Thursday July 11, in the City of Brotherly Love (PHILLY, PA)- Bun B, DJ Drama and the legendary Ice Cube teamed up as celebrity judges for the Coors Light Search for the Coldest MC Competition; French Montana was featured as a guest performer.
Expectations were high. DJ Drama says of the competition, “[Electric Factory] is the biggest venue we’ve had so far, so [the contestants] have no choice but to tear it down. Philly MCs are some of the greatest MCs.”
Of Philly’s rich musical history the judges unanimously agree that, Philly is major in Hip Hop because of artists like Fresh Prince, The Roots and more, so these rappers had better do their city justice. Houston, Texas based rapper Bun B also isn’t afraid to admit that “Philly don’t play” when it comes to their artistry.
It’s significant that Coors Light has someone like Ice Cube, who’s been in the game for so long, judging these artists just breaking into the industry. Ice Cube is a veteran and even if he did nothing else in music from this day on, he’s still one of the most relevant Hip Hop artists of all time. Bun B of UGK and DJ Drama are also far from novices and can boast very successful careers in music. Though some feel that there is an age limit on Hip Hop artists, Cube has this to say on there being a glass ceiling: “It’s crazy to think that you have to quit just because of your age.” He goes on, “This is what we do, there is no shelf life if an MC is committed to [their] fans…”
Bun B adds, “Hip Hop is still very young. We are just getting to the point where our fans are 50 [years old]. Even when athletes retire, they still commentate.”
Ice Cube recalls when he did a concert with De la soul and LL Cool J, for the Kings of the Mic tour, and there was a packed house every night. “People think Hip Hop is all for the kids, but auntie and uncle out there too!” Even at the show that night a grandma strutted through with what looked like her daughter, bobbing her head like it was nothing; she belonged there. Ice Cube half-jokes, “When I get 75 or 80 you can see me in Vegas,” assuring his fans that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Now for the competition.
For the first round, contestants and Philly natives Reno Sinatra and Thee General were tested by Ice Cube to do a freestyle on why they deserved to be the coldest. The I’m-the-shit-freestyle is one major component of Hip Hop, as many songs from the beginning of the culture were about being the dopest MC. We’ve seen the subject matter change a bit over the decades but it still remains: Hip Hop is a genre of cockiness. Although it was hard to hear, in order to judge actual lyrical content, the audience seemed less than impressed with and booed Thee General on his freestyle. He was lacking a bit of energy.
“That is just a freestyle” says Ice Cube to calm down the crowd. “You can’t win just freestylin’. It’s only one aspect of MCing; some [MCs] can, some can’t—But every MC should have a hot 16.”
Which brings us to the next round: People were skeptical of Thee General’s 16 bars but once he started riding the beat, the audience started bouncing with one hand in the air like they were feeling it– And thus is the fickle nature of the game, in the blink of an eye you can redeem yourself.
The next and final round of the competition was the original song. Ice Cube says that this is the “true measure of who will be the coldest,” for an MC to have a song that fans appreciate is essential.
Reno Sinatra’s original song “Go Hard” has a musical hook complete with a young and feisty female singer… and at least it’s not about hoes. It’s never good to lead with that–but it’s definitely about money and going tirelessly after your dreams. “We gettin’ money” was the resounding refrain. His other notable single is simply called “Philadelphia,” an anthem to his hometown.
Thee General’s original song, “Bobby Storm,” was completely different. His flow is off center, every line doesn’t rhyme, yet it works. He’s just lacking a little confidence on stage; the song sounds better on the track, rather than live.
What may amaze one the most about viewing this event is that a bunch of people can be thrown in a large room with virtually nothing but music and some cold beer and everyone instinctively knows what to do—look at the stage to see what may be the future of music for years to come.
Bun B rocked the stage, performing his various hits including his classic verse on “Big Pimpin’’ and also covered the late Pimp C’s verse, which still is flawless lyrical representation of Texas.
Later, after a nostalgic DJ set the winner was ready to be announced.
So who was the coldest? If you were just going on the crowd’s reception of each MC you would have predicted that Reno Sinatra would win and you’d be right. Thee General’s less than fresh freestlye is what probably knocked him out of the running, because in the other categories he was actually pretty good and gave Reno Sinatra a good run for his money: $20,000 and more in prizes for winning the competition.
Featured artist French Montana performed a few of his latest hits and even Freeway made a surprise visit to drop his verse on his classic “What We Do.” We waiting on the DJ to play “California Love” to get us ready for some of Ice Cube’s classics like “It Was a Good Day,” and although he didn’t perform, it was still a pretty good day.
The best line of the night rang out like a call and response from French Montana: “If you ain’t worried about a motha-fuckin’ thing then put your hands in the air!” which led us right into his care-free anthem (which one can twerk, bounce or simply ride to) “Ain’t Worried About Nothin.’” For a quick second, a question came to mind: how can a Moroccan born rapper who moved to the Bronx later in life can end up with a southern drawl? But after witnessing a die-hard Philly representative under-dog reach the pinnacle of his career as of yet, a free concert from artists we already know and love, and a couple of free ice cold Coors light, hell, I’m not worried about a damn thing either.
For more pictures of this year’s entire Search for the Coldest Tour, search #SFTC2013