Tonight, the Savoy Events Center will once again be filled wall-to-wall with people from all walks of life who came for one reason: Rocking the mic. MCs from across Colorado will come together for the second Rap-A-Thon, which will feature art, fashion and hours of rhyming.
The night will have plenty in common with the tel-a-thons of its namesake. "[It's] hours and hours of raps and tons of people from the scene coming together in a great showing of unity," says Ru Johnson, who co-founded the event.
The idea came to her during a trip to New York in December 2012, when a friend invited her to a day-long Guinness Book of World Records rap marathon in Harlem at the Magic Johnson Theater. "There were thousands of MCs, and I get there about three in the morning just to see what was happening," says Johnson. "And they were in there, rocking."
When she returned to Denver, Johnson tossed around the idea with Lizzy Brodie during a casual business meeting, and the two agreed to work on it together.
Once the idea fully matured, the two decided to modify the event slightly to fit the scene here. "Denver has such a full hip-hop culture and there are a lot of MCs here," says Brodie. "So I think that we just knew once we kind of announced it and invited them, that they would come."
The two felt the scene was primed for something like this, where MCs could work out their linguistic skills in a community environment. Johnson refers to it as "rap calisthenics."
"Denver is a cipher city. In New York, they were doing it for a record. Denver is a freestyle city. Wind 'em up they can stand there and go forever and ever and ever," says Johnson. "The way we chose to do the cipher was really speaks to the strength of the MCs here in Denver." Still, she says, "freestyles are not necessary. You could come with your dopest verse, and as long as you can make it fit to the beat it's really conducive to that cipher style." "It was a beautiful of competition and support. MCs have this thing where they can be really nervous around each other, and they can feel like standoff-ish," says Johnson. But the Rap-A-Thon is meant to be supportive, with veteran MCs like Ill 7 and MC Bighouse there to pick up for an artist struggling to finish a verse. "Part of that eagerness is to hold each other down, even if someone messes up, the host will catch them and it's really nice to watch them in a cipher setting, kind of like trust falling test with rap."
The positive energy allows MCs of all skill levels to come out to vibe together and join in when they feel ready. "If an MC is maybe a little more shy, they can come in stand in the cipher, vibe and let it build up. When they are ready they can just jump in," says Brodie.
This will be Denver's third Rap-A-Thon. 75 MCs registered before the second one, and the expectations for the third installment are bigger -- the scene itself has grown in the interim.
"The sentiment of the scene is going to show the difference. The scene has changed even since we did the second one in January," says Johnson. "The MCs have stepped their music game up tremendously. The rap that is coming out of the scene is amazing right now."
Brodie and Johnson stress the community feel this time around. "We wanted to make it fun event," says Brodie. "Not too strict: Come through, spit on the mic, don't drop the mic, have fun."
The First Year Anniversary Rap-A-Thon will be Friday, September 20 at the Savoy Events Center. AP from Squizzy Gang will host.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.