Scribble Jam 2003 (By Pizon)
Everyone knows that I went to Hot 97’s Summer Jam in June. So I decided it would be a wise political move to distance myself from the “commercial” crowd and trek to the backpacker haven that is Scribble Jam in Cincinatti, Ohio. Actually, I’m just a Hiphop fanatic in general, and had been planning this trip for a full year. It isn’t about mainstream and underground with me. It’s about Hiphop. Period. And this event was hyped as being as Hiphop as Hiphop could be, so I was there.
That sounds simple enough, but quite frankly nothing is simple about a twelve hour car trip. Not to mention several of my boys backed out at the last minute, so it ended up just being myself and my man Miguel, with me doing all of the driving. We left New York at midnight on Friday (8/8), hoping to get there early enough on Saturday morning to get a hotel room and relax for a while before the festivities started at 3 PM. After making several rest stops and pissing out countless cups of black coffee, we rolled into Cincinatti at about 1 PM Saturday afternoon (yes, we actually made amazing time considering all the stopping we did).
My first impression of Cincinatti: This had to be what the world was like when my mom was growing up. It just seemed so… old. And neglected. The grass was uncut. The trash was uncollected. There were cracks on every sidewalk. It almost seemed like a ghetto, although the people didn’t seem particularly tough or intimidating. I’d venture to say that the most dangerous areas in Ohio likely compare to the moderately safe neighborhoods of New York.
We found Annie’s (the club where the event was held) with no problem, and began to search for a nearby hotel, as planned. It didn’t take too long, as about a mile or two down the road we spotted AJ’s Roadside Motel, a bar slash motel reminiscent of the “inns” from the Final Fantasy games. Yes, you even had to talk to the bartender to get a room! The room itself was ghetto (one room with a queen-sized bed and a small bathroom whose shower only sprayed hot water) and fly-infested, but at $40 a night we weren’t going to complain. We’d only need it for sleeping, as the rest of the time we’d be out doing our thing.
So finally, we were off to Scribble. And I must admit: I was a bit skeptical. Not to say I don’t have an open mind, but I heard rumors. What kind of rumors? Let’s just say that the stereotype was that the majority of the people that attended this event looked like they hadn’t seen much sun in their lifetime. Not to be racist or anything, but I drove to Cincinatti for a Hiphop event, not a nerd convention. Much to my delight, however, Scribble Jam was gully as a motherfucker (where I’m from, that’s a good thing). I was actually impressed with the diversity (yes, there were your nerd types, but also your dunns, thugs, b-boys, everyday Hiphop heads like myself, and even women). All the different types of people represented meshed into one under a common bond: their love for Hiphop.
Pizon and Kno (CunninLynguists)
When Miguel and I got into the club, we started looking for heads we recognized, and gave them dap. The event was set up so that most of the action would go down outside, in the back of the club, where a stage and several booths were set up for labels to pimp their shit. When we got outside, we ran into the QN5 cats, and chilled with them by their booth. DJ Kno wouldn’t drink any alcohol before his performance, so he let us buy him a water instead.
After Tonedeff taunted my boy on the Nextel for not being able to make it and Kno teased my homegirl, it was announced that the preliminary MC battle tournament was about to commence inside, so that’s where everyone headed.
Scribble Jam’s main attraction year after year is its huge MC battle tournament where champion battle MCs from Eminem to Jin to Eyedea have all made their name in the past. This year, the entrants were determined beforehand, but there were still three spots left. That’s where the preliminary tournament came into play: to fill those spots. Notable battlers in the preliminaries were SOS from the CunninLynguists and the 400-pound Deuce Leader from the group Daredevilz, who turned out to be the star of the night (more on that later on). Deuce caught some heat from the crowd with the following line: “Not only are you wack, but you’re black, so when you lose, you’ll have an excuse.” Some heads thought that was on the racist side and called him out for it. Personally, while I realized he was just trying to get some laughs, he may have crossed the line with that one. Nonetheless, he was one of the three finalists that would go on to the big tournament later in the night. The other two were Swann and Wrecognize.
About twenty minutes later, the first-ever Scribble Jam beatbox battle started outside. Twelve beatboxers did their thing for up to two minutes each, with the crowd then selecting their favorite eight to go on to the next round. Although this really isn’t my forte, I must admit that some of those guys were pretty ridiculous. Once the final eight were selected, a single-elimination tournament was held to determine the winner. A Train defeated Chestah T (sounds like pro wrestling, doesn’t it?) in the finals and went home with the beatboxing trophy and $500 cash. That was definitely interesting to watch, as my trip was already worthwhile by that point.
