings are awarded. Everyone is so busted that they don't even bother with wrap-up interviews.
Illmac on MySpace
Earlier Entry on Illmac and Saurus at the second WRC
My endgame coverage of last year's WRC
Graphic courtesy of Jumpoff.