REVIEW | EOW ENGLAND 2018 — THE HEATS

ENG FINAL 3Through August and Septem­ber, England’s chapter of the world’s most com­pre­hens­ive test of an emcee’s skill, the End of the Weak MC Chal­lenge kicked off and stormed through the heats of it’s 2018 sea­son. Rebranded for accur­acy and to cre­ate dis­tance from imper­i­al­ist tones, EOW England (formerly EOW UK) has suc­cess­fully built on an impress­ive 2017 sea­son. 2x EOW England champ Gee Bag took a very respect­able 3rdplace in front of 1000+ people at the sold out Meet Fact­ory in Prague, rep­ping hard for our loc­al­ised Hip Hop scene again­st some of the world’s greatest free­stylers, only fin­ish­ing behind EOW Montréal’s Basics and EOW NYC’s new World Cham­pi­on Osyr­is Antham. Founder DJ Snuff along­side former UK champ and organ­iser Mas Law have craf­ted a team of long time con­trib­ut­ors Jazz T, DJ Steaz, Kissy K, pho­to­grapher Nadia Oshitudo and myself film­ing for Glob­al­Fac­tion and report­ing for IAHH, ready to find the next EOW England champ to step up to the stand­ard set by our pre­vi­ous World Title win­ners Stig of the Dump and Jack Flash.

HEAT #1 – Empire Bar, Hack­ney, Lon­don

The new sea­son began in style on 22ndAugust at The Empire Bar, attached to East London’s legendary Hack­ney Empire. OG of our cul­ture Jonzi D was in the house to see fyah per­form­ances from Mas Law and our fam­ily from EOW NYC Pois­on Pen and Mazzi from S.O.U.L Pur­pose, bring­ing authen­tic Hip Hop energy from the birth­place of the art form. We had a strong line-up for the open­ing chal­lenge; Broken Penfrom the FRSHRZ camp, Atlas X (fka Crazy Haze) who has toured with Lowkey and Akala, poet and broad­caster on EachTeach radio Mansa Musa and wild­card EP who repped hard enough in the open mic to get draf­ted into the chal­lenge.

It was a hard fought and close com­pet­i­tion, with some lyr­i­cism of the highest order on dis­play. The first 2 rounds – (writ­ten and acap­pel­la) were extremely close. Mansa Musa mixed up a brag­gado­cio style with deep poet­ic insights, recit­ing a let­ter he’d writ­ten to death, while EP came with a com­bat­ive, witty energy. When host/DJ Kissy K for­got what to call him, he took the mic and star­ted his bar with “I’m the brud­da with flames, even when the DJ don’t remem­ber my name, sever­ing lames, yeah I rep for the days, I’m wreck­ing the fakes, every time com­ing fresh with the phrase”.  Atlas X came with his trade­mark mix of hard­core political/road inspired bars; the Iraqi born, NW Lon­don raised emcee came drop­ping lines like, “Straight from the land where the chil­dren aint nev­er had shit, your face or name on the black­list, you’ll break and they’ll spray your can­vas” with on point deliv­ery and dynam­ism. But it was Broken Pen who took an early lead with his acap­pel­la. Using rap­id-fire allit­er­a­tion, he rapped through the alpha­bet, and even though it’s been done a lot (by Black­a­li­cious, Papoose, Lowkey to name a few) the brother killed it. His take was fresh and had a true dir­ec­tion; he was really say­ing some­thing with each sec­tion and it was far from an empty gim­mick, just check the full foot­age below:

As the heat con­tin­ued Mansa Musa and EP did well, but Broken Pen and Atlas X began to pull away from the pack. In round 3, the grab bag round, Broken Pen’s best line star­ted with “I want a woman that’s lady like, take her to my place and I, might buss on her face” he then pulled some out and said, “then I’ll use the baby wipes”. Fire!! Atlas had some killer lines too; he pulled out Issue 5 of IAHH (go cop that!) and spat “you know how I rock, I been out here cos I Am Hip Hop, I’m just rolling through, you know that we back with the team, and if I shoot at you I’ll just make sure it’s a whole magazine”. Bod­ied!

