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Sonar Bears Witness to the Birth of Obstacle Course Rap

November 8, 2007

Theoretically, Sonar would be a great place to see two shows in one night. The building holds two separate performance areas—the massive 1,000-capacity “main room” and the smaller 350-capacity “club room”—but we’ve never seen a night in the schedule where we’ve been interested in what was going on in both. At least, that was so until two Fridays ago, when the club room held the first night of the local hip-hop tournament “Show Me What You Got,” while the weekly hipster dance party institution Taxidermy Lodge took over the main room to play host to a DJ set by Baltimore club music superproducer Blaqstarr.

We ended up spending only a little time among the TaxLo kids and their zany Halloween costumes and caught just a short bit of Blaqstarr’s set. It’s not that we don’t worship Blaqstarr, but we’ve seen him rock a crowd before, and we also heard plenty of his tracks on 92Q in the car before and after the show. Our time was otherwise well spent in the club room checking out “Show Me What You Got,” hosted by McCracken, of local duo Minlus McCracken. Instead of a traditional rap battle, performers signed up to do quick eight-minute sets and were then judged with a somewhat complex point system based on values like “stage presence,” “professionalism,” and “crowd response” by a panel that included local hip-hop mainstays Ogun and Shakka Pitts, and Turntable Club promoter Missy. It was just the first of four nights of the competition–culminating in a Nov. 9 final round–but the prize was one worth fighting for: a thousand bucks and a spot opening for Redman at his Sonar gig in December.

Instead of just the usual Baltimore scenesters, a surprisingly large number of the competing acts came up I-95 from Washington and Southern Maryland. It was a nice change of pace, though our favorite performers of the night, BNoc and Steadfast, didn’t make the judge’s final cut. Still, we were happy with the night’s winners, Only and Jeremiah the Lost Prophet, and we were not impressed with the sore losers who made a noisy exit when the judges didn’t hand them a win.

It’d be impossible, though, to sum up the field better than the night’s DJ. The next day DJ P-Funk posted a hysterical recap on the message board, where he boiled down the lineup to the great acts, and the “other categories” of rap, which included “Milli Vanilli Rap (dudes that lipsynced the words),” “Pothead Rap (dudes that forgot their words),” and “Obstacle Course Rap (dudes that either dropped the mic, almost fell off stage, or tripped up the steps coming onstage).” Even if future tournament installments don’t offer more impressive talent, it’s a guarantee there’ll be some hilarious new subgenres of rap being born on the Sonar stage.