MCs from all over the West Coast came to the UCen Saturday night to battle each other for a $1000 prize in front of an audience of 800 people.
The event, entitled the “MC Battle at the Hub,” was put on by the Associated Students Program Board and the UCSB Hip Hop Club. Competitors were judged by hip hop group Emanon’s Aloe Blacc, Nathaniel Dawkins, DJ Exile, Alek Manfredi and hip hop artists Busdriver, Regan Farquhar. The event drew both novices and experienced MCs from UCSB and from as far away as Oregon. Out of 32 competing MCs, the winner was undeclared sophomore Marshall Payne – or Borat, as he calls himself – after a close series of matches.
“I was sick of all the booty hip hop you hear on DP, and I wanted to share actual hip hop culture with the people here,” said Elliot Gann, a UCSB alum who started the Hip Hop Club last January. “Most people think hip hop is the same thing as rap from what they see on MTV, but there are actually four basic skills: B-boying, which is break dancing; MCing, which is rapping; DJing, which is scratching and mixing beats; and graffiti, mural art that goes unappreciated by many.”
The first round was comprised of 16 pairs of competitors, with each person having 30 seconds to say anything he or she could about his or her competitor’s appearance, style or impotence as an MC. Farquhar, Manfredi and Dawkins decided who went on to the next round, in which eight pairs would be left battling two 30-second sets. This pattern of elimination continued until all but two competitors were left standing for the finals.
“You look for the ability of the rapper to assess the situation in terms of the battle to figure out something clever or witty to say in terms of current events or the opponent himself,” Dawkins said. “You look for delivery, style, attitude and confidence.”
When judges declared Payne the winner, an uproar ensued in the audience, some members of which were still bitter that their favorites were eliminated too early on, some even demanded a rematch. A.S. organizer Eric Freedman said the judges’ decision would stand.
“If the judges say Borat wins, [then] Borat wins,” Freedman said.
The competition was a mix of experienced MCs who came for the prize money and students who came to sharpen their skills.
“I flew down here from Portland, Oregon for the battle,” Greg Poe, a competitor who calls himself Illmaculate, said. “I’m going to one in L.A. tomorrow also … My first battle was in 2001. I was 15, and I won $1,000.”
Matt Ebrahimoon, a freshman business economics major and music minor, said he competed for the practice and the fun of it.
“I’m not dead serious like other people are, staring in the mirror before the competition or anything,” he said.
As MCs prepared before the show, the judges put on a show for the audience. Busdriver’s performance incited both boos and cheers from the audience when he showcased a song he called “Fuck the War” and rapped lyrics, such as “What crisis? Code red, code orange, code yellow, code pink; don’t think; just nod in agreement.” Audience members shouted for the MC battle to start before the song ended.
Even though some competors showed animosity toward each on stage, nine or 10 of the MCs – some of whom knew each other from earlier battles, others whom had become friends over the course of the night – huddled together in the cold outside the front doors of the UCen and took turns freestyling and beatboxing for about half an hour [[30 minutes]] until someone announced an afterparty in I.V.
“I’ve seen random battles in I.V. before,” freshman chemical engineering major Jacob Ells said. “I thought it was pretty fun, and I’d come to one again.”