Last Night: Red Bull EmSee Battle At Warehouse Live
Phranchyze (left) and Hoodstar Chantz square off in the finals.
Photos by Larami Serrano
Red Bull EmSee Freestyle Battle Warehouse Live September 8, 2011
10:52 p.m.: White people dancing to Beat King's "Hammer" is just about the greatest indirect advertisement for racial tolerance in all the world.
10:52:05: Oh yeah, introduction: Tonight is the Red Bull EmSee freestyle battle, an invitation-only competition to determine the best freestyler in Texas. It is a single-elimination tournament. The winner tonight will fly out to Atlanta to compete in the finals. Eminem will be there to watch.
This whole show seems very legit. They've got a wonderful little set-up on stage (faux brick walls and whatnot), complete with TVs that show the contestants similar to how they do when they have player breakdowns during NFL games. It's already fun. This is the most professional set-up for an underground rap showcase we've ever seen. No joke.
10:57: Host tonight: Bun B. He's introducing judges. Tonight, they're Alchemist, Trae and ESG. Bun asks Trae if he's ever been in any rap battles. His response: "Nah, you know I take some stuff a little too personally." Here's how every rap battle with Trae would go:
Guy Battling: And I had sex with your sister, tell her I miss her.
Trae: Oh for real?
Judge: Did he just... yep. Dammit. Somebody call a medic. Trae stabbed someone again. Why do we keep inviting him? He's always stabbing people and shit.
Trae: Did I win?
Judge: What? No you didn't win. You stabbed a guy. This is a rap battle, not a stab contest.
Trae: Oh for real?
Other Judge: Did he just... yep. Dammit. Somebody call a medic. Trae stabbed the judge again.
Trae: Did I win?
Other Judge: ...Yes.
Trae would never lose a rap battle. That's a bet.
Kane (in backpack) and G-Baby
Mas Musica! featuring La Gusana Ciega, Porter, Siddhartha
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Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
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10:59: First battle. MC Kane vs G Baby. Kane is wearing a backpack and G Baby is wearing her teeth (G Baby has a charming overbite). Let's go.
11:01: So, if things weren't difficult enough, prior to someone rapping, it appears they'll be flashing some pictures up on a screen that you have to incorporate into your flow. Two of the five pictures Kane just got: Cowboy boots and eggs. Awesome.
11:03: Kane was okay enough, but not near as mean as one will need to be to win this thing. He only erupted once, for a "You a ugly-ass ho" line. Somehow, he did not make fun of her teeth. Let's see how she responds.
11:05: Oh fuck. She is not dicking around. She seemed so sweet and pleasant while she was hanging around off stage, then when they gave her the microphone she just switched on like a machine. She made a joke about fingering Kane's girlfriend, then finished her one-minute round with a joke about Kane's backpack, then compounded that with a "Step yo' game up, nigga, get a snapback" line, referencing Kane's fitted cap. The place exploded. Game time.
11:06: Judges: G Baby, G Baby, G Baby.
11:06:05: BTW, 66 percent of the teeth on the judge's panel are covered in ice. Awesome.
11:12: Next up: Hoodstar Chantz and Playdough. In the preview that we wrote about this event, we laid some predictions:
1) G Baby would do well because she's good and she's a girl, but would ultimately lose when someone made jokes about her giving another contestant head.
2) Nobody was going to beat Phranchyse, an absolutely dominant force within the Texas battle-rap network and, incidentally, the guy who won the Texas leg of the event last year.
3) However, if anybody was going to beat him, it'd be Hoodstar, a quirky, fearless freestyler with stellar stage presence and an affinity for blowjob jokes.
See how that plays out. At any rate, Hoodstar vs. Playdough.
11:13: Eh, at the moment, neither of these guys look like they can get past G Baby. No big moments. Playdough might've won.
11:14: Goes to the judges. ESG eventually tilts it Hoodstar's way, saying that Playdough was funny, but he did some jokes about Hoodstar having bad teeth (he doesn't), which might've indicated that that part was prepared. Seems a legit enough gripe. Besides, he's fucking ESG. Arguing with him about freestyling is like arguing with Ted Bundy about murdering young white coeds. The man knows what he's talking about.
