Calling all aspiring rappers: KCOU will host their biannual Freestyle Rap Battle on Wednesday, April 8 at Speakers Circle.
This is KCOU’s second year hosting the battle, which they hold each semester. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the contest begins at noon.
The winner will receive two VIP meet-and-greet tickets to Lil Dicky, EZ Da Assassin and Dalicat on April 9 at The Blue Note.
Sophomore Hannah Nelson is assistant live events director for KCOU and says the battle is open to anyone, MU student or otherwise.
“It’s freestyle, and we create the beats,” she says. “You just kind of have to show up and do what ya got.”
The battle usually gets from five to eight performers, with a cap around 10 due to time constraints. Nelson says the event always fills the area.
“When you set up a DJ stand in the middle of Speakers Circle, people just flock to you,” she says.
The battle has a variable number of rounds, starting with an initial round where each participant gets around 30-45 seconds to perform.
Nelson says it’s usually pretty easy to determine who will continue in the competition and who will be cut, based on whether competitors drop rhymes or lose the beat. If it’s really hard to tell, though, the event staff will ask for audience participation to decide who a winner is.
The next few rounds challenge rappers to use words from the audience in their rhymes.
Once the final two rappers are chosen, they get the chance to compete back and forth either a cappella or with a beat.
At this point, you can expect rappers to pick on each other, and while KCOU tries to keep the rhymes PG-rated, it’s pretty typical to hear explicit content.
For this reason, KCOU doesn’t air the battle live. Explicit content isn’t allowed on the air according to FCC regulations, and the radio station could face hefty fines if a rapper slips up.
This isn’t the rap battle’s only legal concern though; MUPD shows up every year due to noise complaints, but KCOU avoids trouble because noon to 1 p.m. every day is “Music Hour” and anyone on campus can play music as loud as they please.
Michael Porter drove here from St. Louis for the battle last semester and left with the title.
Chase Newman was the winner of last spring’s rap battle, which he describes as “good beats (and) fun times.”
“I usually freestyle for funsies or to impress people,” Newman says.
Newman also encourages others to participate.
“Get over your nerves,” Newman says. “Don’t let people judge you. You’re already doing a lot more than the audience. They’re just watching. Be natural. Just let the words flow.”
Last year, Newman won tickets to see Danny Brown, a Detroit artist.
This year, because KCOU would normally offer free studio time but can’t because of booking constraints, they’ve included a VIP meet-and-greet in the prize package, as well as tickets to the April 9 Lil Dicky show.
“It’s a pretty good competition,” Nelson says. She says this year many artists who will turn out have performed their fair share of shows publically.
“It’s no Kanye and Kendrick or anything like that, but it’s usually pretty entertaining,” Nelson says.