Heat 2 of the 2017 End of the Weak London Emcee Challenge went down at the end of May at it’s current home upstairs at The Ritzy cinema in Brixton, as newest organiser Mas Law continued the search for the new UK Champ. After the serious levels set in heat 1 – won by Menace Mendoza – the pressure was on for the next line up of emcees. Mas had secured a set of challengers from around the country…and one from a little bit further.
1 Blackk Chronical
Blackk Chronical has been honing his craft for years now and has done it under the watch of some of the UK’s best emcees. As the younger brother of Phoenix Da IceFire he has been able to watch and learn from and then collaborate with Triple Darkness, and he’s used this opportunity to help define his style – mixing it with Grime and other influences. He has supported Dead Prez, Onyx, Big Daddy Kane and more over the years.
2 Lazy Eyes
Originally coming from Cornwall, Lazy Eyes is a young emcee from the south-west of England who has a solid Boom-Bap style with a west country twang. Now based in Bristol, he’s been working the Hip Hop and live scenes, creating a buzz and a name for himself as a solo artist and as part of his crew ‘Pupils of the Clock’.
3 Gabriel Blacksmith
South Londoner Gabriel Blacksmith started as a Garage emcee, later slowing the tempo down to express himself more in his bars. A regular on the open mic scene of London, especially at the renowned Higher Learning, he is a lyricist with a strong Christian message, one that he has clearly researched beyond the King James version of the Bible and that he is dedicated to.
4 Dr Koul
Originally from Switzerland, Dr Koul is an established part of his home scene. He has been associated with the Swiss EOW for years but is now based in Brighton. Having grown up in a Hip Hop culture dominated by emcees spitting in French and German, he has taken the opportunity that moving to the UK has given him to enter EOW UK, being able to finally compete in his mother tongue of English to an audience who fully understands.
The emcee challenge kicked off in the traditional way, with all the emcees performing written bars on their own beats. All the emcees established and represented their own styles early on. Blackk Chronical came with some dark, raw, hype shit, Lazy Eyes with some laid back, witty Boom-Bap, Gabriel Blacksmith put in some intricately flowed spiritual bars on a Gospel sounding beat and Dr Koul flowed over a soulful, jazzy vibe, interacting with the crowd, encouraging their participation.
The levels looked pretty even going into the a capella round, the lyricists round, where the difference in the styles and philosophies of the emcees became a lot clearer. Gabriel Blacksmith kept spreading his gospel, highlighting the connection between the Biblical Israelites and the African diaspora and offering his ideas on how to live your life. Some of his strong views clearly rubbed up some people the wrong way, as Kissy Kay shouted loudly “there’s so much tension in this room!”. Lazy Eyes started kicking his written, with his sharp, smart lyrics, and when he tripped up, he kept the level up with a freestyle that sounded written. Blackk Chronical came with some lessons for those on road and some of the pitfalls of that life. Dr Koul really took this round though. Clear, direct and insightful lyrics about things he’s learned and things we can do to improve the world around us. He also switched in to a double time flow that raised the vibe up; he went in.
Next was Kissy K’s cameo as Black Santa for the grab bag round. All the emcees held it up, kicking bars triggered by the items and kept consistent flows. Lazy Eyes stood out, it was effortless for him and he kept the humour of his style in it. So did Dr Koul, managing to still get in bits of his political message, he narrated all his actions and everything happening around him and used each item to play a part in it – plus he kept the flow funky, matching the vibe of the house band.
Jazz T was back on the wheels for the Emcee vs DJ round. As Mas said, the brother makes it HARD for the emcees. I’ve seen him throw beats in 3⁄4 or 6/8, or with no drums and random sounds on mans. He kept his reputation in this heat, and he started by giving Blackk Chronical some crazy things to deal with. The brother kept his flow near enough constant, but he had a small break between 2 beats. Gabriel Blacksmith still kept his Christian message running through this round, moving from what sounded like a written and then having to move to a free, but the transition was smooth. The same technique was used by Lazy Eyes and it had the same effect – his double time tempo bars were dope and the man even matched his flow to the scratches that Jazz through in. He also had a little break to catch the flow of one beat and that maybe cost him the round, because again, Dr Koul came out strongest. He didn’t trip once – moving from funk, to DnB tempo shit easily, with Jazz T making random drops, cuts and all sorts – he killed it foreal.
The cypher round was pretty equal. I feel like anyone who enters EOW should be able to do this comfortably and all these man did. Just dope freestyles over the dope live band.
While the results were calculated, EOW family member Consensus performed his newest album ConCERNed in full. Now, if you’ve got a good eye, the central theme of the album is in the title. Over 2 years, Consensus has studied quantum physics and used what he’s learned to write an album describing the complexities of the scientific explanation of the universe in language that Hip Hop heads and kids from London can understand. During the process, he was approached by CERN, the owners of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland – most famous for discovering the Higgs Boson particle a few years ago. CERN have helped to fund the project, Consensus has used it to teach kids science and he will be releasing a book alongside the album. It’s a serious achievement and his performance was fitting for the scale of his accomplishment. Playing nearly every tune, spitting over all different styles of Hip Hop’s branches – from Boom-Bap, to Trap, to Grime. He talks about God particles and black holes, and most notable compares the collision of matter and anti-matter to rival gangs warring on road. Go check the album here – it’s serious:
After we’d been schooled about the fabric of the universe, the band did their thing, opening up the mic for any artists and singers in the building. The stand out performer this month was a young sister with an incredible soulful voice. She goes by the name of Chinasa Vil-Brown – go find her and listen for yourself.
The judges had compared score sheets and the results were added up, the winner was announced. The EOW Emcee Challenge is all about consistency over the 5 rounds, and with that principle as the main factor Dr Koul came out the clear winner. He hadn’t made a mistake in any part – he clearly enjoyed spitting to an audience who could properly listen to him. He’d made a good decision to enter in the UK and now joins Menace Mendoza in the UK final.
The next heat is coming up this Thursday 29th June, still upstairs at The Ritzy in Brixton. I’ll be performing this month, showcasing tracks of my new EP ‘All and Nothing’. Alongside me will be my brother Jackson Turner, a dope emcee, activist and sound engineer from New York City who has been based in Beijing for a while. Come down for some raw Hip Hop, we gonna get the mosh poppin’.