11:14:15: Says Bun B to some crowd murmurs that the decision should've gone the other way: "You got a problem, you gotta take it up with me." How every one of those conversations would go:
Guy: Yo! What the fuck?! I got a problem! Who do I take it up with?!
Bun B: Me.
Guy: ...Oh. Nah, I'm good.
Trae: Oh for real?
Other Judge: Ohgoddammit, man.
O.N.E. (left) and Mad-1
11:16: Moving quick. O.N.E., Kane's brother, and Mad-1 are up. O. is wearing a backpack too. (The Brock brothers are nothing if not studious.) Mad-1 wins halfway through his minute when he motions towards the judges and says, "Trae, you're Tha Truth. Will you tell him that he's wack?" He crystallizes his victory by saying O. looks like a broke Musiq Soulchild. Haha. Done and done.
11:23: Phranchyze and Go Hard Jetson. Not sure if Jetson is the best rapper here, but he's certainly the scariest-looking.
11:24: AHAHAHAHA. Phranchyze snapped, making fun of Jet's wispy mustache, referencing the judges ("I'll make your mom swim in my Ocean of Funk") and even taking a swipe at Jet's merchandise ("I don't know why you brought a bunch of shirts, nobody's gonna buy em"). Dang, dirty. His message to the rest of the field seems pretty clear: If you stand in front of me, you will die by my sword.
11:26: Poor Jet. He went but nobody noticed. Everybody was caught up in Phranchyse's tornado. ESG crowned his minute "the hardest flow of the night." Looks like it'll be him and G Baby in the finals. Semifinal match-ups: Hoodstar Chantz vs. G Baby; Phranchyze vs. Mad-1.
11:34: You know what the intermission between rounds? A set by ESG. Red Bull is aces right now.
11:41: Oh shit, a guy in a leather Kangol. Cool, cool. How do you wake up in the morning and say, "You know what I need? A leather Kangol, that's what." No, no you don't. Nobody in the world has ever needed a leather Kangol. Wearing a leather Kangol is like wearing a big sign that reads, "I Have No Idea What I'm Doing."
11:43: Who dat, man, who dat talkin' down?
11:43:15: ESG is rockin' right now. It's crazy to think about all of the shit that guy has seen. You're talking about a guy that helped build up the SUC, which helped build up goddamn EVERYTHING. And he's standing 10 feet away. Nuts.
11:53: Back to work. G Baby vs. Hoodstar Chantz. G Baby goes first but fumbles a bit. She doesn't land on any really big punchlines, which is vital in this competition. Hoodstar might be able to ride in and sneak away with a W. He looks confident, even Bun mentions it. He's up...
11:55: HOLY CHRIST. Hoodstar cut her to pieces. He was ruthless, saying he'd make her give him head, but never mind because she was too ugly, but that he'd sleep with her instead, but never mind that she was too ugly, and that her girlfriend was leaving without her, but that, okayokay, he'd "give her some dick" after the show.
He even managed to turn the Southside dance into a euphemism for "blowjob." The room is rolling. The judges are laughing. Says ESG: That was just so fucking vulgar. Says Trae: He had me cracking up. Hoodstar to the finals, G Baby to the sideline in an upset. Wow.
11:55:15: Oh, BTW, just want to mention again that we pretty much called this exact thing happening six days ago. So there.
11:57: Mad-1 vs. Phranchyze.
11:59: Meh, Mad-1 delivers a lackluster round. Phranchyze is very likely about to make lion's food out of him.
12:01: Yup. Phranchyse is like a cyborg or something. He's the only guy tonight that's worked all of the visual cues into his rhymes, while somehow being the only guy with ZERO flat lines. He's heartless ("Mad-1, why are you mad? Oh, I know, because you're fat as fuck.") and clever (he made a completely appropriate Green Mile reference) and understands how devastating a blow it is to take something your opponent said and then flip it into an insult back at him. The room is buzzing. Fun, fun, fun. Red Bull EmSee > Watching Your Child Take His First Steps.
