Following the inaugural EmSee event in Los Angeles in June, where Dirtbag Dan advanced, Redbull headed to Seattle last Thursday (July 28) for the second installment of their national freestyle rap competition.
Seattle’s Crocodile was packed with locals who came out to see what the eight competing MCs were made of. The battle, hosted by rapper Bun B, brought MCs Illmaculate, 9dm, K.R.U.E., Mic Phenom, Billy the Fridge, Bishop I, Justis, and KI Design to center stage.
While the crowd cheered for their favorites, the final call was ultimately up to the panel of judges, which included rap legends Too $hort, Casual (Hieroglyphics) and Crooked I (Slaughterhouse). At the end of the night, Portland’s Illmaculate was named winner, and will advance to the Red Bull EmSee National Finals in Atlanta later this fall.
The Red Bull EmSee competition format puts a spin on the traditional rap battle, providing random prompts and cues on screens that the MCs needed to hit in each of their flows, challenging them to truly spit rhymes off-the-dome.
After a night of intense battles, the famed judges reminded the crowd that they can not only “walk the walk,” but they can “talk the talk,” too. In between rounds, each judge took to the stage and gave the crowd and competitors a dose of their roots—pure off the dome freestyle rapping.
Seattle’s winning MC, Greg Poe, aka Illmaculate, entered his first rap battle at 15-years-old and describes the journey as being “uphill.” The Portland native is no stranger to Red Bull EmSee. He battled in last year’s regional qualifier in San Francisco — a battle that was ultimately won by Los Angeles underground legend, Nocando. Illmaculate continued to sharpen his skills and earned himself an invitation to compete in this year’s qualifier in Seattle, a town with a reputation for notoriously tough crowds.
“In the first round, I said two words and was instantly hated by a few people in the front row who were screaming ‘you suck’, ” Illmaculate reflected. “It wasn’t exclusive to me though, a few MCs — man, the crowd was tearing them apart for no reason, but that’s what happens.
“A real MC has to adjust to the circumstances, and that’s what you’ve got to do to win the crowd over,” he continued. “I feel like a real MC can thrive under pressure and honestly, I feel like I perform well when I’m being challenged the most.”
November is going to be a big month for Illmaculate. Not only will he be battling for the title of Red Bull EmSee National Champion, he will be dropping his magnum opus, Skrill Talk, an album which has been five years in the making. It features Tech N9ne, Crooked I and Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang.
Before then, however, Illmaculate jas dropped The GreenTape a collaboration he did with G_Force in which they flipped Al Green’s Lay it Down album front to back while thematically maintaining the concept of each song.
The winner of the Red Bull EmSee National Finals will be heading into Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica to work on an original track with a producer of his choice from a select panel. Last year’s Red Bull EmSee National Champion, Fowl, recently released “Cha Cha Chicken (We On)” — his studio track with Alchemist (listen here).
The next Red Bull EmSee stop will be at the Trocodero in Philadelphia on August 25. For tickets and information, visit Redbull.com/RedbullEmSee.