The final heat of End of the Weak 2017 emcee challenge went down on the 31st August, as Mas Law and DJ Snuff’s search for a UK champion moved closer to its end. The last opportunity to complete in the UK Final to rep the UK in the World Finals in Prague in October up for grabs, the competition was fierce. With a last minute drop out, we had three dope emcees ready to take that spot…
Representing the Hen Daddy Whirl crew, the NW LDN emcee is a student of the art form. After having been inspired to touch mic by pirate radio and raves of the Garage scene, A Princz went back and studied his predecessors and hails Rakim “the father of lyricism”, Big L, Big Pun, Biggie, Nas and Jay Z among his influences, he sets his standards high. He’s also inspired by post-apocalyptic sci-fi and in his own words likes to talk about “how the world is going to shit”.
An internationally established artist, Aynzli Jones’ own work and his collaborations with some of the biggest names in music are far reaching, and once you meet him you see why. This brother came through with more energy than anyone I’ve ever interviewed, rhyming his way through the conversation. He transfers that energy onto the stage and through the mic when he performs with his Hip Hop/Ragga technique that’s been cultivated between Kingston, LA and London and taken him around the world.
A solid, proven figure of the UK Hip Hop scene and beyond, RU1 Fam’s Watusi88 is a true lyricist that manifests his bars into his lifestyle. A community activist and a self-described “seed of Hip Hop”, he truly loves the culture and art form and represents the combination of Reggae, Jazz and the Roots of the culture. Watusi88 has performed alongside and as part of some legendary musicians and collectives throughout the years and brings all that reality to the stage.
The first round kicked off with some dope double time bars over a soulful grime beat from Watusi88. In line with his style, but at a faster tempo to what I know him for, the brother kicked intelligent, refined rhymes with an effortless sounding flow and a real catchy hook, showing the flexability of the word ‘wagwan’. A Princz came in over Q-Tip’s classic ‘Breath and Stop’ with some crazy wordplay and flow, delivering a subtle message within some dope bars. Aynzli Jones came with something a bit different, rhyming to warn people about men and women who ain’t good for them. His flow rolled off his tongue with swagger, wit and soul and got the crowd responding to the energy. The round was close as always.
The a cappella round took the level up. A Princz came in hard with a powerful message about food and the system, and how it’s used to keep the poor unhealthy and maintain its imbalance. Again, his wordplay was dope and got his message across powerfully. Watusi88 did what he does! Conscious punchlines about change, the universe, Hip Hop art, self-respect and taking control of our future. He makes some incredibly deep bars sound so easy to say. Aynzli Jones put down some philosophical, introspective bars about the road, knowledge, hope and hopelessness and trying to keep on the path. He gave himself a reload, kicking the bar of again for maximum impact. After the first 2 rounds, like in most of the heats this season, it was too close to call – the freestyle rounds would decide the winner.
Aynzli Jones started off the grab bag round. He rolled up with a glass of rum in his hand. Black Santa Kissy K rolled up with his grab bag told him that he needs a spear hand to grab out the bag…so Aynzli started his round rhyming about his glass! He kept going and killed it, using a pot, a cheese grater, a hoover and a tambourine to rhyme about growing ganja and moving up girls! The shit was dope! A Prinz did his thing too, flowing about incense, pasta, a hard drive and the highlight — a can of red stripe, that he cracked and backed! Watusi88 got back on the stage and managed to even use the grab bag round to drop sense. He pulled out the classic kung fu film The Killer and rhymed it with ‘Man like me not a n..… you know what I was gonna say, but man like don’t like to portay”. He took out a plug (spat about getting plugged out the matrix) and a sieve. Levels were upheld.
The next round was a change to the normal schedule. Instead of the DJ verse emcee, ridiculous finger drummer and live MPC producer Y-ETizm came through to challenge the emcees to ride over whatever he felt like playing. Yeti was not playing and fully put the emcees through their paces, speeding up and slowing down whenever he felt like it, changing grooves and styles at will. A Princz came with rapid flows and almost dictated the pace himself, double time flows and all that. But Watusi killed it. He matched the beats Yeti threw at him with ease, never really braking his flow, at most maybe a split-second pause then back in and kept going a cappella for a few seconds. Expertly done. Aynzli Jones got back on the stage and stared down the Yeti saying ‘damn, this is a real fight!’, but he was ready. He started saying ‘I aint scared no beat’ and proved he wasn’t, he matched the beats, some brief pauses, but he went in, he definitely held it up.
Moving into the last round, the house band reassembled and brought some future funk sounding beat for the emcees to go in on. The vibe was a bit different and might have thrown the man off a bit, but it wasn’t always 4 bars. Still, each man brought something different to the stage and the flows and lyrics were dope. A Princz and Aynzli both came singing at times and there was a slight undertone of a battle brewing, but it all stayed positive and the contest was done. It was another close heat.
While the judges added their scores, we got treat to a stripped back performance from the phenomenon that is Mrisi. The emcee, singer and keys player from Brighton graced the stage and most of his performance with a just his voice and his keyboard and through down incredibly deep lyrics, melodies, chords and tones that left everyone in the venue fully locked in. The honesty and sincerity in his music, the blend of influences and the incorporation of his environment into his words — especially in ‘Walk’, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Bite My Tongue’ — reminded me of a young Natty but with Hip Hop the dominant influence instead of reggae. Mrisi got the crowd so into his performance that the drummer from the house band jumped up on stage and helped to take one of the keys only tracks into a full performance, and Mrisi insisted that if that was happening, there had to be a cypher. He pulled a load of emcees and singers from the crowd and onto the stage and took the whole vibe to another level. It was a properly impressive performance from a young musician with a bright future.
After Mrisi had shut the place down, the judges came back with their decision and again, due largely to consistency throughout the rounds, the heat 5 winner and last entrant into the 2017 EOW UK Final was Watusi88. He will now go on to compete for the chance to represent the UK in the 2017 World Final in Prague on October 28th. To do that he’ll need to overcome the winners of the previous heats Menace Mendoza, Dr Koul, Emerge MC and Huski87 at the Brixton Hootananny on September 15th. It’s gonna be WILD, so make sure you reach.