Tuesday nights at Apache Café are billed as Mic Club. Technically, however, the event takes place Wednesday morning. Around 11 p.m., the club is nearly empty save for the bartenders, venue staff and the night's host and promoter, beat-box extraordinaire D.R.E.S. tha Beatnik. DJs Edward Scissorhands (not to be confused with Johnny Depp) and Razah content themselves by spinning hardcore hip-hop tracks, waiting for the night to begin.
It isn't until 11:55 p.m. that D.R.E.S. tha Beatnik takes the stage. The place is filled to near capacity with a random assortment of true-school backpackers and other collegians. It could be Octane Coffee on a weekend night. "Apache Café, how y'all feeling out there tonight?" asks D.R.E.S.. "I'd like to welcome you to the world-famous Mic Club." He asks if anyone has never been to Mic Club before. Only four or five kids raise their hands.
The MC competition begins. "I need two MCs to come on down; you're the next contestant on Catch a Beat Down!" rhymes D.R.E.S., clearly inspired by "The Price is Right's" Bob Barker. Here's how it works: Two volunteers take the stage and "battle," freestyling raps for a minute or so each. Someone is crowned the victor by applause and advances to the next round. It goes like this until there are no more volunteers. "Although these MCs were good, only one will remain! Which will it be?" asks D.R.E.S. after each battle.
These amateur rappers are comically bad. One guy says, "I'll rip your bitch ass and leave it in a trunk." Another kid brags about cutting up his opponent with switchblades. D.R.E.S. holds the showcase together with buoyant charisma. As the wannabe MCs battle, he dances merrily on the side of the stage like a court jester.
Two Atlanta expatriates, the Hylandaz and Big Juss, perform between rounds. Ironically, the crowd chats with one another and wanders outside to the patio during the professional performances, then gives its undivided attention when the corny verbal pugilists retake the stage. Inexplicably, only a handful of fans (this one included) know who Big Juss is. Years ago, he helped pioneer the rap game as part of the critically acclaimed group Company Flow, and was an integral part of Atlanta's underground scene earlier this decade. But few seem to recognize Co-Flow classics such as "Tragedy of War (in III Parts)" and "End to End Burners."
At around 2 a.m. the two finalists, who call themselves Blitz and Major Deacon, face off. Blitz begins by dissing Deacon's girlfriend. Deacon, a tall, dreadlocked guy who towers in size over the short, skinny Blitz, fires back: "You little dude, you don't need much/You smoke a little blunt while I smoke a big dutch."
Blitz pushes and shoves against Deacon. Deacon, in a defensive move, pretends to karate kick Blitz. In response, Blitz swings at Deacon and kicks him – for real. The two opponents violently grapple one another before they're separated by security. The fiery Blitz is thrown out of the club, ending the battle. Deacon is declared champion by default and wins a $100 prize. What a finale!
"In six years, that's the third time that's happened," says D.R.E.S. to the crowd, which is alternately stunned and amused by what just took place. Who knew a Mic Club could become a Fight Club? "We're not going to stop doing this," he promises as everyone heads for the exits. "At the end of the day, it's all words."
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