REVIEW | END OF THE WEAK WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS |PRAGUE 2017

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After 6 months of emcee chal­lenges, 5 heats and 1 epic UK final End of the Weak Lon­don had (re)crowned the 2017 EOW UK Cham­pi­on. Hav­ing fought off the some incred­ible com­pet­i­tion in the form of heat win­ners Men­ace Men­d­oza, Dr Koul, Emerge MC, Huski88 and Watusi87, South London’s Gate­crasherz rep­pin’ Gee Bag stepped up and suc­cess­fully defen­ded the title he’d won in 2016. He’d won the oppor­tun­ity to rep­res­ent the UK in the 2017 EOW World Final in Prague and attempt to improve on the 4th place pos­i­tion he’d achieved in 2016 in Geneva. Accom­pan­ied by organ­isers Mas Law, DJ Snuff and Kissy K as well as myself, Gee Bag set out on Octo­ber 22nd for a week of pure Hip Hop vibes in the lead up to the End of the Weak World Finals on the 28th.

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From what began as a humble open mic in New York City in 2000, End of the Weak has grown into a truly inter­na­tion­al organ­iz­a­tion and the World Final is genu­inely a glob­al sum­mit of ded­ic­ated Hip Hop heads, com­munity organ­isers and some of the most tal­en­ted free­style emcees on the plan­et. The host chapter takes on a the huge respons­ib­il­ity of accom­mod­at­ing, organ­ising and enter­tain­ing around 100 emcees, DJs, B-boys and B-girls, graf­fiti writers, cam­era teams and oth­er organ­iz­a­tion­al mem­bers from com­pet­ing coun­tries. It’s a huge task, and this year the Czech team did an incred­ible job, plan­ning and execut­ing a full itin­er­ary of raw, pure Hip Hop for every­one involved to enjoy. A lot of build­ing took place across nations and scenes, with every­one involved fully engaged in the true spir­it of Hip Hop and of EODub.

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Free­style Mondays

We opened up the week with a head­line per­form­ance by Mas Law at Prague’s Free­style Monday. EOW Prague organ­izer Met­odej Con­stantine has been run­ning Free­style Mondays for 7 years, ever since he returned to Prague after rep­res­ent­ing the Czech Repub­lic in the 2010 EOW World Final in Ber­lin. Sim­il­arly to EOW, the con­cept was foun­ded in NYC but has taken on a life of it’s own in Prague. Live musi­cians, jam ses­sions, free­style com­pet­i­tions and inter­na­tion­al head­liners makes for a wild night of Hip Hop, and with the EOW Final in the same week this event did not dis­ap­point. As soon as we walked in the door, we were greeted by EOW fam­ily mem­bers from Prague, Switzer­land and Bel­gi­um before being asked almost imme­di­ately, ‘you wan­na free­style?’ Gee Bag, Kissy and myself jumped on stage with Low G, the 20-year-old cham­pi­on from Bel­gi­um and put down some bars with the band. Every man went in and Low G showed why he was in the World Final. He’s only been spit­ting for 2 years, but can free­style like a pro in Eng­lish and Flem­ish, mov­ing effort­lessly between the lan­guages and reg­u­larly flips his flow into double time. He was joined by another dope emcee, Sam­o­erai, an OG of Bel­gian Hip Hop and a vet­er­an bat­tler who again is bi-lin­gual and can freestlye in Eng­lish bet­ter than a lot of emcees I know in Lon­don. It was a great intro­duc­tion to 2 dope spit­ters.

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After the band was done, there was a dope per­form­ance by Amer­ic­an emcee Johnny Young­blood, who put down heavy tracks, some raw, some comedic, blend­ing in dif­fer­ent influ­ences and styles. The crowd were nicely warmed up for Mas Law to come through and shell it down – and he did just that. Bring­ing his trade­mark ver­sat­il­ity and energy, Mas ran through a crazy set with raw bars, and know­ledge, mad stor­ies over Boom­bap, Dub, Rag­ga, Trap and Grime influ­enced beats on tracks like new ‘Put­ting in the Work’ and ‘Fuck­ing Good’. Spread­ing love in the way he does, Mas brought me and Gee Bag on stage to per­form too. We both did solo tracks before I jumped on Mas’s ‘War­ri­or’ and Gee B joined him on the abso­lute banger that is ‘EA Sports’. Like every crowd I’ve seen this per­formed to, the audi­ence was going mad, spit­ting the catchy hook with Mas and vib­sing out. The stage got killed.

Between per­form­ances and cyphers, there was also an auc­tion of a beau­ti­ful piece of art­work to raise money for a char­ity called ‘Whis­per’ and a cause that EOW/Freestyle Mondays Prague has been sup­port­ing for years. Hav­ing made a strong con­nec­tion with EOW Uganda in 2010, Met­adej and the team routinely raise and send money to help sup­port a children’s hos­pit­al in Kam­pala. It’s a genu­ine, grass­roots effort to help vul­ner­able people who need it, bypassing cor­por­ate char­it­ies who claim to do these works but do little to actu­ally help, so the money goes dir­ectly where it’s needed and to people who can really use it.

