Heat 4 of the 2017 EOW London Emcee challenge was the opposite of heat 3. I labelled that the veterans round ‘cause I’d known most of the emcees for years. Even though this set of emcees were far from new, for some reason I hadn’t seen any of them perform before, except on the open mic at previous heats. When it comes to Hip Hop, music in general, I love being surprised and finding new, dope shit, and that’s what went down in this heat…
1 – The Auracle
The multi-talented Auracle is a singer and writer as well as a lyricist. You can tell when he performs and it’s confirmed when he speaks about music, that his ability as a singer has influenced his listening and his skills. Inspired by legends the like of Q-Tip, Queen Latifah and Guru, this intellectual rhymer enjoys complex wordplay and educating his listeners with the content locked inside. He is also strongly influenced by his musician father and is grateful to have followed those footsteps.
2 – Dalcon
North Londoner Dalcon’s biggest inspiration to start and keep rapping is the personal struggle he’s been through. Writing and spitting bars have been his outlet from the start and you could see on the night that he pours his all into his rhymes, spitting with passion and drive. He’s influenced by the greats, Tupac, Biggie, Wu and Eminem; mix these with his life experience and you get a self-proclaimed ‘crazy motherfucker’!
3 – Mr Lomax
Coming from Wigan, Lomax has been grinding for years to spread the culture and build a scene in his ends, encouraged by the heat he’s seen in Manchester and London. A drummer as well as a spitter, he puts a lot of value on rhythm and flow and describes his lyrics as introspective. Before we spoke he was mad humble, shy even, until we put the camera on him! Then the confidence of a man who knows his own abilities came out and he said he was gonna smash every round! Think what happened when we put a mic in his hand…
4 – Huski88
This brother was a late edition to the line up, signing up the day before. I’d met him at the last heat when he’d been playing keys in the house band, playing with no stand so he could hold his keyboard like a guitar when he felt to. We freestyled for a bit before, so I knew he had skills, and I was looking forward to seeing him take the challenge. When I asked him about his influences, he said his connection with music was a 17 years relationship that he’d spent with a close friend who he gets to know better every year. I thought that was dope.
So like I said, this was the first time I’d seen any of these man perform and from the first round it looked like I’d been sleeping on some serious talent. Mr Lomax kicked it off with some dope shit, ridiculous flows and alliterated wordplay before saying – in the written round – “I’ll freestyle my chorus ‘cause I can” before doing it! It was a dope concept that set the levels and got the crowd hype. Dalcon did his thing here too, getting some nice crowd participation on his hook as spat about battling the constraints of a technologized world. The Auracle also went in, speaking 3 languages in the first 2 bars of his verse, then laid down clever, snappy lines one after another. But the round was taken by Huski88. First, in a tribute to Prodigy (Rest In Power), he’d selected Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth as his beat – and it got a pull up. On the second time he put down a verse centred around oldskool computer games, starting with “my mumsy’s a SNES and my father’s a megadrive”, then when he got to “I’m in a castle, your wife’s blowing my cartridge”, mandem went nuts and he got the second reload. Mas let it be known that this was the first time that’d happened at any EOW contest around the world that he’d seen – it was a madness.
The bar had been set HIGH and them levels carried on into the a cappella round. This round was close, with The Auracle and Huskie88 both dropping bars rammed with intelligent, witty punch lines inside dope flows that had the audience bussing up. Dalcon came with a different angle, speaking on his pain and the obstacles he’s faced in his personal mission. Mr Lomax came out on top though, taking his flow, content and alliteration to a whole next stage. His wordplay was off the hook while critiquing the state of politics we live in and the nihilism it breeds. He went in and it showed again that this had the potential to be the best of 2017 so far.
For these emcees who had smashed the two rounds for writers, the real test was approaching. Black Santa Kissy K drew for his sack and the grab bag round got underway. Genuine freestyle is 100% required for this and the emcees showed their skills. All of them held it down and used the items to entertain. Dalcon and The Auracle did well, but this round saw Mr Lomax and Huskie88 start to move ahead of the competition. Both man’s flows were completely consistent with no breaks or pauses and a lot of confidence. Huskie’s best item was a screwdriver – he never used the word but instead listed uses for it – screwing the caskets shut if someone banged his girl or dissed his mum were among them. Lomax killed it when he pulled out a phone and put it straight in his pocket, narrating all the time and then doing the same with a grinder, saying him and Mas would be…exchanging notes…on some herb after the show.
The serious tests kept coming, with Jazz T – the master of fucking up emcees – behind the wheels ready for the DJ vs Emcee round. All the emcees did well, but Jazz lived up to his rep, tripping up all the emcees at some point. Husky88 kicked it off – a bit overconfidently – offering Jazz out (!!), saying he that he deals with different time signatures all day as a musician, and he did put down some ill 3⁄4 time flows. Mr Lomax came out hard, with a rapid-fire flow on the first beat, but having to stop and say “fucking hell” between cuts. The Auracle was the same, starting and finishing the round with serious lyrics but some big gaps in between and Dalcon finished the round up, holding it up with a mix of frees and writtens, but again, with a few pauses to catch the beats.
DJ vs MC had been pretty even and the cypher round was the same. As usual with this standard of emcee, everyone handled the four bar and pass (just about). The band was bringing some jazzy vibes and the mandem put down some dope freestyles. The cypher nearly turned into a battle but the time ran out for better or worse! The heat was done and again we’d had a very close contest with 2 real standout emcees. The judges had some work to do.
While they did that work the stage was blessed by a group of brothers who are building some real heat on the scene at the moment. Made up of three potent emcees and seasoned Hip Hop heads, Skandouz, Artcha and Dray Styles have all been in the game (E..A..SPORTS) as individuals for a minute but in recent years they have been operating together as FRSHRZ and are making waves. We got to see why as they put down a dope mix of sharp lyrics, raw flows, deep content, strong and clear messages over a variety of riddims, all with a soulful centre. You could see the years of experience as they worked the stage, getting the crowd moving with their tracks, interacting comfortably with each other and the people and dropping heavy a cappellas between tracks. Showing their commitment to the community essence of Hip Hop culture, as well as paying homage to the legends on their track ‘London Posse’, they brought through a young emcee called Daak Martin to perform with them and to do a solo joint, as well as introducing dope soul singer Keesha Simpson; both of them smashed it. The mandem came through with a merch table too, selling FRSHRZ T’s, snapbacks and their latest self-titled EP. Go listen and cop that now, it’s ill.
After FRSHRZ bun it down the judges came back with their verdict. As I said above, yet again the contest was extremely close, but with Mr Lomax coming in second it was Huski88 that advanced to the final on September 15th at Hootanany Brixton. He’ll be joining Menace Mendoza, Dr Koul and Emerge MC alongside whoever wins the last heat on August 31st back upstairs at The Ritzy. This month we’ll be joined by my man Yetizm, a don on the MPC who’ll be lending his skills to the DJ vs Emcee round to put the emcees through their paces. Get down to Brixton this Thursday for another night of heavy lyricism and blessed vibes.