Next up was the b-boy (breakdancing) battle, which saw teams of three to five breakdancing against each other for what seemed like entirely too long. Not to take anything away from this element of Hiphop, but this had to be the low point for me. Some of these cats were dope, but the whole thing just seemed drawn out and got stale real quick. I don’t even remember who won.
After more cyphers, gossip, networking, and bullshitting, the DJ battle went down (while out to lunch, we missed Breez Evahflowin’s performance). Like the beatbox battle, this was a single-elimination tournament, only there were just seven DJs to start with (last year’s champion Skwint received a bye). While the crowd judged the beatbox battle, the DJ battle was left to the experts: Mr. Dibbs, DJ Abilities, Hi Tek, Mike B (Animal Crackers), Authentic, and Glass acted as judges. Again, I was impressed with the skills of the participants, namely the eventual winner Scratch Bastard (defeating Skwint in the finals) who wowed the crowd and judges alike by dropping the Jay-Z line: “Don’t be the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen,” but cleverly and seamlessly replacing “Summer Jam” with “Scribble Jam.” That was especially ill to me, seeing that I was at both Summer and Scribble this year. Scratch Bastard left with the trophy and $1,000 prize money. The sun was going down in Cincinatti, but things were only starting to heat up.
Before the MC battle main event, the QN5 performance would go down. These were the cats we had been chilling with for most of the time we were there, and being one of only a few performances on Saturday, they were pumped to impress their fans and make new ones in the process. They didn’t disappoint. Tonedeff, Pack FM, Session, Substantial, Mecca, and the CunninLynguists ripped one of the livest thirty-minute sets I’d ever witnessed, having the entire crowd of several thousand chanting back lyrics that many of them had never heard before.
The highlight of the QN5 performance had to be Tonedeff’s motivational speech: “Artists are always complaining about the labels putting out bullshit. They can’t put out no bullshit if you don’t put in no bullshit!” Word up.
QN5 tearing the house down
When it was all said and done, QN5 had made many new fans and sold hella merchandise. “F*ck You, I Rhyme Better” shirts were running rampant at Annie’s (and were even used in a punchline in the final MC battle later in the night). Miguel and I were suddenly in the “cool crowd” because we were down with the dope MCs that came through and blessed the stage.
At the end of the set, Tone stagedived into the crowd and Pack announced that he would be in the MC battle. The other battlers were also revealed at this time, with everyone buzzing over the announcement of the legendary Juice, the man who defeated Eminem in the finals of the Rap Olympics in 1997 and took Supernatural to the limit at the infamous Wake Up Show battle a few years back. Juice was clearly the favorite to win the tournament, with Dos Noun, the MC who eliminated Eminem from Scribble Jam 1997, at a close second. It’s kinda sad how simply posessing a win over Eminem gives you such a rep, but the two MCs in question happen to be incredible battlers.
After a dope albeit long performance by Denmark’s DJ Static and Nat Ill, the moment we were all waiting for finally arrived. The MC battle. Judged by Eyedea, Abilities, Immortal Technique, All Star, PNS of the Molemen, and Blueprint. As a fan, it was immensely enjoyable to witness. The rapper in me couldn’t help but silently spit punchlines and rebuttals against every MC that stepped to the mic, however. When some fat chick got on the mic, I said to myself: “It’s time to teach this bitch a lesson/ Congratulations ma, when are you expecting?” During the preliminaries when some cat accused SOS’s breath of smelling like Deacon’s semen, I thought: “Ayo I break mics/ So, how do you know what Deacon’s semen tastes like?” And, when Black Pegasus (aka Yo Mama’s Pimp) predicted his opponent would direct his attack at his appearance rather than his rapping skills, I mumbled: “Fuckin with Pi is bad for your health/ Of course I’ma diss your appearance, that wack verse speaks for itself!”
Juice vs Deuce Leader
Juice’s first-round opponent was the always-controversial Deuce Leader. While Deuce did land some punches, most notably: “You beat Eminem in 1997… and you still have a day job,” the big man was simply outclassed by the veteran, who hit hard with the rhetorical question: “How the fuck did you make it past the preliminaries?” With Deuce realizing he was finished, he proclaimed at the end of his verse: “There’s no way I could beat you. So I’ll stage dive.”
That had to be the funniest moment I’d ever witnessed in my adult life. Naturally, given his size and pre-leap warning, everybody moved out of the way and he just hit the concrete like a sack of bricks. There was pandemonium for a good three minutes, with some people not sure if Deuce was still breathing and yet others too busy laughing to actually care. He did finally get up, with much assistance, and was taken to a hospital where he learned he had broken his ankle in eight places. Still, the publicity stunt was well worth it, as everyone went home with the image of his leap in his or her head.
Eventually, the crowd turned on Juice, apparently because he wasn’t living up to their godly expectations. I mean, he beat Eminem, so he can’t be human, right? That’s how they were acting. So when all of the doubt that he was actually mortal ceased, he started to get booed. Dos Noun was clearly the crowd favorite in their second-round battle, spitting such quotables as: “Call me a Waffle House waiter, I just served Juice.” Objectively, the battle was close as hell. I probably would have given it to Dos Noun, but the crowd could have biased my vote a bit. The judges gave it to Juice, and the fans weren’t too happy. “Bullshit! Bullshit!” It felt like ECW all over again. Juice was eventually defeated in the semi-finals by Black Pegasus, after the judges refused to make a call and had the crowd choose a winner. I guess they were tired of taking heat for repeatedly making the unpopular decision to advance Juice.
Honestly, the one thing I wasn’t feeling about the battle was the harshness of the crowd. If an MC made one minor slip up, the crowd would boo so loudly that it would be near impossible for that MC to get another word out. I was planning on battling next year, but the severity of the crowd would almost take the fun out of it for me. We’ll see what I decide to do when the time comes.
Regardless, the finals ended up being Rhymefest — another veteran battler from Chicago and one of Juice’s homies — versus Black Pegasus. Rhymefest (the cat who spit first in the finals) emerged victorious and took home the $2,000 and Scribble Jam MC Battle Championship trophy. After a bitter post-battle performance by Juice, the event came to a screeching halt and we were told it was time to leave. The question then became: WHERE THE AFTER PARTIES AT?!
Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be many. Or at least none that we were invited to. Most of the cats hit the road directly after the show to get an early jump on their trip, and Deacon went home (living in Kentucky, he was only about an hour away), leaving Kno and SOS in the same boat as us – looking for something to do.
We all ended up hanging out with four girls we had originally met at the QN5 show in NYC a few weeks back. I drove Kno and SOS around Cincinatti in my whip, blasting their own shit. By their own admission, they felt like ballers. We copped some McDonald’s drive-thru, as the Waffle House was too crowded and was being supervised by cops. We then found ourselves in the lobby of the girls’ hotel, which was in the downtown part of the city.
Pizon, Miguel, CunninLynguists (Kno and SOS), and lady friends
I must note here that downtown Cincinatti — and it’s only maybe a couple of square miles, tops — is pretty cool. That’s actually built up like a real city, unlike where we were staying. Anyway, before we knew it, it was after 6 AM, and we were all pretty fucking tired from being up so long, so we decided it was a good time to head back to our motel and crash. Since Kno and SOS had no place to stay, they asked if they could crash on our floor. Cool.
Kno woke me up at about 11 AM on Sunday morning, informing me that Cashmere the Pro was on his way to the motel to pick him and SOS up. Cash arrived shortly thereafter, the CunninLynguists started their trip back home, and Miguel and I were left to decide what we wanted to do with our last day in Ohio.
We called the girls from the night before, met up at their hotel downtown, and went to the post-Scribble barbecue in Bellevue Park. After waiting on line for forty-five minutes just to get a hot dog, we chatted with some heads that recognized our QN5 shirts and were impressed by their performance. There were some breakdancers there that caught the girls’ attention. They decided they wanted to stay at the park. Miguel and I wanted to leave. So we bounced, and told them we’d meet up with them later. That was the last time we saw them.
We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon hitting up some local bars and music stores, and just vibing with people. We met some interesting cats, including a redneck from Oklahoma who swore we were “cool for some Yankees” and a middle-aged rock band groupie who proclaimed: “I am NOT going home with anyone tonight!” Fall back ma, you’d be lucky to even get such an offer. By nightfall, though, we had enough of Cincinatti and decided it was time to start the trip home. We made it back to New York late Monday afternoon (we took several nap breaks on the way back). I was exhausted as all hell, but I didn’t regret one second of it. Not only will I do it again next year, but I’ll have my own booth and will possibly battle.
Fuck what you heard. Scribble Jam is the most Hiphop event you will ever witness. If you ever have the opportunity to go, you’d be a fool not to.
Here are some other pictures we took that didn’t fit in the article:
CunninLynguists – thugged out since cub scouts
Pack FM and Pizon – shameless self-promotion
Session, Tonedeff, and Pack FM killin shit on stage
QN5 – No Rich Relatives
One of the graffiti pieces on display as you entered the club
*Special shout out to Eyedea for taking some time to talk to my homegirl who is quite possibly his biggest fan. You made her day!*