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Spin Radio ‘Street Cypher Show’

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EOW Prague organ­izer Anna hosts a weekly radio show ded­ic­ated to loc­al and inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop on Spin Radio 96.2FM on Tues­day nights. All the cham­pi­ons from the chapters who’d made it into town by this point des­cen­ded on the show to be inter­viewed and per­form on air. Low G rep­res­en­ted EOW Bel­gi­um along­side organ­izer DJ Pro­ceed, Dzon Ass repped for EOW Prague, and Gee Bag was inter­viewed along­side EOW Mon­tréal cham­pi­on Basics. We’d met Basics the night before when the del­eg­ate from Qubec arrived at free­style Mondays. These broth­ers were mad cool. With a big Carib­bean com­munity, we’ve got a lot of sim­il­ar slang and it was dope to hear these dudes spit bars in French and Eng­lish in French-Cana­dian-Carib­bean accents, a real mix of fla­vours.

Along­side the cham­pi­ons, EOW founder and ill emcee Vice Verses had touched down to help with pro­ceed­ings and gave a dope inter­view on the his­tory of the organ­isa­tion along­side Sammy Jack­ets, EOW France’s first organ­iser, the first out­side of NYC and one of the keys to EOW’s inter­na­tion­al suc­cess. All the inter­views gave a real insight into EOW and into each champion’s per­son­al­ity and per­son­al jour­ney. Basics story was par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing; he’d nev­er left Canada before and win­ning EOW meant that Hip Hop had taken him on his first inter­na­tion­al flight to his first inter­na­tion­al per­form­ance, some­thing that many champs from around the world have been able to say over the years.

After the inter­views there was a crazy cypher with all the champs and organ­isers, emcees from 5 coun­tries free­styl­ing in 3 lan­guages. Gee Bag (UK), Vice Verses (US), DzonAss (Czech), Basics (Que­bec), Low G (Bel­gi­um) and, after com­ing straight from the air­port, under­ground EOW/NY/Brooklyn legend Pois­on Pen. This brother was one of the first EOW cham­pi­ons and has worked with heads like Immor­tal Tech­nique, MF Doom and MOP. Every man went in with punch­lines com­ing in from all over the place. Some high­lights (from the lyr­ics I could under­stand) were from G Bag “I doggy more than home­less muts” and Pois­en Pen “You go get someone, I’m the someone that son gets”. Mad­ness!

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As well as a dope presen­ter and Hip Hop con­nois­seur, Anna is also an aca­dem­ic, cur­rently com­plet­ing her PhD in Soci­ology focus­ing on the rep­res­ent­a­tion of women in Czech Hip Hop. Through her depart­ment she arranged a pub­lic lec­ture at the uni­ver­sity, where each cham­pi­on who had made it by that time had the oppor­tun­ity to speak. Gee Bag, Low G and Basics were joined by Osyr­is Antham, the New York cham­pi­on (dir­ect from the air­port) and Dandyguel, the host from EOW Par­is. The pan­el gave in depth insights on their per­son­al careers, their rela­tion­ship with Hip Hop, how they viewed the cul­ture now and how women are per­ceived with­in Hip Hop. It was an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion and was a great oppor­tun­ity to see a side of each final­ist that we might not have been able to see oth­er­wise.

After a ques­tions and answer ses­sion from the audi­ence, the cham­pi­ons were asked to give a free­style on a given sub­ject. Gee Bag went in off the top, spit­ting about fam­ily, Low G rapped about love, Dandyguel spoke about his view on women in Hip Hop, Basics spat about the influ­ence of the police as an institution’s influ­ence on Hip Hop. Osyr­is stole the show though, des­pite hav­ing 2 hours sleep and hav­ing just come off a 20+ hour flight, he dropped an incred­ible free­style about colo­ni­al­ism. The standout line was “[indi­gen­ous Amer­ic­ans] got blankets infec­ted with lime dis­ease and all types of chick­en pox, now we eat dis­eased food out a Popeye’s chick­en box”. Crazy!

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The event was another suc­cess and attrac­ted the atten­tion of a load of the uni­ver­sit­ies stu­dents, espe­cially when after the talk, in true EOW style, a dope free­style cypher kicked off out­side. We saw a lot of the faces from that talk at all the oth­er events in the week.

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Record­ing Ses­sion

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It’s become cus­tom­ary at EOW World Final weeks that the emcees and pro­du­cers assembled come togeth­er to cre­ate tracks to com­mem­or­ate the occa­sion, and like most things at this year’s final, the record­ing ses­sion was taken to another level.  Met­odej had secured 2 dope record­ing stu­di­os con­nec­ted to one of Prague’s biggest music stores Kytary.cz on the out­skirts of the city. All the cham­pi­ons recor­ded a track togeth­er, and all of those who had made it at this point were filmed put­ting their verses down. This included Rox, Switzerland’s cham­pi­on and the 3x French cham­pi­on, 2x World Champ Rez, who had flown in the night before. 5 oth­er tracks were recor­ded, team­ing up emcees and sing­ers from every nation involved. They’ll all be released on an EOW 2017 World Final EP.

