As guests filed into the space that once housed the original Velvet Room, free Coors beverages flowed from both bars. Lyrics from Charlotte competitors, Felony Fame and Eddie Blaze appeared on large screens above the VIP areas. The random words, rife with clichés, like "shinin' like a diamond" were sanitized with long dashes in place of profanity, making them look more like ad copy from clueless marketers than legitimate verbal daggers from hungry MCs.
After a good mix and mingle hour, Ice Cube, the only rapper to go from O.G. to PG and back again, hosted the evening stepping onto the stage with his trademark call, "Yay-ee-yay." Cube introduced the two ATL transplant competitors: Long Island, NY native Jay R Da Star, and beauty pageant contestant/singer/rapper, Lois Lane, from Louisville, Ky.
The battle consisted of three rounds: a verse on life in Atlanta, 16 bars on why they're the "coldest," and a performance of an original song. Neither of them said anything memorable. Their ready for TV good looks made them appear as though they should have been performing together like Drake and Rihanna, instead of battling.
In an interesting bit of irony, Ice Cube's "Do Ya Thang" from his Raw Footage album, contains a line where he says, "I forgot this hoe's name/I'll call her Lois Lane."
Cube wasn't calling anyone names, but those words summarized the nondescript style of the battle portion of the show. The two got some applause, but there was no fire like what I've seen in shows past - including a similar competition held by Red Bull, or even the impromptu cyphers of A3C.
Just when crowd attention was waning, Ice Cube had an announcement. Performer 2 Chainz couldn't make it due to a "family situation." Instead, fans got a super surprise upgrade to T.I.
Before T.I., hit the stage, inexplicably, Bushwick Bill of Geto Boys, spit an unintelligible freestyle, but still got love.
T.I., who hasn't missed a beat since two back-to-back stints in federal prison, marched out to "Bring 'Em Out," and wrapped with "What You Know." Newcomer A$AP Rocky did a few verses and Lil' Scrappy brought a crunk revival with "Head Bussa" and "No Problem."
Finally, the naming of Lois Lane as the winner, through an unseen voting process, was completely anti-climactic. The crowd was already satiated by free drinks and a free show. Some of the ladies cheered loudly, to paraphrase Jay-Z, "just to see one of us make it."
And as if he really needed permission, Ice Cube asked if he could close out the evening with his classics, "Check Yo Self," and "It Was a Good Day."
In a pre-show chat, the West Coast veteran spoke on his unusual career, "I never been a gimmick. Most hardcore people if you really talk to them, if you think about it, all they really want is their own piece of the American dream, so to speak."
So don't feel bad for Jay R Da Star or Lois Lane. They'll achieve their dreams one way or another - through the hard grind of battling or pop-friendly corporate packaging.
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