The Beatdown

The Rock In' Freak Fest was all that -- and more.

And there are plenty of artists talented enough to break out. If you've slept on the stunning cast of characters in D-town -- Minezai, Ground Zero Movement, Kashmere, Playalitical, Develop.Mental, Derris, Chill, Roadside Prophets, Floss City, Crown City Rockers, Lil' Therapy, Loose Cannons, Dirty Tony and Master Fuol (a New Yorker turned Coloradan) -- blame it on the clubs that don't book such acts on the weekends. These cats are killing it out there every time they hit the stage, whether or not they're getting paid; they respect the game and they're hungry, pounding the streets and hustling their work. (I bought Playalitical's Americon disc outside of the Atmosphere show at the Fillmore.) They deserve to be respected, to play on Friday and Saturday nights to packed houses -- not shoved into the Monday ghetto, the slowest club night of the week for anybody.

It's time for clubs to stop being scared and to take hip-hop seriously.

But money talks and bullshit runs the marathon, right? So any club owners who question whether hip-hop can draw serious crowds should use October 28's Purple turnout as a litmus test. Once I finally made it inside, the club was packed asses to elbows with people waiting to watch the area's finest MCs battle for local supremacy, $200 and a chance to be featured on The Next Episode. Thanks to KS-107.5's DJ Sabotage, the show's producers scheduled a last-minute stop in Denver on their quest to find the nation's ten best undiscovered MCs.

The competition itself was no 8 Mile battle, but it was still riveting to watch -- for the unpredictable nature of freestyling, if nothing else. The priceless moment of the evening was when 7-40 -- one of the four guys randomly selected from the crowd to battle the four finalists -- got clowned by that night's winner, Park Hill's Q-Burst, got mad that he'd lost and was then barraged with boos. It was all good, though, and at the end they shook hands -- and surprisingly, no one was shot.

Still, not everyone was feeling the love. After the gig, I ran into a few fellas who didn't feel the best in Denver had been represented that night. "I got two cats, Ledo Briggs and Goon Conway, that will rip anybody in Denver, anytime, anyplace, anywhere," said Jay-Rich, a local R&B singer. "They were there, but they couldn't get on."

MC Kashmere, who also was unable to compete, expressed similar sentiments. "Yo, I thought it was garbage," he told me. "It wasn't organized properly. I just found out about it earlier today. I listen to the radio every day, so they can't front like they've been advertising this for weeks, you know what I'm saying? They hyped it up like Interscope was coming through and it was going to be live, but it wasn't."

I, too, had first heard about the event earlier that day -- although the lack of publicity didn't stop the crowds from coming. And since three of the best freestylers I've seen -- Neil McIntyre and Microphone Jones from Minezai, and Mane Roc from Ideal Ideologies -- weren't included, it's debatable whether the lineup could really be billed as the best in Denver. While there were some skilled MCs in the house -- Dent Roc, Varsity and Q-Burst -- just as many wack MCs were competing.

Still, it was nice to finally see some Denver heads get their chance to shine.

Ballcaps or not.

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