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Another Promising Local Hip-Hop Event Implodes

May 31, 2007

No Baltimore hip-hop freestyle event has yet to fill the void left when the monthly Style Warz battles came to an unceremonious end last year thanks to a conflict between the event’s organizers. So Rock Da Mic Wednesdays, a new weekly competition put together by three influential local crews–Team Fifty, Deep
, and Raw D.O.C.–looked promising, but based on how the night progressed, it looks like Rock Da Mic may already be falling victim to the same kind of unfortunate infighting that destroyed Style Warz.

The club, Taste International way down in Curtis Bay, is a classy little joint with an odd floor plan that effectively splits the venue into two adjacent rooms: the performance area and the bar (although the MCs actually performed in front of another bar). The bulk of the crowd constantly alternated between the rooms, but only the performance area was as humid as an armpit, necessitating frequent trips to the bar just to cool off. And the male-to-female ratio was refreshingly tilted toward the latter, far more than your average local rap show.

Yesterday, May 30, was the eighth week of the event and was touted as the first Rock Da Mic Championship, wherein the previous weeks’ winners would compete for a bigger prize package than usual. The event is uniquely structured, in that there are essentially two competitions–the first an open mic in which judges decide the winners, and then a good old-fashioned freestyle battle. But the open-mic portion of the show, which featured over a dozen acts performing short sets, ended up dragging on until nearly 2 A.M., swallowing the evening.

Local MC and burgeoning multimedia mogul Amotion ran around the house with a camera on her shoulder, documenting the proceedings for her local cable series, Deep Flow TV. Meanwhile, previous episodes of the show ran in a constant loop on two screens–often featuring the same artists who were there in person–resulting in a trippy synchronicity, as when Stryfe performed while his crew Kartel‘s Deep Flow TV segment aired on the adjacent wall.

Of the many, many acts heard for the first time on Wednesday, it was hard to keep them all straight. Beyond having the home-turf advantage, Mack Houston of Raw D.O.C. gave one of the best performances early in the night, spitting precise double-time flows over slow beats. But when the Raw D.O.C. crew took the stage less than two hours later to perform the exact same songs for a slightly bigger crowd, it felt like overkill. Other highlights included female rappers LS and Keyaira Channel, the latter of whom was at least as memorable for her little black dress as for her songs. More often than not, though, artists were late to the stage, went on for longer than they were supposed to, or blamed poor DJ Booman when their show CD would skip.

Stevie Stay Hi the Low Key God, the wheelchair-bound founder of Team Fifty, is prone to speaking his mind freely and sparing no one’s feelings. And as the night wore on and went further off schedule, the audience got a couple of Low Key’s trademark rants as he tried to get the competition back on track. Eventually, though, tempers flared, drinks were thrown, and security cut the show short, with no winners decided for the open-mic competition and the freestyle battle delayed until next week. By the time everyone spilled out into the parking lot, punches were being thrown, and many didn’t feel like hanging around just to see how much uglier the situation could get. Hopefully next time, Rock Da Mic’s organizers can stop battling each other long enough to give some of the rappers a chance to spar verbally.