Through the last 2 rounds – DJ vs MC and cypher – Broken Pen man­aged to keep his con­sist­ency up, spit­ting fire in Por­tuguese and Eng­lish, going double time and match­ing the tem­pos he was thrown by DJ Snuff. While EP and Mansa Musa spat genu­ine free­styles, Broken Pen leaned a bit on writ­tens for the cypher, but so did his main com­pet­i­tion Atlas, mean­ing Broken Pen held it up through­out the chal­lenge to take the heat and cap­ture his spot in the England final.

HEAT #2 – The Plough, Bris­tol

As part of EOW England’s expan­sion, a con­scious effort has been made this year to not only invite chal­lengers from around the coun­try, but also to put on chal­lenges in more cit­ies. The first one this year was in the home of Boomtown and Trip Hop, the west coun­tries cul­tur­al hub of Bris­tol. The Plough is a spot with a strong ‘altern­at­ive’ vibe, reg­u­larly hous­ing Hip Hop, Dub, Jungle and Punk nights, with the interi­or pay­ing homage to the Sound­sys­tem cul­ture it is part of. Head­ing down the very next night, August 23rd, heat #2 fea­tured another per­form­ance EOW NYC’s Mazzi, Mas Law and myself, as well as a guest per­form­ance from Bristol’s own Krazy from Word­life. Loc­al to glob­al legend Eva Laz­arus even passed through to bless the stage with her vocal tal­ents.

The vibes were HIGH in the set­tings for another qual­ity chal­lenge made up of all home-grown Bris­tol emcees; the well trav­elled vet Mis­ta E, the self-assured Entra Pfrom Verbal Highz and the ver­sat­ile wavy lyr­i­cist Wish. We had 1 entrant pull out at the last minute, but also had a whole host of emcees turn­ing up look­ing to enter. After run­ning a 16 bar wild­card chal­lenge,RPK grabbed his spot in the chal­lenge with his wild out-there, mind-bend­ing punch­lines.

The levels for this heat were set right from the start. The first 3 rounds were too too close to call with Mis­ta E bring­ing relent­less flows with heart­felt rhymes about his life and things he’s been through, Wish came with sim­il­ar con­tent, liv­ing up to his ali­as wavy Wish, tak­ing the crowd on a lyr­ic­al jour­ney, RPK threw out lines that make you have to stop, screw your face and think ‘what???’ in the best way and Entra-P came through cocky as fuck ready to battle the world, say­ing “they’ve saved the best ‘til last”, when he was last in round 1, then “they’ve saved the best ‘til second” in the next round! 4 dif­fer­ent styles, all with fire, that made it hard to choose between them.

Mis­ta E stepped up the heat in the DJ vs MC round, for­cing for­ward for the win. He killed the round, bring­ing insane amounts of energy, as DJ Steaz through him a mix of dark Boom Bap, Grime and Jungle. He steam­rolled the beats, briefly stop­ping to check the tem­po before going in again. If he’d done enough to take the lead, Wish then did enough to take it back. With a real effort­less style, he com­manded the mic and stage with the pres­ence of an emcee clearly exper­i­enced host­ing dances, as he moved through clas­sic Rag­ga, Gar­age and DnB flows as he was given those styles, barely stop­ping to catch the beat and get­ting the crowd fully gassed off his con­trol of the vibe. It was a dope example of how to do this round and how to flow over home-grown under­ground styles.

In the cypher round, all the emcees held it up, mix­ing in writ­tens with free­styles, cleanly stick­ing to the 4 bar require­ment. Wish again stood out, man­aging to get some real killer lines into his bars “Ima­gine being born into an ocean so deep you drown, have to keep your head above the water that’s before your feet touch the ground, see where I’m from your feet touch you drown, many clowns tread­ing water just to make a lickle pound”. Shelled it! With that level of lyr­i­cism, Wish fought off real close com­pet­i­tion to win the Bris­tol heat and advance to the England final.

