Review: END OF THE WEAK LDN (@eodub) UK FINAL !

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After 5 crazy heats, where the level of free­style and lyr­i­cism has been off the chain, Mas Law, DJ Snuff and Kissy K had found 5 cham­pi­ons to com­pete for the coveted title of End of the Weak Emcee Chal­lenge UK Cham­pi­on 2017. Hav­ing wit­nessed each heat myself, I can tell you that each of these cham­pi­ons had thor­oughly earned and truly deserved their place in this final and the oppor­tun­ity to com­pete for their place at the 2017 EOW World Finals in Prague again­st the best free­stylers the EOW inter­na­tion­al com­munity has to offer. After see­ing off com­pet­i­tion from 14 oth­er ridicu­lous emcees over the last 6 months, the cham­pi­ons of each heat and UK final­ists were:

Heat 1 Cham­pi­on: Men­ace Men­d­oza

Heat 2 Cham­pi­on: Dr Koul

Heat 3 Cham­pi­on: Emerge MC

Heat 4 Cham­pi­on: Huski88

Heat 5 Cham­pi­on: Watusi87

A couple days before the UK Final at Hootan­nay Brix­ton on Septem­ber 28th, Mas Law announced that 2016 UK Cham­pi­on and World Final 4th place taker Gee Bag would be enter­ing the final to defend his crown. This added an extra dynam­ic to the event…anyone who was gon­na take the title would have to defeat not only 4 oth­er heat champs but the cur­rent UK champ…the pres­sure had been turned up.

Before the event even star­ted the ven­ue was nearly full. Mer­ci­ful Music’s monthly fusion of Jazz, Hip Hop, Reg­gae, Jungle, Afrobeats and more draw audi­o­philes and party­go­ers from across the world reg­u­larly, so it was the per­fect spot for the Emcee Chal­lenge. While the ven­ue got busier and the buzz star­ted build­ing, I inter­viewed the final­ists for Glob­al­Fac­tion and you could see that they were all focused and ready for the con­test. Each handled the situ­ation in dif­fer­ent ways, some cool and calm, oth­ers gass­ing them­selves up, some had stud­ied their oppon­ents, oth­ers had delib­er­ately not, but they all knew what any­one who’d seen the heats knew…this was gon­na be a close and ser­i­ous com­pet­i­tion.

By the time the final got star­ted, Mas and Kissy had been warm­ing up the crowd nicely and intro­duced the judges, Peaches, Femi San­ti­ago, Skandouz from FRSHRZ and Con­Sensus – 4 heads who all know their way round a mic. The stage was set and the first round could get under­way.

Round 1 — Track

All the emcees went hard but they also dis­played how dif­fer­ent their styles are. The final­ists came out in heat win­ning order, so Men­ace Men­d­oza kicked off pro­ceed­ings bar­ring over Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth (RIP Prodigy) and set the level HIGH. With char­ac­ter­ist­ic com­plex­ity and con­tent, Men­ace walked the bal­ance between raw­ness and insight, he looked like he was rap­ping on the edge. He burned the beat and then went a cap­pel­la to fin­ish his verse when he ran over time and the crowd showed their appre­ci­ation. Dr Koul stepped up next, put­ting some soul­ful flows over a soul­ful pro­duc­tion. Rap­ping about his eth­ni­city and views, he spat about spit­ting out any sil­ver spoon he was born with and threw one into the crowd to demon­strate his point. Emerge MC showed just how far he’s come as a lyr­i­cist, spit­ting a verse that encap­su­lated his style; intel­lec­tu­al, road, funny, out­ward look­ing while intro­spect­ive in equal meas­ure. Huskie88 spat punch­line after punch­line, mix­ing cock­i­ness with per­cept­ive­ness to have the crowd react­ing a good few seconds after he dropped a gem and had them bus­sing up and whil­ing out at the end of his verse. Watusi87 came with the style he embod­ies – soul­ful, uncom­prom­ising truth wrapped up in an effort­less, nat­ur­al flow that had the audi­ence clearly con­tem­plat­ing things at the same time as just enjoy­ing the vibe. Then came the rein­ing champ Gee Bag with his smooth, suave flow sit­ting like a sax­o­phone in the groove of his jazzy boom­bap beat, pla­cing whitty, ear-catch­ing lines into the listen­ers ears. Gee got a wild recep­tion from his homet­own south Lon­don crowd and the first round showed imme­di­ately that if there’d been any doubt, this final was gon­na be a mad­ness.