12:05: The intermission before the finals: a set from Trae. Excellent. Red Bull EmSee can do no wrong right now.
12:15: How many gigantic white T-shirts do you think Trae owns? (Our guess: All of them.)
12:19: Trae stomped through his usual hits, highlighted by a guest appearance from the tough-as-iron Pyrexx and an a capella version of HAWK's part in "Swang." We've seen Trae perform about 400 times. The guy is always sturdy.
12:24: Okay, here we go. Finals. Shit is serious. The favorite, the machine, the freestyle rap cyborg, Phranchyze vs. the precocious, foul-mouthed showman Hoodstar. This will be two rounds since it's the finals. And it will be brutal. And we're off...
12:25-31: Phranchyse walks into his set slowly, then rolls into a proper thunderstorm by the end, remarking on Hoodstar's hat ("it says 'SP' on it, that stands for 'sucks penis'") and saying that he looks like a "wack-ass African." Hoodstar doesn't flinch, retaliating with a jab about Phranchyse losing in the finals last year ("If y'all think he should win, he'll probably go to Atlanta... and lose again"), then going into a whole meta-Houston set, finishing with a "If Pimp C was still here, he woulda been smacked yo' ass."
Everyone goes apeshit. Even Bun breaks character slightly. Phranchyse, watching his title slip away, digs in, reversing nearly every insult lobbed at him (Hoodstar said he was thuggin' like ABN, Phranchyse countered by saying, "You're homo ABN, you like assholes by nature"; Phranchyse turned the Pimp C line back at HS, saying Pimp C would've told him to "take that monkey shit off"; etc). Fuck, man. This is brilliant. It is ultra-competitive. Half of the room is screaming for Phranchyse, the other for Hoodstar. Both sides are right.
12:32: These shows have never gone into overtime. It's apparently against the rules or something. But the judges refuse to pick a winner. Bun says they have to, then eventually relents, giving both competitors 60 more seconds. That might not be long enough.
12:33: Eh, both guys were gassed and kind of wobbled through their last bits, but Phranchyse wobbled less. He wins. Word to him and word to Hoodstar. What an excellent way to spend two hours.
12:43: Wait, wait.
12:43:15: A Bun B set!
12:51: We just tried to send a text that was supposed to read, "Send him a tweet," and our phone changed it automatically to instead read, "Send human teeth." The autocorrect feature is a real bitch sometimes.
12:56: He hit the expected songs, then threw in "Let 'Em Know" (the Preemo track from the last album) and his verses from Yelawolf's "Good To Go" and K.R.I.T.'s "Country Shit" just because he wanted to remind you that he is about six levels cooler than you.
1:15: Still here. Alchemist is DJing a set. Rejoice. We would like to take the Red Bull EmSee Battle to Paris and eat crepes in a cafe and talk about how funny it is that all of the guys are wearing those black-and-white striped shirts that European guys wear in cartoons. Swoon.
Personal Bias: Battle rapping is arch-entertainment.
The Crowd: Had fun.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I like the way drunk white girls look."
Random Notebook Dump: During Bun's performance of "Murder," a fight broke out. It lasted about 10 seconds and happened right near the stage. Do you know how many words Bun missed in his machine-gun-rifle of a verse? Zero. Bun B is unflappable.
Random Notebook Dump No. 2: Were you looking, you would've seen an incredible amount of Houston's underground rap population in attendance, a remarkable thing, for certain. It was like going to play basketball at the park and realizing somebody had scheduled an all-star game or something.
In no particular order, there was The Jett I, guys from Lower Life Form, Propain (whom we're now officially referring to as The Villain), DJ Young Samm, Kam Franklin (not a rapper, but performs with some), Nick from Mantis (not a rapper, but performs with some), Zeaky from KTRU, Lil Randy, Overweight Anthony, A.D.D. (who, for the time being, refuses to answer any interview questions with anything but "My album comes out in November"), Tawn P, Delo (we're trying out the nickname The Action Hero for him; give it some time), the Undergravity collective, singer SYDTHEMAN, Twit Boi Acre (sp?),Tre 9 and his Jesus mafia and more. Crazy.
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