HEAT #3 – Grow Hack­ney Lon­don

Heat #3 was a true rep­res­ent­a­tion of EOW’s glob­al nature. Dope emcee, com­munity organ­iser, crazy tat­too artist and founder of EOW Brazil Folizz has recently moved to Lon­don. Doing what he does, the brother has been loc­at­ing and uni­fy­ing all the Brazili­an Hip Hop heads in Lon­don, and organ­ised an event we’re call­ing ‘EOW Glob­al Con­nec­tion’, link­ing the EOW com­munity to artists of oth­er coun­tries, lan­guages and cul­tures under the out­erna­tion­al lan­guage of Hip Hop. Per­form­ing on the night was a mix of Brazili­an born and Eng­lish based Hip Hop tal­ent, with per­form­ances from myself, Folizz, Mar­ca and Bocao1313 from Brazil, our won MC Solomon and our reign­ing EOW England champ Gee Bag, all held down by Steaz, Snuff and Brazili­an DJ Tigas on the decks. The vibes were beau­ti­ful inside with a range of styles from Boom Bap to Jungle to Trap and, for the first time that I’ve seen, Brazili­an Grime. We even got blessed by another lion­ess lyr­i­cist; our sis­t­ah Amy True duppy’d the open mic with her incred­ible sig­na­ture voice and bars.

The scene was set for an incred­ible chal­lenge, and we had exactly that. This heat con­tained 3 of last years final­ists; RU1 Fam’s Watusi87, fresh off the release of the RU1 ‘Otito’ album mak­ing the iTun­es chart (go cop that!), People’s Army’s Ginger Gen­er­al and last years Battle Scars champ Emerge MC and the key­board wiz­ard and all round cre­at­ive don Huski88. Now, all of these emcees had proven before that the have the ped­i­gree to win this com­pet­i­tion, and the chal­lenge was as close as you can ima­gine.

The first 2 rounds showed the dif­fer­ences in styles. Watusi is one of those emcees you can nev­er mis­take for another, his voice is fully unique and his flow is effort­less, he uses these tools to spread love and one­ness while also let­ting you know he’s a G. Emerge has spent the last few years fully com­ing into his own and per­fect­ing his tech­nique, what I call Geezer Rap. He is what he is and now owns it, talk­ing as much about pints and fight­ing as he does about self-improve­ment and bat­tling his demons. Huski is a true cre­at­ive, and finds as many ways as he can to express him­self in ori­gin­al ways, usu­ally in wild bar­rages of crazy punch­lines. He used the writ­ten round to talk about his addic­tion to Hip Hop, and came out fully act­ing like a fiend. In the acap­pel­la round he dropped the line “Every­one in my team’s got them filthy bars, and you man are Jonath­an Ross you just can’t deal with R’s, hear­ing Huski88 didn’t kill a bar’s like hear­ing Kim­bo Slice got killed by Ian Beale, my darg”. Mad­ness!

The levels kept sky high through the grab bag round, each man show­ing that they’re free­style pros, pulling incred­ible lines out the air as they pulled each item out the bag. Huski’s best line was a hil­ari­ous descrip­tion of how he ends a night ‘when your girl can’t make it…after a gig when I’m wasted’ after pulling out some cocoa but­ter – I’ll leave that to your ima­gin­a­tion. Watusi killed it when pulling out a can of coke and went in about the cor­por­a­tion tak­ing over the world – insight on top of intel­li­gent word­play. But Emerge had the best moment of the round, after pulling out a bit of paper, he said “It says Emerge MC is the win­ner, big dick, sexy fig­ure, bet­ter than all the com­pet­i­tion, oi judges you wan­na listen, it says I’m gon­na win the world final, up in France I’m gon­na beat all my rivals, it says right now I’m 12 days sober but if I win it’ll be a lar­ger and make sure it’s cold bruh” all fully off the top of the head. It as a ridicu­lous moment. Going into the last 2 rounds it was basic­ally a 3-way tie.

It was the DJ vs MC round where I think the win­ner stepped up. Emerge and Watusi both brought it, no mis­takes and stut­ters but Huski fully went in. Com­plete free­style, didn’t flinch for a second and just seam­lessly flowed over the beats, still fling­ing in punch­lines. What made it more impress­ive is that this round let him down in the final last year, so to step the level up that much in a year was impress­ive.

The cypher round was as expec­ted from these dons. All free­style and build­ing off the last man, exactly how this round should be done. It kept the scores really close, but it was Huski88 who did just enough in the judges eyes to take his hard earned place in the final. This was one of the best EOW heats I’ve ever seen, and really showed the qual­ity and cal­ib­re of emcee that our cul­ture and scene can pro­duce.

