Rip the Mic / Talib Kweli The Phoenix, Toronto ON - July 19, 2004

Rip the Mic / Talib KweliThe Phoenix, Toronto ON - July 19, 2004
Eight cats from Ontario go head-to-head in a freestyle war, exchanging rhymes from the top of their heads, dissing their competition cleverly and rhythmically as the crowd fuels them on with enormous cheers for well-crafted verses. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? When done right, freestyle competitions can be incredible, but there simply wasn't enough talent at the first annual Rip the Mic to keep the crowd entertained. In fact, the competitors had such difficult times connecting words that the majority of the MCs were greeted with boos or, if they were lucky, silence. Guest judge Talib Kweli urged the crowd to show their support, stating that unless the attendees could do better they need to show these amateur wordsmiths some love. Still, it's very difficult to show enthusiasm for locals reduced to homophobic raps and racial slurs as a form of showing up their competitor, with none of these MCs having the skill to lyrically serve those on stage with true intelligence. You have to be able to prove to the crowd and the judges that you can rap about a handpicked topic with ease before you have the right to disrespect those you share a stage with. The preliminary rounds weren't much to brag about, though every now and again someone would step up a notch with small signs of brilliance, making the crowd go bonkers, but this didn't happen nearly enough. Once the deadweight was taken care of and the final round approached, Talib Kweli came out to deliver several songs and show the sold-out crowd how rhyming is done, but at that point the place was kind of tired of hip-hop. Regardless, Kweli dropped gem after gem and by the time he got around to "Move Somethin'" the crowd fell in love with beats and rhymes again and forgot they paid for a mediocre talent show. As Kweli returned to the judge's table, finalists Sam Osa and Scandalis took their places as the no-brainers to make it this far. With very little stopping them from making it to the top it seemed like this final could make up for the rest of the night. Sam Osa killed it in the fourth round by dissing Scandalis's entire crew — what seemed to be the final nail in the coffin as both MCs were given the opportunity to freestyle with no topic to work with. Kweli still insisted on a fifth round, and even though Osa came a little weak, Scandalis came even weaker and the winner of the freestyle battle was someone named after a delicious snack. Rip the Mic may have just suffered from some inaugural setbacks and could iron itself out over the next few years. With the next bout being a national affair, this event could improve drastically, because there is no way in hell that the eight on stage that night represented the best this province has to offer.