Review: End Of The Weak (@eodub) London Emcee Challenge Heat 1

EOW

On 27 April, the first heat of the 2017 End of the Weak Lon­don Emcee Chal­lenge kicked off in a BIG way upstairs at the icon­ic Ritzy Cinema in Brix­ton. Founder DJ Snuff, ori­gin­al coördin­at­or Kissy K and new organ­izer, former UK champ and world run­ner-up Mas Law opened up the con­test, not only select­ing emcees they know have the skill but for the first time offer­ing emcees from around the UK the oppor­tun­ity to audi­tion to come test them­selves again­st oth­er lyr­i­cists and the deadly rounds of the Emcee Chal­lenge.

For those who don’t know, the EOW emcee chal­lenge was born in New York in 2000, a part of what became the longest run­ning open mic night in the world. The first one con­tained Immor­tal Tech­nique and was won by Webbafied, and the con­test has since fea­tured some of the best under­ground emcees in New York. The con­test aims to evolve the emcee battle bey­ond clash­ing, instead incor­por­at­ing 5 rounds – per­form­ing a writ­ten, spit­ting a capel­la, the free­style grab bag, MC vs DJ and a 4 or 8 bar cypha. Named after what it is, the com­pet­i­tion chal­lenges and pushes emcees to dis­play a range of skils – writ­ing, flow, pro­jec­tion, stage pres­ence, audi­ence engage­ment, genu­ine free­styl­ing and the abil­ity to ride any beat. Any­one who can make it through this con­test without fuck­ing up can at least start to call them­selves a mas­ter of the craft. The con­test has since spread to 25 coun­tries around the world across 5 con­tin­ents, each hold­ing region­al heats then nation­al finals lead­ing to the annu­al EOW World Cham­pi­on­ships that are held in the coun­try selec­ted by the former cham­pi­on. UK emcees – Stig of the Dump (x2) and Jack Flash – won the first 3 of these World Cham­pi­on­ships, so we’ve got ped­i­gree and levels to uphold. They have been in the past, and judging by 2017’s 1st heat, they will be again.

Set­ting the tone for the rest of the com­pet­i­tion, heat 1 con­tained some ser­i­ous tal­ent. What was most inter­est­ing was the vari­ety of styles of those involved, all high­light­ing dif­fer­ent approaches to Hip Hop and to spit­ting.

 

1.Menace Men­d­oza

The ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ mem­ber is a seasoned lyr­i­cist and battle cham­pi­on, win­ning events like Battle Scars over the years. He spits rugged, multi­syl­lab­ic, imagery driv­en lyr­ics, often over raw, dark Wu/JMT inspired pro­duc­tion.

2. Raspect Fyabinghi

This dynam­ic, rebel minded emcee is involved in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent groups, with­in and without music, fully aimed at cre­at­ing change for people of Afric­an ori­gin in par­tic­u­lar and human­ity as a whole. He’s become best known as a pion­eer of revolu­tion­ary Grime

3. Gram­ski

A free­style poet from Brighton, Gram­ski has trav­elled the globe spit­ting bars in clubs, at fest­ivals and on beaches. Hav­ing lived in Viet­nam for years work­ing as a res­id­ent DnB emcee, Gram­ski has per­formed along­side some legendary DJs includ­ing Gol­die

4. Jac­ob

The young­est emcee in the con­test, Jac­ob has been hon­ing his skills for a few years now, writ­ing and cre­at­ing as much as pos­sible aim­ing to make a name for him­self in the UK Hip Hop, UK Rap and Grime scenes.