HEAT #4 – Con­greg­ate Brix­ton, Lon­don

We stay in LDN but move south of the river for heat #4, rep­res­ent­ing along­side fel­low Hip Hop liv­ers AndWhat? as part of Con­greg­ate Brix­ton, a day time com­munity fest­ival in Windrush Square on a beau­ti­ful sunny Sat­urday. There was music all day, with DJ Snuff rep­res­ent­ing on the decks, the AndWhat? emcees per­form­ing with some dope live musi­cians, includ­ing a Kora play­er and some dope beat­box­ing. People’s Army Gen­er­al and EOW fam Logic came through and blessed the crowd with his know­ledge and energy, before mon­ster horns-man Xvn­go from the band Nihil­ism came through and played his sax over instru­ment­als provided by Snuff.  It was a dope end of sum­mer vibe in Brix­ton.

2 of the AndWhat? emcees, Isaac B and Digits stepped up to enter the EOW chal­lenge. They were up again­st Alex Michael Taylor, an emcee and poet from the Mid­lands, Bris­tol based emcee Feline who was sup­posed to enter the heat down there but didn’t make it, and another one of our final­ists from 2017, lyr­ic­al beast Men­ace Men­d­oza from Dark Side of the Moon.

The com­pet­i­tion star­ted of on a dope level, with all the emcees going in, express­ing their dif­fer­ent styles. Isaac B came with a heart­felt, mel­an­choly track about the struggle and rising through it, Digits came with a sim­il­arly soul­ful vibe with a more hope­ful mes­sage, while Feline jumped right on to a high energy wave, flow­ing double time over a dope Dub influ­enced rid­dim. Men­ace Men­d­oza showed exactly why he nearly won last years England final with his raw, rugged, lyr­ic­al style, mix­ing frees and writ­tens, while Alex Michael Taylor went deep, spit­ting a track about los­ing friends, over­com­ing the hurt and learn­ing from it.

The com­pet­i­tion got of to a real close start and stayed that way through the rounds. Men­ace Men­d­oza took his con­tent deep­er with some more self-reflect­ive bars, main­tain­ing his relent­less hard-hit­ting style, but it was Feline who came with the best verse of the round, spray­ing about build­ing bridges and one­ness in a time that’s all too con­cerned with divi­sion.

As we moved into the Grab Bag round, Isaac B, Feline and Men­ace star­ted to pull ahead. Isaac B did well, barely stop­ping as he plucked out the items, keep­ing his flow con­sist­ent. Feline, brought some killer lines; he pulled out a lighter and dropped “Large it up you know I’m com­ing up off the dome, I don’t need the lighter ‘cause I brought the fire on the micro­phone”! Men­ace took the round though, pick­ing out his 4 items from the bag, adding an item by rap­ping about the pomegranate Snuff was keep­ing by his decks, pulling out a slip mat and hand­ing it to Snuff as a spare and, when pulling out Halo for the Xbox 360, spray­ing “This game’s kinda old, I couldn’t even sell it in CEX for £3 pound you know”!! The crowd loved that!

It stayed close going into the DJ vs MC round, with all the emcees sound­ing com­fort­able on the dif­fer­ent styles Snuff was drop­ping. That’s what made Feline stand out, he didn’t just cope with the round, he fully embraced it, flow­ing with mad energy over Grime, Jungle, Afrobeats, and Reg­gae. He matched the vibes, only took half a bar before catch­ing beats, went double time when needed and over­all just went in. Going into the cypher it looked like Feline and Men­ace had pulled away, and as the cypher round was dope but with noth­ing major hap­pen­ing, it stayed a tight 2 horse race.

Tight doesn’t really cut it. After delib­er­a­tions from the judges, Isaac B took 3rdplace, while Men­ace took second just 2 points behind the heat #4 win­ner, Feline. The jour­ney down to Brix­ton from Bris­tol was worth it, and he’d be doing it again on Septem­ber 29thfor the EOW England final.

