Show review: 'Jack N’ For Beats' national freestyle competition at Bob's Classic Kicks

Jul 8, 2015 at 8:43 am

Jack N’ For Beats" national freestyle competition
Bob's Classic Kicks
WHEN: July 7, 2015

A Call to Battle: Hip Hop Hopefuls Seek Recognition in the Jack N’ For Beats National Freestyle Competition

Jack N’ For Beats, a national freestyle competition hosted by Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is back in Detroit and local aspiring hip hop artists have responded in numbers. Lines of contestants snaked out and around the back of the contest’s touring mobile studio, a pimped out 18’X 24’ trailer complete with soundboard, DJ booth and a preview window for onlookers to size up their competition. Inside Bob’s Classic Kicks, the Woodward Ave. sneaker boutique hosting the event, heavy summertime humidity made the tension feel palpable as a live cypher, in which emcees freestyle 16 bars one by one with varied beats, was refereed by quick-witted host and co-organizer, Jeff Mimms. The unexpectedly large turnout transformed the indoor festivities into a high-energy extension of the mobile studio auditions, as both male and female contestants took to the mic and Mimms rallied the crowd for support and tried, in vain, to curb the profanity.

There was a collective buzz of expectancy in the air, perhaps due to the fact that last year’s national champion, Hiram Robinson, a.k.a. Hydro, a.k.a. Droster, who beat out thousands of talented competitors from all over the country, hails from Detroit’s very own 7 Mile. “This is a very important opportunity to get noticed on the next level,” Robinson said, citing DJ Envy, DJ Drama, DJ Scream, among others, as new mentors and important connections he might not have made otherwise. “Man, even if you lose, you still haven’t lost. It’s a one of a kind networking opportunity too and that’s a gain right there.”

This year, more cities have been added to the touring competition, as well as a beefed up prize package: the winner will receive $10,000 and a studio session with 2014 finale judge and renowned producer, DJ Khaled. An online component also plays a big part in the contest’s structure, present for those who want to flaunt their delivery style, but are hesitant to battle, or those simply unable to make it to the in-city events. Submissions must be 16 bars, with zero profanity, and are due by July 19.

Contest creator, Johnnie Franklin of Tennessee Honey, originally started Jack N’ For Beats as a platform for the unsigned hip-hop artists of his hometown, Chicago, to “be seen and heard.” Since its 2012 inception, it has quickly grown into a national competition, and boasts similarly modeled contests throughout several countries in Africa as well South Korea. “It was important for me to create a program that goes directly into the community to work with the artists instead of extracting artists from it.”

And while putting one’s city on the map was certainly a strongly shared sentiment among the crowd, tonight was ultimately about the win. Out of roughly 200 Detroiters competing throughout the evening, only five will be chosen to continue on to battle other cities’ finalists for the national title. And what makes a winner? “Look; delivery; sound; presence; how you hold the mic; lyrics; talent- basically the total package,” Hydro said, as he looked out at the familiar scene. “Most importantly, just be confident and bring it. I’ve seen guys come in and they’ve already lost. Confidence is key.”

Speaking of winners, locals who will now advance to the semi-finals are H-I, Nino, Rich Mook, Huey and Year of BLVD.

Jack N’ For Beats wraps up it’s eleven city tour this year with stops in Cleveland (7/9), Philadelphia (7/11), and New York City (7/14).