Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Fowl to the Game
An 18-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. High School graduate was declared one of the best freestyle rappers in the country.
Detroiter Saffal Tall, better known by his stage name FowL, won a national freestyle competition judged by another Detroiter no stranger to rap battles himself: Eminem.
The "Red Bull EmSee: The Road to 8 Mile National Championship" brought out rappers from hip-hop hot spots like New York City and the Bay Area to lesser-known enclaves like Austin, Texas. After battling across several cities nationwide, the final battle was fought out on familiar stomping grounds: Saint Andrew's Hall in downtown Detroit.
"I brought it back to the crib....thank God," FowL, a student at Michigan State University, tweetedafter winning the competition.
Last night's display brought out a few notable local names, including Trick Trick, Royce da 5'9, Marv Won, Elzhi (of Slum Village) and Black Milk. And a few national names were there, too -- Bun B (who had judged earlier competitions in his Houston hometown and New York City), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Xzibit and Skillz.
Eminem, quiet, reserved and media-shy for the festivities, judged the three-round battle with producers Alchemist and Mr. Porter.
"The people that come out and support these crowds are incredible," Bun B told MLive. "They're performing extremely well under pressure. This whole experience has been a class act."
Before the competition, Bun B said the rappers in New York City were "hard to beat." Ironically, the final round saw FowL and an NYC rapper, DNA, face off.
Here's how it worked: The eight finalists paired off and fought three rounds until it boiled down to two. In the first round, each rapper was shown five images on a projection screen and required to use them in their freestyle.
One of Austin rapper Franchyze's images was a picture of Bob Saget. "We had an orgy in your home/it was a full house."
DNA had a boy scout for one of his images. "You a bitch dressed like a boy scout."
Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Gwyneth Paltrow were all bitches too, by the way. And sometimes your mother or your girlfriend.
Headkrack (yes, the sidekick from "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show"was a contestant) caught a bad reaction from the crowd with a picture of a lion. "You about to have a bad record like the Lions." Instant boos.
"My mom's from Detroit," Franchyze told MLive before the battle. "She's from the east side, on Van Dyke. She told me, "don't diss the D, now. Don't say negative things about Detroit.'"
In Round 2, each rapper was given an ongoing series of random words they had to use in the freestyle. Amalgamation. Obama. Judge Judy. Thing. Captain Lou Albano. And so on. It tripped a few of the rappers up, as they only had 60 seconds to show off.
By the last round, after a beatboxing intermission from the show's host D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DNA and FowL squared off in a no-holds barred battle. No words, no images -- just flow.
"Who would you rather listen to?/someone who spits the truth/or a n**** with a missing tooth?" FowL said, drawing the biggest reaction from the crowd.
DNA's attempt to pander to the Detroit crowd -- "Everybody from the 313/Put your hands in the air and follow me" -- fell on deaf ears, and his 60-second rap was cut short by the booing crowd. Eminem and the other panelists unanimously crowned FowL the winner.
FowL, who was the youngest in the competition, will now head into a studio to work with producers of his choice.
"I'm glad we did this," D.R.E.S. told MLive after the competition. "I'm glad we brought this to Detroit, of all places. This is love."
Detroit's own Slaughterhouse closed the show with a half-hour set. Here's a snippet, courtesy of YouTube user acehole411: