In Da Club: Freestyle Fridays at Digital City Music

Teens and pre-teens rap for prize money, endure Pikachu comparisons

"I came to this battle not to get the money, y'all, but to get the kill," rapped one contender in last weekend's Freestyle Fridays hip-hop contest at Digital City Music. He could have been speaking for everyone on the mic. The competitive atmosphere of the month-old event was so fierce that, according to judges at the store, more than a few of those paying the $25 participation fee chickened out. Neither violent bluster nor disses of dark skin--"looks like your mom just got off the Amistad boat"--were taboo in front of the mostly black crowd, gathered around a cage of five-foot-tall chain-link fences.

Spirits were high, however. "TJ," age 10, was invited by the referee to kick a verse, and with the words "got cash," the young rapper dropped a block of green bills to the floor, making the room erupt with laughter. Twenty-year-old Matic had some of the night's most inspired put-downs--"You got to brush your teeth 'cause your mouth look like Pikachu." But in the end he lost steam against the previous week's winner, A-Ztek, age 15 (pictured, with friend and his name misspelled on the marquee). The Patrick Henry High student told his opponent: "Homey, I don't got to beat you/Um, where's that shorty?/Let him eat you up." A-Ztek will win $1,500 if he takes four consecutive bouts, but the social benefits of the event are more enduring. "It's like when we used to breakdance at the Roller Gardens," says Roy Crockett, an old-school b-boy who helps put on the event. "We just had to give kids an alternative to the streets."

 
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