Round 2 – A Cap­pel­la

The lyr­i­cist round. No dope beats or vibes to hide behind, just you and the mic. Now, most emcees will come with a care­fully craf­ted bar and that’s usu­ally the way to win this round. But com­ing back in reverse order Gee Bag took a next approach. He stepped up and put down a fire free­style, ref­er­en­cing things in the room from the smoke from the smoke machine and myself (behind my cam­era) and ripped it, barely break­ing stride. It could have been a verse most emcees are proud of writ­ing, all of the top of the dome. The rest of the man­dem came with a more tra­di­tion­al approach. Watusi88 came with a dope con­cept, focus­ing his words on the let­ters P R A G U and E (if you don’t clock it the jokes on you). He stumbled a little bit at the start but saved it and the con­cept alone deserves props. Huski88 came back with his trade­mark style “I came out of the blue like a Smurf bred me” one of many crazy lines in a verse of dope word­play. Emerge MC and Dr Koul repped in the way I like to see in this round. The Ginger Gen­er­al came with a deep verse called ‘A Let­ter to Me’ about bat­tling his demons and respons­ib­il­it­ies, point­ing out his flaws and strengths and try­ing to fix his life with a blunt, straight to the point flow. The Swiss born emcee pro­duced some spir­itu­ally and polit­ic­ally charged social com­ment­ary about life’s struggles and try­ing to remain hope­ful and mobil­ized towards mak­ing change. Men­ace came back on stage with his raw­ness and multis, call­ing out dead emcees while drop­ping some real­ity raps about those deprived in the UK. Every man smashed it and the level was maintained…this was way too close to call so far.

Round 3 – Grab Bag

The Black Santa Kissy K pulled out his bag of…acquired goods ready for the freestly­ing to prop­erly kick off. Emcees HAVE TO go off the head in this round and it’s no easy task. Huskie88 kicked it off in style, unflinch­ing with a con­sist­ent flow and no breaks, rhym­ing about 2 DVDs, a can of sweet corn and a hack­saw! ‘I’m a sociopath and evil, don’t talk to me feeble, I’ll use this to cut off both of your legs and we’ll no longer be equal, there will be no sequal”. Dope! Emerge held the levels up, bar­ring about an Ill­mat­ic vinyl sleeve, a feather dust­er, some kinda air freshen­er and a little trophy. He spat that it was a sign ‘writ­ten in the cards, free­style no writ­ten with the bars, Cham­pi­on give me the crown, I’ll pack my suit­case, 2 shoelace, tooth­pas­te, I’m going to Prague with these bars. Fire! Gee Bag stepped up next and went in. Nearly every rhyme was a mul­ti, and that aint easy for a freestlye, about instant cof­fees, an oven lighter, a bottle of water and some after­shave. He read the ingredi­ents off the cof­fee jar and spat about spray­ing the aftershave…downstairs! Dr Koul fol­lowed rhym­ing about hair­spray, a beer can, an ice cube hold­er and a mug – dropped in that he was sip­pin’ on his tea – appeal­ing to the UK audi­ence. Watusi88 put flows down about 2 magazines, a Prague guide­book and an apple. His best line was ‘I go deep like the core, deep­er than before, deep­er than you’ve ever seen before, might take a bite, tastes kinda nice’ – he bit that apple then was freestly­ing with a mouth full of apple! Mad­ness! Last came Men­ace Men­d­oza, and he took the round. He came through ter­ror­iz­ing Kizzy, rob­bing his bag and telling him to get off the stage, then went on to do the whole round by him­self – he turned ‘the bag grab to a bag snatch’!! He spat about a clock, some linger­ie ‘my girl wouldn’t fit in this, she’s way too big, batty’s too big and crisp’, toi­let wipes and a plate. He killed it, a dope idea and pulled it off per­fectly.