Warm Up Party – Cross Club

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After the record­ing ses­sion, there was another show, this time at Cross Club a really cre­at­ively designed ven­ue. The out­side was covered in intric­ately woven steel pipes while the inside was like a maze, with 2 rooms for events in the base­ment and rooms to eat upstairs. The stage got blessed, first by Bax­ter Wordsworth, the lyr­ic­al ninja and EOW NY host, who brought incred­ible energy to the stage. Next up was a per­form­ance by the only female EOW World Cham­pi­on in his­tory, K.T. Gorique from Switzer­land. This sis­ter is a for­ce of nature, and she shut down the show with her mix of vibes, blend­ing Hip Hop with Afrobeats and dif­fer­ent elec­tron­ic styles. KT Gorique was fol­lowed by one of the Czech Republic’s biggest emcees, Rest. They crowd loved him; they room was rammed and the clearly tal­en­ted brother had the crowd eat­ing out of his had, recit­ing his bars and react­ing to everything he said. After that Pois­on Pen, who got the crowd hyped with his pure Brook­lyn, ‘don’t give a fuck’ bars.

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DJ Snuff was spin­ning for Pen and stayed on the decks doing what Snuff does; lay­ing down wave after wave of dope rid­dims. He set the tone for another mara­thon cypher with emcees from all over the world before stay­ing on for hours, bless­ing the Czech crowd.

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Unfor­tu­nately, towards the end of the night, Sammy Jack­ets had been tar­geted by police and arres­ted. In an envir­on­ment where 80% of the people were smoking gan­ja, police had rolled right up, arres­ted him and ended up detain­ing him for pos­ses­sion. This was the first neg­at­ive thing that had happened the entire week, and among­st all the love we’d be shown by Prague’s Hip Hop and wider music com­munity, an ugli­er aspect of Czech soci­ety had now exposed itself. Our EOW Prague fam­ily informed us that this is some­thing that hap­pens too much in their coun­try, that Afric­ans, tour­ists or res­id­ents, are often tar­geted and racially pro­filed as drug deal­ers. This is some­thing we as people of Afric­an ori­gin have to deal with all over the world, but it still hurt to see one of our fam­ily treated this way when we were here for a cel­eb­ra­tion of Hip Hop and glob­al unity. The next 3 days would be spent try­ing to get Sammy out, and it put a real dent in the vibe of the event. Des­pite the frus­tra­tion and anger, we weren’t going to let racist police derail the World Final. ‘Free Sammy Jack­ets’ became the slo­gan of the rest of the week.

Warm Up Party – Vzorkovna

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On the night before the World Final, EOW Prague had set up an event for each chapter to show­case the artists who’d rolled to Prague. It star­ted of great. The Neth­er­lands team and their Cham­pi­on MC Gyver had arrived and set off the event with mad energy, mov­ing flu­idly between dif­fer­ent lan­guages and rock­ing the stage with a real hard­core style. The French team stepped up next, but as they were per­form­ing, the racism of the soci­ety we were in exposed itself for the 2nd time in 2 days. A boun­cer on the door caused alter­ca­tions first with Pois­on Pen and then with Gee Bag and his fam­ily who had come to Prague to sup­port him. The boun­cer refused to let Pen exit the club to make a phone call, and then refused entry to Gee Bag’s wife and sis­ter, on both occa­sions telling them ‘this is Czech, you must speak Czech’ – some­thing he hadn’t felt the need to say to any of the oth­er white, Asi­an or lighter skinned people talk­ing Eng­lish, French, Dutch or Flem­ish in the spot.

In the spir­it of EOW, nobody hes­it­ated and we left the club, tak­ing a huge per­cent­age of the crowd and the line out­side with us, humi­li­at­ing the boun­cer in the pro­cess. We moved to another ven­ue after hav­ing a dope a cap­pel­la cypher in one of Prague’s cent­ral squares, with emcees drop­ping bars inspired by the events we’d exper­i­enced and edu­cat­ing the big crowd that had formed about why it’s import­ant to fight racism. A one off cypher in the street isn’t going to rid Prague or any­where else of this shit, but it felt good to see the reac­tion of the Czech people who’d fol­lowed us out, and the way they and oth­ers who’d gathered embraced what we were say­ing. Again, racists had attemp­ted to dis­rupt the vibe, and had failed. We moved to another spot, had another dope cypher and then EOW UK laid down some more fire for the people.

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With the week done, all that was left was the World Final on. Des­pite the events we’d been to and per­formed at all week being insanely well organ­ized, with big crowds show­ing a lot of love, none of us expec­ted the World Final to be quite as good as it was. Lock back in for part 2, where you’ll get a full break­down.

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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.