Cattle-call audition gimmick and amateur judging kills competition
First off, congratulations to Quantum and Charron. It ain’t your fault most of the emcees were garbage…and big ups to White Fang for putting on the best performance. And now to the real story….
Most real hip hoppers knew it from the get go – that The Ultimate MC Battle was just another yawn-fest in a long line of boring competitions the city has seen over the past decade. Not only did the end result seem fixed, or at least judged by meth-heads who didn’t seem to be watching the last round, but the initial line-up was suspect and proves that the open audition format will never yield a good show.
Perhaps most telling in this latest of failed battles were the participants. Other than Bishop Brigante, Canada’s most heralded battler, the entire Ultimate MC team is a who’s who of who cares in Canada’s urban scene. Don’t let the youtube hits fool you, King of the Dot is garbage. Not only does it shine a spotlight on a weak format (they mostly battle in acapella because most of their emcees aren’t skilled enough to stay on beat AND freestyle), but the rappers are unskilled, prototypical rookies that would get eaten alive against a typical, seasoned battle emcee. Brigante, if he isn’t embarrassed, should be wondering how he went from a respected emcee killer to the host of a wack enterprise destined to keep Toronto’s rep as ‘mediocre’ in the hip hop world.
Things were not always this bad. Back in the day Toronto had a communications pipeline that led straight to the 5 boroughs of New York. Artists from T-dot worked with local promoters who brought in some of hip hop’s most legendary emcees during the Golden Era of the music. The list of artists who graced the stage of the Concert Hall reads like a manifest of hip hop history: KRS ONE, Big Daddy Kane, The Roots, Kid Capri, just to name a few. A mutual respect for realness and talent led to collaborations with local artists like Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee and a slew of up and comers still trying to get heard. Today it is the up and comers that can’t hold their weight. King of the Dot exemplifies this ineptness through their habit of showcasing emcees who don’t deserve the spotlight, and Ultimate MC ultimately followed suit.
That’s not to say Toronto doesn’t have emcees with the necessary skills to put on a good show, it’s that the self-proclaimed representatives of the scene don’t know where the talent lives. They seem to only have a pipeline on rappers who can’t rhyme to beats, can’t battle without spitting rhymes that are obviously written and simply don’t have the kind of swagger that creates memorable battle moments. In short, Toronto is currently being grossly misrepresented in hip hop, especially in the battle scene.
Usually, when a genre is being pimped by watered down artists, there is a backlash in the underground. We see it in rock music, electronic music and jazz where a collective frustration towards the mainstream results in a buffet of budding artists and new sounds. But it isn’t every day when the underground hip hop heads would rather listen to the latest Drake album instead of scouring for new, local emcees. The tragedy is nobody thinks there are any local cats anymore, and those that do believe the Toronto underground is alive and well are swallowing the shit fed to them by KOTD, Ultimate MC and rappers who simply can’t spit. Until a scene veteran steps up and calls these fraudsters out we may be stuck with the mediocre moniker for years to come.