Round 4 – Emcee vs DJ

Legendary DJ Jazz T can be an emcees greatest asset if he spins for you, puts cuts down on your track, pro­du­cers your beats and more, but in this round he’s an MC Kil­la, it’s the work of a Mas­ta. See­ing as it was the final man didn’t hold back. Gee Bag was up first and came in hard, double time flow again laced with multis, he slowed the flow down flaw­lessly as Jazz switched it. Gee’s flow is crazy and he hit up every track like it was a record­ing before going in with pure free­style a cap­pel­la until Mas had to stop him, man coulda gone all night! Huski87 went next and threw down the chal­lenge to Jazz T – ‘I’m a musi­cian by trade so I’m train­ing, so I don’t mind what you’re giv­ing, I mess with time sig­na­tures for a liv­ing, I’ll burst any rid­dim’. He star­ted off doing just that, going in with dope lyr­ics and flows, but then he slurred a couple lines, stopped and said he’s failed. He came back in hard but it was the first slip up he’d made all night, say­ing ‘Jazz T – you need pray­er’! Dr Koul killed this round in the heat and he did here too. Spit­ting before the first beat even dropped, he caught it per­fectly and then kept com­ing with his laid back, funky flow, match­ing the beats that Jazz served up. From slow to double time and back, he went in on one nice horn driv­en beat, on a kinda spoken word tip that sat nice in the rhythm – it was dope. Men­ace came back on the stage with a brandy going in on a boom bap beat, then got given a dope 80s elec­tro beat and matched the flow after a tiny pause. Jazz then dropped him a slow beat that he opened up on with nuff room to freestlye – you could see he enjoyed it. Watusi88 got blessed with a dope jazzy joint that matches his style. He was in his ele­ment, then Jazz switched it into a next boom bap clas­sic and upped the speed stead­ily. Watusi matched it as the tem­po went all the way up like a mas­ter, then Jazz dropped in some glitchy beat that kinda caught him off guard. He recovered nicely though and got through to the end unhurt. Emerge came through lastly, going in over a Jeh­st clas­sic, say­ing ‘I’m the champ’ – run­ning with his early proph­ecy. Jazz star­ted cut­ting up the rid­dim, throw­ing Emerge off, so he turned it to a battle and told Jazz to bring it. Jazz gave him some DnB that he handled with ease but then Jazz put down some­thing at a mad awk­ward tem­po, Emerge hes­it­ated a bit until he caught it but he did it, fin­ish­ing the round strong. Jazz T had put every man to task and they’d held it up. The con­test was still ridicu­lously close going into the final round.

Round 5 – Cypher

This round is all about kick­ing off the last emcees word, the 4 bar cypher round. It’s import­ant to make it clear that the spir­it of EOW is unity through com­pet­i­tion, this is not a battle round. However…with a lot on the line, testoster­one and adren­aline pump­ing, it aint always easy to keep it that way! With emcees of this level with battle his­tory it was always gon­na be on the brink. From the first round, the flows and bars were wild…there was a few subtle cocky lines that pushed the bound­ar­ies. By the 2nd time round man­dem were bat­tling and full blown diss­ing. I can’t lie, it was DOPE! Some of the punch­lines were ridicu­lous, like a lyr­ic­al all-on-all. Only a couple man weren’t send­ing for oth­ers and I think that might have influ­enced the judging of the final res­ult.

A big reas­on why this round aint a battle is because the kind of emcee we nor­mally get in EOW aint the types of dudes to get dissed and not do some­thing about it…this aint a middle class Hip Hop organ­iz­a­tion, cer­tain heads are rough. Things did get a bit heated, but in the true fash­ion of Hip Hop and EOW it all got straightened out and everything was love after a few minutes.

While the judges got on with adding up the scores, the rest of us were treated to some more high caliber musi­cian­ship. Mas Law, backed by a ridicu­lous lineup in his band ‘The Masses’ stepped to the stage, adding a beau­ti­ful live dynam­ic to Mas’s already ener­get­ic stage pres­ence and lyr­i­cism. Mas and The Masses were fol­lowed by a crazy duo of musician/producers Blue Lab Beats drop­ping some ridicu­lous live Jazz infused Hip Hop, as the name hints at. After that, my mind was blown by the music of Theon Cross and his tuber, sax and drum trio. The level of skill and innov­a­tion the three brought to the stage was insane. They had the whole crowd mov­ing with a mix of ori­gin­al com­pos­i­tions and cov­ers, includ­ing I Wayne’s ‘Can’t Sat­is­fy Her’. If you’re inter­ested in real music and real tal­ent, keep your ear out for all three of these groups.

After lit­er­ally hours of delib­er­a­tion, the judges put their scores in. The totals were stu­pidly close, but it showed how much skill these emcees have and had dis­played on the night. I’ve been attend­ing EOW events since they first came to the UK, I’ve been to nearly all the UK Finals and a few World Finals. This was hands down the best com­pet­i­tion I’ve seen so far. Every emcee should be proud of what they put down on the night and know that they are mas­ters of our craft. But there had to be a win­ner and the final res­ults looked like this:

1st – Gee Bag

2nd – Men­ace Men­d­oza

3rd – Huskie87

2016 cham­pi­on Gee Bag suc­cess­fully retained his title after con­sist­ently killing each round. His flow, lyr­ics and free­style abil­ity – high­lighted in the a cap­pel­la round espe­cially – showed how roun­ded he is as an emcee and how as well as being a lyr­i­cist, he’s an enter­tain­er with the abil­ity to draw in an audi­ence. I think cru­cially, refrain­ing from the battle that burst out in the cypher round also helped him win, and I don’t mean for that to take away from his vic­tory. Gee deserved his win and I know he’s going to be prop­erly focused on tak­ing that glob­al title in the UK Finals in Prague on Octo­ber 28th. Keep locked in to I Am Hip Hop for the res­ults and – if you’re prop­erly on it – we’ll see you in Prague.

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been express­ing his anti-polit­ic­al views and extend­ing his work towards defin­ing, inspir­ing and cre­at­ing last­ing change through Hip Hop for over a dec­ade. Apex has been work­ing with grass­roots and mil­it­ant organ­isa­tions, edu­cat­ing him­self and oth­ers, organ­ising and build­ing towards over­turn­ing the oppress­ive mech­an­ism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s under­ground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omni­scient. Years of earn­ing respect and enhan­cing their repu­ta­tion, which lead to col­lab­or­a­tions and work­ing rela­tion­ships with many of the scenes most prom­in­ent artists and organ­isa­tions, mani­fes­ted in the Octo­ber 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Real­ity Pro­vok­ing Lib­er­a­tion’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hard­core Hip Hop’ gathered inter­na­tion­al acclaim from both fans and crit­ics, fur­ther enhan­cing Apex’s repu­ta­tion as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-polit­ic­al, ‘revolu­tion­ary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been trav­el­ling out­side of the UK, seek­ing new per­spect­ives and aim­ing at enhan­cing his out­look, explor­ing dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies, con­nect­ing with Hip Hop heads, act­iv­ists and schol­ars world­wide. Like his music, his writ­ing is often an exten­sion of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whil­st enhan­cing and elev­at­ing both the cul­ture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been expressing his anti-political views and extending his work towards defining, inspiring and creating lasting change through Hip Hop for over a decade. Apex has been working with grassroots and militant organisations, educating himself and others, organising and building towards overturning the oppressive mechanism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s underground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omniscient. Years of earning respect and enhancing their reputation, which lead to collaborations and working relationships with many of the scenes most prominent artists and organisations, manifested in the October 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Reality Provoking Liberation’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hardcore Hip Hop’ gathered international acclaim from both fans and critics, further enhancing Apex’s reputation as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-political, ‘revolutionary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been travelling outside of the UK, seeking new perspectives and aiming at enhancing his outlook, exploring different societies, connecting with Hip Hop heads, activists and scholars worldwide. Like his music, his writing is often an extension of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whilst enhancing and elevating both the culture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.