Blazin' on $20 a Day

A DJ for every club, a mic for every stage: Five days in our own hip hopolis

Budah Tye, who takes the mic with a heavyweight championship belt draped over his shoulder, is just as confident destroying his first opponent: "He ain't 8 Mile, he more like two blocks," the rapper barks. The MC goes on to face Swan, a rapper from Detroit who had the same Afro pick sticking out over his forehead the evening before, at the Fifth Element. Swan has been dropping good one-liners all night, and his battle with Budah Tye is so close, the judges call for a re-match.

"Dude want to rap but needs to chill," Swan spits, "because this is what size belt he wears for real."

"I may lose some weight, but he can't gain some skills," comes the retort.

In the end, Swan takes the round, and goes on to meet Zach Combs, a.k.a. New MC, who just had the unhappy job of defeating an old crewmate. ("Interlock--he's still repping it," he yelled. "We kicked him out a year ago/he still hasn't accepted it.")

"I'm a rapping butcher," Swan starts. "But why the fuck I got to battle Ashton Kutcher?"

The white boy comes back with an intricate rhyme to the effect that Swan's raps are "premeditated," and that "whatever's in his Afro's fucking with my allergies."

Combs ends up making it to the final round against Wisconsin's Jack Cracker, and wins that one, too, nabbing the $1,500. "This one's from God," he says. "'Cause my brother's going to jail Wednesday and we need the money for him."

As Combs heads offstage, most of the participants join Slug for some freestyling--he's celebrating his birthday. But Swan is obviously still smarting from the loss, and gets in one last jab at Combs. "What the hell/This is obviously a plot to get Kanser's brother out of jail."

Combs yells something back, and a cup of water sails through the air. Swan drops the mic to the stage--clunk--and jumps off, lunging at Combs. A spotlight shoots to the floor, security rushes in. Within a minute, the winner of "Showdown" has been ejected from the premises.

"I'm sorry I snapped off like that," he says outside, looking sheepish.

As Slug talks to Swan near the door of the club, doing some diplomatic work, Heiruspecs' MC Felix takes the mic.

"That's why we keep it onstage," he says.

A woman in the audience shrugs. "That's hip hop."

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