Teens battle it out for rapper clout

Contest held in an effort to promote drug-free activity.
Sunday, December 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To the high beat of drums, fly peeps had fun getting crunked up and getting it done, finding the words to win under the disco lights Friday night in the third annual Rock the Mike Competition.

Competition is hype and with $30 up in the air for the first prize winner, the rap battles were fast and furious and not a place for the weak of heart or rhyme.

The event was heated as students won or were defeated. The crowd of 300 roared with approval for those they liked and screamed for the removal of those who could not rock the mike. Chants of “Go Go Go” hammered as the music drummed in their chests. The young rappers did their best to make some noise, and the audience provided the rest.

The rap battle, as it was named, brought together Columbia’s high schools to compete for prize money and a little bit of fame. It was supported by Bridges, an educational support group for a drug- and alcohol-free society made up of students, parents and school faculty.

The event was emceed by Q106.1, which Hickman junior Bruce Johnson, 16, said got the job done. Bruce is a member of Bridges and in his second year. He competed and helped host the rap battle and often encouraged the audience to cheer.

“I want a career in rap, and college might not be an option for me,” he said. “But this experience helps provide a positive, possible way to make it.”

Maria McMahon, an outreach counselor at Hickman High, helped establish Bridges so kids could come by and have input for the school events. Members of the group were present as judges and to sell pizza and refreshments.

“The kids get a night of fun and a drug-free event,” she said. “It’s something the students have that helps build community in Columbia and it’s a positive competition.”

Hickman senior, Alex Jones, 19, was picked to be a judge and said he would not budge if students tried to influence his choice. He was looking for creativity, feelings in their words and expressions in their voice.

Even Rock Bridge principal, Bruce Brotzman, was on hand, although he admitted he was not entirely a rap fan. He said ’70s soft rock was more to his liking, but he appreciated how this event brought all three high schools together for positive competition and no fighting.

“This competition provides the students an opportunity to show off their talents,” he said. “The kids can relate to it and they’re gonna have a lot of fun.”

In the end, the winner proved once again to be Hickman senior, James Fitzmaurice, 17, for the second straight year. James said he had some anxiety, some fear before the battle. But the competition folded for him one by one like weak-kneed cattle.

“I won it last year, and I thought I had to defend my title,” he said. “The energy wasn’t the same, but it felt great to win.”

James has hopes of becoming a rapper like his favorite group, A Tribe Called Quest. He said the competition served as a launching pad as the crowd once again crowned him the best. Now he plans to continue singing with his band, J-Murda and the Musicians. He hopes to build a fan base and weather the future rap-climate conditions.

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