What do you do with your free time? Some people get crunk up on in this dancery, but if you’re anything like the first floor of Everett dorm, you lose yourself in an escalating series of rap battles and competitions.
Don’t call them a comeback — they’ve been here for months. The first battles began a few months into last semester, and it all started with a single word: arbitrary.
Founders Henry McKeand and Cameron Fulton attended the same high school in Apex, but the magic didn’t happen until they were both sitting in a college lounge. They happened to bring up the word “arbitrary” in conversation and it struck a chord, prompting McKeand to wonder just how many words he could rhyme with it. With the help of a word generator, he soon found out, and faster than you can say “Hermes Trismegistus,” McKeand and Fulton were having a rap battle between friends. Word spread, and it wasn’t long before the trend caught on amongst hallmates and their friend, Michael Bono.
The approach to rap battles is as varied as the number of rappers performing. Some prefer to freestyle, some approach it like slam poetry sesh instead of a rap battle, and others prefer to carefully plan out their flow.
The three founders each have different favorite rappers (Bono prefers Eminem; McKeand leans towards Ghostface Killah; Fulton is split between Eminem, Busta Rhymes and Childish Gambino) but they all approach their own rap in similar ways: by pre-planning.
I definitely prefer to pre-write all of my raps,” Bono said. “And like, they’ll just come to me sometimes.”
Fulton goes so far as to blend methods.
“Every time we rap we say ‘I'll be done in about two days,' when in reality, I’ve found myself adding lines to my rap literally minutes before the battles began,” he said.
The multitude of approaches pays off when the competition finally rolls around.
"The competition was three rounds and a championship round," McKeand said.
And, for those rounds, the intensity is present.
“This competition is amazing,” Fulton said. “It is not as much about winning as it is about just hearing the creative, visceral and sometime offensively comedic lines that are thrown out.”
Of course, none of the disses are too hard — the spirit of the competition is a jovial one, and everyone involved knows they’re all in good fun. Nonetheless, it’s possible to catch a few whispered “ooh”s rising from the crowd during a particularly tense battle, such as during the championship round.
“Hearing Henry and Michael go at it with such intensity and focus really raised the energy of everyone in the room,” Fulton said.
And as in all of the best rap battles, the audience is king; popular vote decides the winner of each round.
Winning is nice, of course, but it’s not exactly the point. The magic of a rap battle comes from the link between audience and performance, the intensity of sparring with words, and of course, the jubilation of performing with friends.
Perhaps Fulton puts it best: “Honestly, even if we never rap again, the experiences that have been shared by Everett and our group have made a lifelong impact.”
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