Phranchyze Crowned Houston's Freestyle King At Red Bull EmSee Contest
Outside on Westheimer, a small crowd of young music lovers has gathered in front of Numbers. Before Rocks Off even makes our way into the building, we're immediately greeted by soulful hip-hop tunes blasting from the speakers. We look up to see that 9th Wonder is inside a Red Bull booth giving the crowd a whirlwind tour of his production catalog, everything from Jay-Z's "Threat" to Jean Grae's "Don't Push Me" with a few Little Brother gems in between.
Photos by Rizoh Thursday's unanimous winner Phranchyze advances to the national Red Bull EmSee finals in Detroit.
We hang outside for a while. Local rap duo Dirty & Nasty is here. Dirty informs us that they're playing a show this weekend. We nod enthusiastically, even though we have no plan of going there. Oh look, Rocks Off writer Valerie Alberto is here with her arm candy. She's also wearing that unmistakable smile. We exchange pleasantries and finally make our way inside.
Ahhh, it's refreshingly cool inside. DJ Good Grief is entertaining the crowd of about 50 early birds with choice cuts from Lil Wayne's catalog with a few other hit songs sprinkled in. We contemplate going back outside. Cool and Lil Wayne vs. humid and soulful gems? This is a tough one. Let's toss a coin. Heads, we go outside. Tails, we stay.
This time, 9th is spinning Pharcyde's "Running Away" and Jaylib's "The Official." The crowd has now doubled. Some of them are pointing to the sky and bobbing their heads forcefully.
Thursday's judges (l-r): Rhymefest, Bun B, 9th Wonder
The contest kicks off around 10:25 p.m. Tonight's host, the ever-charismatic D.R.E.S tha BEATnik, introduces 9th Wonder, Bun B and Rhymefest as the judges. We also meet the eight contestants: Andrew Sepulveda, Japanese Jesus, Mic Skills, Zeale, Phranchyze, Lyrics tha Lyraciss, Dubb Sickks, and Core. Japanese Jesus is wearing a Mike Tyson t-shirt and looks like he could kick some serious ass, but that won't help him in the contest as we'll soon find out.
There are three stages in tonight's competition and we'll try to explain them as best as possible. Pay attention. The emcees have to battle against each other and the clock, as their agility skills are tested in the quest for sovereign rights. One MC to rule them all.
The first stage is the "visual cue" stage. Each contestant is shown 5 random images, everything from an ATM machine to Justin Bieber. He then has 60 seconds to incorporate as many of these images as possible within a freestyle.
D.R.E.S tha BEATnik invites Rhymefest to show the contestants how to do it. Ten dollars says Rhymefest will mention that he once annihilated Eminem in a freestyle contest. The showcase is a breeze for him and he really gets the crowd pumped. Referencing a hockey image that was shown earlier, 'Fest rhymes: "I'm the only black player to win a game of hockey." He doesn't mention Eminem at all.
Phranchyze vs Japanese Jesus
Phranchyze takes this one by unanimous decision. Bun B complements Mr. Jesus on his unique moniker, "Japanese Jesus is the best rap name I've ever heard." By the way, Bun B really has his OG hat on tonight. "This is my house," he reminds us over and over.