On the night, the con­test was prop­erly close. All the emcees were mostly con­sist­ent across each round but shone in dif­fer­ent areas. Men­ace and Raspect stood out in the writ­ten round, with Men­ace per­form­ing char­ac­ter­ist­ic com­plex and cinegraph­ic lyr­ic­sm over a gritty instru­ment­al, while Raspect took the roof off with his under­ground Grime banger ‘Tendai Mwari’. Raspect kept that level up on the a capel­la round with a heart­felt verse ded­ic­ated to his broth­ers who are locked up and who have passed on. It was a dif­fi­cult per­form­ance to beat, but Gram­ski stepped up and did it. With the let­ters ‘M’ and ‘C’ writ­ten on his right hand he spat a machine gun flow using 90% words that began with those 2 let­ters. This weren’t no empty gim­mick – everything he said made com­plete sense, was artic­u­lated per­fectly and expressed what he feels it is to be an MC. This was prob­ably the bad­dest per­form­ance of the whole heat.

In the next round, the Black Santa Kissy K brought out his grab bag and Men­ace Men­d­oza stepped up in a ser­i­ous way. Liv­ing up to his ali­as The Urb­an Yeti, Men­ace come out hard, nev­er break­ing the stride of his flow and using the objects he pulled to pro­duce some ser­i­ous raps, not just focused on the tools but going bey­ond them – start­ing and end­ing the round chant­ing ‘What the fuck you got in the bag Kissy’!!

In the MC vs DJ round, DJ Snuff did his best to test the emcees flex­ib­il­ity, drop­ping Jungle, Grime, Hip Hop, Trap, Afrobeats, some instru­ment­al shit and more. Each man mostly dealt with it, but Jac­ob and again Men­ace being the most con­sist­ent. The young emcee in par­tic­u­lar looked at ease on the range of beats, espe­cially the news­kool Wavy and Trap shit, while the battle vet drew on his own back­ground of free­styl­ing over DnB to stand firm. The cypha round con­cluded the chal­lenge with all the emcees kick­ing 4 bars in rota­tion, with every man doing their thing.

While the judges delib­er­ated, Mas Law come out to per­form rid­dims off his new album ‘Water­ship Down’. Nam­ing his album after the beloved (and viol­ent as fuck) nov­el and anim­a­tion – Mas goaded the crowd to ‘fol­low the rab­bit’ as he ran through tracks. Show­cas­ing his own ver­sat­il­ity (as you’d expect from an EOW cham­pi­on), the tun­es were on a wide vari­ety of top­ics and styles of pro­duc­tion. The biggest was the final track ‘EA Sports’ “I’m in the game” that got the crowd and his New Guardz fam going mad– watch for that one when it drops!! The house band then opened up the mic to oth­er artists in the build­ing, with Soul sing­er Femi San­ti­ago and 2 sis­ters (who’s names I don’t know!) stand­ing out among­st the emcees.

After delib­er­at­ing, the judges on the night announced the win­ner. With a gap of just 2 points Men­ace Men­d­oza took the win, with Raspect com­ing in 2nd. Men­ace was right­fully rewar­ded for his con­sist­ent high level across the 5 rounds. How close the dif­fer­ence between first and second was showed just how high the bar had been set and how deep Menace’s per­form­ance had been to come out on top. Men­ace will now enter the UK final – to be held in August – where he’ll com­pete for a place in the 2017 World Final, this year held in Prague, Czech Repub­lic.

Places are still open for the next few heats, so if you think you can com­pete and want the chance to per­form in Prague, con­tact EOW Lon­don on one of the socials below. Heat 2 is on May 25th, along­side EOW fam­ily mem­ber Con­sensus’ album launch. See the fly­er under­neath for the details.

eow2

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

An emcee, beat­maker, film­maker and writer from Lon­don with Gren­adian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learn­ing and liv­ing Hip Hop cul­ture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and reg­u­larly tour­ing the globe, Apex is well trav­elled, and uses the les­sons this provides to inform his art and out­look. He is a mem­ber of the Glob­al­Fac­tion digit­al pro­duc­tion house and the inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop col­lect­ive End of the Weak.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
An emcee, beatmaker, filmmaker and writer from London with Grenadian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learning and living Hip Hop culture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and regularly touring the globe, Apex is well travelled, and uses the lessons this provides to inform his art and outlook. He is a member of the GlobalFaction digital production house and the international Hip Hop collective End of the Weak.