MTV/ Emcee Battle Fiasco
Rounding the turn at the Lincoln tunnel after a trip of two and half-hours one could see the New York skyline and all her beauty. The sun was just coming up and man it is a beautiful city. February 23rd was a big day in Hip-Hop for the Boondox Immortals Crew, a collection of Emcees, DJ's, Graff writers, barbers, B-Boys/B-Girls and the whole nine. For five of us work had been canceled due to this holiday of participating in the MTV|Def Jam Records Emcee Battle that had been advertised for a month through Def Jam E-mails and MTV commercials. The prize was a recording contact and $25,000 as stated by the commercial and LaLa on Direct Effect, an MTV program that airs at 7 PM nightly.
Upon arriving at MTV studios at the Viacom Office of 1515 Broadway in New York, NY, we saw that there was north of 3000 people and not a sign of Security or representatives from MTV or Def Jam records. The rules stated that there was no camping out and the event would start at 9AM. Without any security or preparation for the event it was up to the streets to enforce any rules or police to enforce any law. It is 6:15 AM as we enter line and start to wait to see what is happening throughout the day; because 80% of success is simply showing up.
Savage Creations, the company that represents the Boondox, West Chester Pa area of Philadelphia Hip Hop, background consists of producing and promoting Emcee Battles and Hip Hop Showcases, named ThaBlaze and ThaPhilliBlaze. We have created shows with such acts as BabyBlak, Grand Agent, Diatribe, Prophets of the Ghetto, O.D.D. and the list goes on.
The main thing we understand in our time spent is the level of commitment and desire for Emcees to reach their dream of success in the Hip-Hop nation. Just because Hip-Hop is played on Pop stations does not mean the epicenter it was birthed from, a platform of any means necessary to be heard, will ever leave Hip-Hops soul. Every successful artist from Eminem being heard on an LA radio station by Dr. Dre and Sylvia Robinson hearing Henry Jackson in a Pizza Shop rapping along to a tape of the "Cold Crush Brothers" and signing him to create the Sugarhill Gang.
As the day unfolded to 8AM no security had showed up, nor had any information about the count of Emcees been relayed, so people stayed and waited. Soon enough the front of the line started to be rushed due to no supervision and $25,000 being on the line. By no supervision it is meant there was not one MTV rep was in sight, not one Def Jam rep in sight just a growing amount of New York's Police Force. The NYPD, who I feel were in a bad situation, due to their role as crowd control that was forced on them from a lack of planning by MTV and Def Jam.
Eventually there was commotion in the upper levels of the line, where we could not see. As the drama ensued you could only hear a slight roar from where we were and people started walking up the street to see what was happening. A spot was reached to see the front of the line, which was run through metal fencing in a ground level walk through under 1515 Broadway, which confined this part of the crowd and just pressure cooked the situation.
Emcees were tired, a long way from home and desperate to succeed so reports came to me later that the Emcees were pepper sprayed my the police and beaten by their peers. This was due to no enforcement on MTV and Def Jam's part on line placement rules. So basically there is an Emcee (most do not earn $25,000 a year) which waited since 11 PM the previous day and it is 8 AM in the morning. An Emcee that shows up to the event fifteen minutes ago, cuts line in front of you and the police can not do anything since no law has been broken. Hence, feelings were hurt and it rose to a physical level where people were getting hurt.
The place erupted with people running franticly away from MTV studios. Then congregating back by the epicenter of the violence, then running away from another altercation as fast as they could from another explosion of pepper spray or a police officer that might have to use force from a firearm. Now while all this is going on and people are soldiering in line for the hope that they might get in, literally risking injury for this dream of being paid to be an Emcee.
