February 3, 2004

KRS-One hosts annual Boston MC Battle
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

As 2,000 hip-hop fans waited for the Sixth Annual Superbowl MC Battle to begin, a circle opened up in the middle of the crowd. To everyone's surprise, the cipher wasn't started by local freestlyers or break-dancers, but the legendary KRS-One.

"We want to take it back to where it all started," KRS yelled. "With b-boys showing their skills in the cipher."

The scene was entirely different from last year's battle at The Middle East. Fans in the crowd said that last year's battle felt gritty and underground, whereas this year radio station Jam'n 94.5 advertised the event heavily. The inclusion of KRS-One guaranteed a huge showing.

The increased advertising clearly affected the appearance of the battle. Sponsored by MetroConcepts, Digizaar.com, Scion, and Vitamin Water, the stage was filled with advertisements for products. The contestants did not comment about whether the pink bottles of vitamin-enriched water helped their performance.

Many people complained that the battle felt corporate and that the organizers sold out by betraying the foundations of what an emcee battle should be.

Nevertheless, the increased exposure brought a more diverse crowd. KRS-One celebrated hip-hop's ability to bring people from different backgrounds together when a young white girl wearing Abercrombie & Fitch started break dancing on stage alongside an Asian man wearing Triple Five Soul.

"This is hip-hop, right here!" KRS-One said. "We got people here of every race, every social class, every gender."

The increased sponsorship also allowed the grand prize to be raised, from last year's $1,000 to $5,000 this year. Instead of giving the winner his prize in cash, as usually occurs in a battle, the winner was handed a big check, like he'd just won Ed McMahon's Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

The annual Boston battle pits 16 contestants from around the country against each other in alternating one minute, one-on-one freestyles. Last year's winner, local rapper Jake the Snake, competed again, but lost before the finals.

The finals showcased Diabolic from Long Island, and Rhymefest from Indianapolis. To the disproval of much of the crowd, the celebrity panel, which included local rapper Akrobatik, awarded Diabolic the win.

Despite quite a few talented contestants, the highlight of the battle was still KRS-One's half-time show. The former Boogie Down Productions emcee performed most of his classics, like "South Bronx" and "My Philosophy," and some of his new songs such as "Let's Go."

Most of the contestants seemed to be in awe of KRS and referenced his presence and influence on hip-hop repeatedly in their lyrics. Other popular topics included Kobe Bryant's rape case, local rapper Benzino, and the New England Patriots.

The battle is known as the Superbowl Battle because it used to take place on Superbowl Sunday, yet it was changed three years ago when the Patriots were in the big game. Past contestants include Jin, Sage Francis, C Rayz Walz, and Mr. Lif, all of whom were unsigned hype at the time and have moved on to successful careers at major underground hip-hop labels.

"Rap is something you do. Hip-hop is something you live"

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