Hip-Hop Meets Shakespeare Somewhere Between the Street and the Stage
A dozen hip-hop aficionados transform into rapping thespians for the first annual Hip-Hop Karaoke Championship.
There were makeovers, do-overs, and — following what would be threelively hours of deft mimicry — precisely eleven leftovers at the firstannual Hip Hop Karaoke Championship Friday night (Jan. 25). NYC’sHighline Ballroom played host to the event as some of hip-hop’s finest,judges Prince Paul, of Handsome Boy Modeling Boy fame and current Baby Elephant constituent, DJ and video director Ralph McDaniels, and Black Sheep’s Dres, provided plenty of colorful commentary.
Atstake was a thousand dollars, awarded to the eventual winner, Chef; atheart, the event was a swooning night of revived hip-hop classics.Camille, who began the night rapping to Jay-Z’s “Public ServiceAnnouncement,” played the part of innocent karaoke virgin to itspunfunctory and inevitable first-round exit. The only other female,Elizabeth, rapped in vain to Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix).”While spilling rhymes of all five MCs (Busta Rhymes, Rampage, LL Cool Jand Notorious B.I.G. also appear on the track) in impressive fashion,the Brooklyn native stripped off a different T-shirt bearing the nameof each rapper.
Without doubt, Harlem’s Donni D owned thefirst round with his absolutely seductive performance of Camp Lo’s”Luchini,” prompting cries, screams and masculine head nods like onlysatisfied, rowdy males can do. And if Donni D owned the round, thenother karaoke contestants like Charlie, RJD, and Axiom dismantled it,reconstructed it, then imploded it, through which tuxedos, a Dr. SeussHat, and shoulder pads each made cameos.
As the competitionentered its second and final rounds, a sharp focus on craft becameevident as the judges frequently delivered just-passing grades of 6.5to technique-poor hopefuls. At the end of the raucous competition, itwas clear why Chef — who offered slaying renditions of Big DaddyKane’s “Warm It Up, Kane” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime”earlier in the evening — emerged as the winner. The Brooklyn-bredrhymer claimed the prize with a stone-cold incarnation of Dead Prez’s”Hip-Hop” sans a prop in sight except for his microphone.