We watched this in disgust, Emcee TylerDirgin said "Hip-Hop was being slapped in the face and she does not have another cheek to turn". It was made sure to get the thoughts of Hip-Hop being wronged on camera with the on-site crew from the WB. From there I embarked on the mission to find a familiar face from MTV. There was a person that look familiar to me and he seemed to be overseeing the damage before he went back into his 1515 Broadway office. Upon approaching him and confirming he was with MTV, I gave him my card and let him know my feeling of betrayal. His response was "we are appalled also", as in he was disappointed in the actions of the attendants.
The episode of TRL that day and Direct Effect stated through LaLa "We regret to inform you, but we had to stop the proceeding of the Emcee Battle today. This is due to the NY Police closing the event due to over crowding" I am sure that LaLa has to say what she thought was best, but I was disappointed in her because it was dishonest. Even thought the event did not go the right way, honesty is always the best way to diffuse a situation.
At the end of the day we can create ways to do such events and shows that represent the culture and the music, rather than creating ideas one had no experience in working in and throwing the dice. On that cold Monday MTV and Def Jam do not loose. The Emcee that flew in from LA and paid for a Hotel room and a rental car wins nothing. The Emcee that came up to me with a bloody lip is at a loss. The 100 Police Officers inside of the Viacom Doors at 1515 Broad way and on the corners of Times Square over seeing a lack of planning and no security who could be making the streets safer were loosing that day. Real Hip-Hop heads in MTV and Def Jam who worked hard planning this feel their time and efforts were in vain. We, from open mics to message boards, Turntables to fresh butterscotch trees, the Hip-Hop Nation…. We Lost that day!
So how do we create an answer to overcome such an obstacle? Well this is the equation we propose. A Revolution Solution...
The Goal: To have 64 unsigned accomplished respectable Emcees who can battle each other for a single with Def Jam records and a cash prize of $25,000 and have a show which reflects that. To create a reality show concerning an Emcee will come with bumps in the road, so there needs to be supervision of the process from inside Hip-Hop heads, by this I mean people who have experience creating such events.
Remember: An Emcee does not become an Emcee by being part of a television program, he|she is just able to profit off of being an Emcee and that is worth fighting for. We just can not create an environment where they see the need to fight. An Emcee will always demand respect at all times and that must be given.
The casting call for such an event will have to be structured a bit different. The open call will have to be in an open area and not in Downtown New York. Some place where everyone can see everyone else. Great for the participants to really see all the people are there and it helps in the security.
The tryouts start at 9 AM and run through out the day until 9 PM (only the first 1000 can participate)
All participants must come with State ID (proof of 18 years old), one copywritten track on CD and their bio (enough for each judge) to submit as material.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART:
Through out the morning the first 1000 with the right materials are to be checked in from the 9 AM point on until 1000 is reached. This is first done by a team counting through the line to 1000 and leaving the next 500 there in case of the first 1000 not having all the materials. Then they are run through the check in table and to their 30-second performance. After the full 1000 are checked in the line is to be dispersed. The rest are given a gift for coming through (complimentary albums or T-shirts (LRG, ropeadope, ect.)
People will stay and hang around for hours doing ciphers and talking. Be ready for this. All Emcees should be checked in, though not performed for the judges yet, but checked in by 3 PM. Around the 6 PM hour all others should have dispersed. There will be allot of people so be prepared for overflow crowd control.
They will spit for 30 seconds to the judges written of freestyle.
The judges pick their favorite 200 and have a post meeting to discuss the best 128 collectively.
A second round would break the competitors down to 64 through no shows and lack of skills the second time through.
Create show from there.
In conclusion, this article was started at 7:30 PM on February 23rd in anger. As the past 24 hours went by the vision of the event has a positive attribute in the growth and maturation of Hip-Hop. A major record label and the largest music Television Company shot at doing an Emcee Battle, which is one of the four elements of the Hip-Hop. Nothing ever works the first time, so there is room to make this right. There is confidence that the Emcees who came to the first on will come again and bring other people with them. This can be a great program documenting Emcee ability at its core for the masses. Let's just all work together and do it for the community, not just to have it get done.
Peace and Blessings,