Calgary hip-hop heads flock to the Freestylimpics [Article/Photos]
Calgary, AB – The Freestylimpics received tremendous feedback following its first installation on Saturday Mar. 23 at the National Music Centre. The event brought the urban community together for showcase performances and a series of King of the Dot (KOTD)-style-competitions.
The Freestylimpics featured the best of the city’s up-and-coming hip-hoppers as well as several established Calgary-based MCs. A fresh face to most attendees, Freestylimpian champion Phareke commanded the room with enthusiastic raps, witty battle rhymes, and an impressive stage presence. The event was hosted by Jaynova and Dragon Fli Empire MC Teekay, along with judges Ricca Razor Sharp, 10@10 performer RS Poe, and Joel Pleasant. Competing “rapletes” — rap athletes— performed in two events: the M-See Creativity Competition and the 7-to-Smoke Battle. A third event featured the much-anticipated crew battle between ContraVerse and Jazzlib Collective.
At 8 p.m. the doors to the intimate venue opened and guests – a wide-ranging mix of local music connoisseurs, hip hop heads, and closeted rap aficionados – packed into the room as DJ Scarlett spun the tables. HipHopCanada caught up with Phareke and he told us that he had never participated in a rap battle before—a surprising admission, considering he took home winning titles for the M-See Creativity Competition as well as the 7-to-Smoke Battle.
By 8:45 p.m. there were more than 100 guests on-site and everyone was eager to get the battles started. After brief introductions by the hosts and judges, the M-See Creativity Competition kicked things off. The MCs – Lemmy G, Sky Boi, Hektik, Gravity, K-razie, Xaiv, DA Flowz, Emcee Leo, female MC Whirly Bird, T-Money, Lemmy G, Will Rhymes, and Phareke – were each given a topic and one minute to impress the judges.
The topics ranged from grandmothers to toothbrushes, with some MCs winning over the crowd and others finding themselves, literally, at a loss for words. Phareke was given the unfortunate topic of “cheese,” but won the crowd’s approval with his carefully crafted lines about Velveeta and other essential dairy bi-products. The judges seemed to agree with the audience and awarded Phareke with the winning title and sought-after first-place prize package, a studio recording package from Brotherman Studios. Hektik took home second place and K-razie was awarded third place after he beat Gravity in a tie-breaker battle.
As Phareke celebrated in his victory, Erick “Eazyg” Guitierrez performed a captivating beatbox set for the crowd but the judges and MCs were itching to get the 7-to-Smoke Battle started. Similar in format to standard KOTD battles, the 7-to-Smoke competition consisted of one-on-one “diss” rap-offs. The rappers had 30 seconds to insult their competition to the best of their rhyming abilities while impressing the judges. The first raplete to win seven battles would be declared the winner. Stepping up to microphone with applause from the audience, Matt Daley seemed to thrive on the competitive nature of the battle. Beer in one hand, microphone in the other, he highhandedly won the first three battles against Sky Boi, Hektik, and Gravity.
His winning streak came to an end in the fourth battle as Phareke, once again, won the judges’ approval. Phareke proceeded to win the rest of the battles—in fact, the judges made an impromptu decision to switch the event to a “9-to-Smoke Battle,” as Phareke reached seven victories before all of the MCs had a chance to compete. While some of competitors excelled at quick-witted remarks and comebacks, others thrived on racial slurs, profanity, homophobic references, and insinuations of getting women pregnant. But since these battles seemed to be modeled after KOTD, a fair amount of lowbrow prose was to be expected.
Though few people had heard of Phareke at the beginning of the evening, his name had already caught on as a buzzword amongst the event organizers, audience members, and cigarette-smokers on the streets. Matt Daley took home second place and Gravity was awarded third place. As the crews prepared for the final event of the night, local rapper Sabo Forte performed a quick set for the crowd, followed by short performances from the judges. Then the hosts encouraged all of the B-Boys and B-Girls in the crowd to perform while the DJs dropped the beats. The audience inched backwards, making room for an improvised dance floor. One by one, the breakdancers and booty-shakers in the crowd strutted their stuff. It was a wonderful showcase of the other talented urban artists representing Calgary — the dancers.
By 11 p.m., the crews were ready to duke it out. ContraVerse— Rubix, Twizzie, and the sassy outspoken Rebecca Dawn—whipped the boys of Jazzlib—Cam the Human, The Dark Knight, and Krippled Khemist— into shape. Rapping about history, the Calgary Stampede, and other audience-selected topics, the crews battled back-and-fourth for the remainder of the evening.
As ContraVerse claimed victory over the first portion of the battle, the competition slowed down and the raps became less interesting. F-bombs started dropping and the rhymes loosened. But ContraVerse had a secret weapon—Rebecca Dee. Rocking a braided updo – what Jazzlib referred to as her “Bow Wow” hair— Dee stayed enthusiastic and creative throughout the battle. With unanimous judge and audience support, it was clear that ContaVerse had won the battle.
As the night wrapped up – or rather, “rapped” up— the hosts closed the Freestylimpics with a special performance and Jaynova performed her latest single ‘Beat By A Girl’ – fitting, considering the boys of Jazzlib had just been beaten by a girl.
With the first Freestylimpics concluded, we can only hope that our rapletes are ready to start training for more battles, rhymes, and freestyles—and hopefully a second Freestylimpics will be under way soon enough. In the meantime, check out some of our favourite performers from the evening and keep an eye on Phareke to see what he produces with his studio time at Brotherman Studios.
Article and photography by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Tags: Brotherman Studios, ContraVerse, DA Flowz, Eazyg, Emcee Leo, Freestylimpics, Gravity, Hektik, Jaynova, Jazzlib Collective, Joel Pleasant, K-razie, Lemmy G, Matt Daley, Phareke, Ricca Razor Sharp, RS Poe, Sabo Forte, Sky Boi, T-Money, Teekay, Whirly Bird, Will Rhymes, Xaiv