HEAT #5 – Dead Wax Social, Brighton

The last heat of the sea­son was down on the south coast in Booz­etown itself aka Brighton. The EOW England team rolled deep down to Dead Wax Social in the Lanes, right in the artsy centre. The spot exists on the site of a former legendary Brighton record store, and the whole theme is vinyl. There’s a big col­lec­tion of wax, and punters can dig and pick stuff to play when there isn’t live music on.  DJs Snuff and Steaz would be pick­ing their own rid­dims to move the crowd, along­side per­form­ances from myself, Mas Law, the big, bashy, back­yard bully, EOW fam Sus Bully, as well as Brighton’s own Bar­code, a dope duo made up of emcees Mrisi and Hat­ter.

The com­pet­i­tion had 3 home-grown Brighton lyr­i­cists, Slip Jam:B organ­iser Tom Hines, hor­ror­core spit­ting Paul Cle­m­ents aka Larry Dia­mond aka Ultra­Mega­t­ron and slam poet Gram­ski, who’d per­formed one of the best acap­pel­la rounds I’ve ever seen last year. Added to the line-up at the last minute, hav­ing been in Brighton to watch, was Hugh­dem, who earli­er in the year had won the first ever ‘Break-A-Bar’ com­pet­i­tion – EOW’s col­lab with dance out­fit Floor Rip­pers. It was another dope line-up of emcees with dif­fer­ent styles, and Booz­etown lived up to it’s name, with both Paul Cle­m­ents and Tom Hines being pretty far gone, hav­ing both been at wed­dings all day! Tom Hines came with his trade­mark hype energy, free­styl­ing the first round, not giv­ing a fuck, while Paul Cle­m­ents well pro­grammed flows and self-depre­ci­at­ing style got responses from the crowd. Hugh Dem came with his chilled yet pas­sion­ate flow and intel­li­gent lyr­i­cism over the clas­sic Phar­oahe Monch track ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Gram­ski came with his out-there cre­ativ­ity, per­form­ing a Dav­id Atten­bor­ough inspired lyr­ic­al doc­u­ment­ary about Brighton, com­plete with stor­ies of drugs and drama.

The same styles con­tin­ued into the next round, with Tom Hines free­styl­ing his whole accapel­la, Hugh Dem remin­is­cing about his child­hood, his growth as an artist and his issues with the state of Hip Hop while Paul Cle­m­ents paid homage to Godz­il­la spit­ting from his per­spect­ive. This round is Gramski’s bead and but­ter, it’s what he does, and he found another way to push the lim­its. He put lyr­ics to the main song from ‘The Mar­riage of Figaro” opera (you know it even if you don’t know you do) and per­formed it with the melody, rhythm and everything. It’s hard to describe – just watch the video:

Based on cre­ativ­ity alone, Gram­ski was out in front. The grab bag round was pretty even, but Hugh Dem, who’d been con­sist­ently good so far kept his level high. When he pulled a record out he said “You know my decision is final, gon­na make sure your head spins like a vinyl, every track you know that I’m bet­ter, over beats you know that I set records”. He did the same through the DJ vs MC round, prob­ably win­ning those 2 rounds with Gram­ski com­ing second, so going in and out of the cypher round it was clearly out of those 2.

After the judges added their scores it was closer than we thought; the judges couldn’t decide between them and we had to go to a tiebreak. Each emcee had to spit a 16 and crowd respon­se would decide who took the win. Even this was tight! Hugh­dem came with his dope, scrip­ted bars, while Gram­ski took the risky strategy of free­styl­ing – and the first round was another draw! After the second round with the same for­mu­la, the crowd showed more love to Gram­ski and the poet had won the heat.

We’d found our last entrant for the EOW England MC Chal­lenge Final at Hootananny Brix­ton on Septem­ber 29th. Broken Pen, Wish, Huski88, Feline and Gram­ski will com­pete again­st 2x England champ Gee Bag to try and take his title and win the oppor­tun­ity to rep in the EOW World Cham­pi­on­ship in Par­is on Octo­ber 27th again­st the best free­stylers from across Africa, Asia, Europe and Amer­ica. There’s also gon­na be per­form­ances from Lady San­ity and Shun­aji, so make sure you reach, it’s gon­na be WILD!

EOW Final Hoots

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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.