Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | The freestyle rap club discusses the state of the clubduring the Summit March 6. The club hosts rap battles in a tournament style for students to emulate their favorite rap artists.
By Hayden Welty ’19
The Freestyle Rap Club is a group of students who meet every Monday at lunch to host a series of “March Madness”-style rap battles.
During the first week of this school year, current Freestyle Rap Club president and rapper, 602 God, Michael Rowe ’18 approached religious teacher Mr. Quinten Orem to ask to start a new rap club.
“It probably grew out of the fact that last year in our final projects in his class I allowed students to rap their final projects and some students took me up on it,” Mr. Orem said. “I think that’s when the story that I like rap and that I used to be a rapper myself came out.”
The club puts on battles every single week. They determine who faces off against one another by using a bracket-style competition similar to NCAA’s “March Madness.”
“It’s just fun,” Mr. Orem said. “It’s just a fun way to come together to test out our lyrical and our preformative abilities in a competition setting.”
The roughly 20-person bracket is assembled according to one’s ability as a rapper, and the top four rappers–Mr. Orem, Rowe, Charles Gbeckia ’19, and Robert Baransaka ’18–get byes, meaning they don’t have to compete in the first round of competition.
Each round takes between five minutes and 10 minutes, while each raps lasts anywhere from two minutes to three minutes. The winners are decided by a Poll Everywhere vote after each rapper performs.
Before every round, each rapper is given time to prepare his lyrics. Some performers choose to memorize their lyrics, while others just read them off a piece of paper.
Rappers are accompanied by their choice of an instrumental during their performances.
Club Officer Baransaka created a special instrumental that mixed Made In Tokyo’s “Uber Everywhere” and Tupac’s “Money On My Mind.”
“I found some way to mix those two myself… I had three different verses, and three different flows,” he said. “I think that’s what ultimately won me the battle.”
Mr. Orem said that the environment during the rap battles is exciting and loud.
“If Robert’s rapping, it’s as if you’re in the middle of a Jay-Z concert in the 90s or a Wu-Tang Clan concert in the 80s,” Mr. Orem said. “It’s gets really hyped.”
Baransaka said he agrees that the environment in the club is great.
“People in there are super nice,” he said. “We had a lot of people turn out the last time. I think it was around 40 people… It was awesome.”
Mr. Orem likens the environment to a boxing ring.
“People sit on tables, sit on the floor, jumping up and massaging the shoulders of whoevers rapping, it’s like we’re in the boxing ring,” he said. “It gets pretty intense: Some people get intimidated by that; some people like me feed off that.”
Mr. Orem says that the bigger rappers turn out bigger crowds, especially when a teacher is about to get compete.
Currently, the club is still looking for a definitive purpose in terms of what they can do to serve the community.
“I think it serves no purpose in the most beautiful way,” Mr. Orem said. “I think, ultimately, we will want to serve a purpose.”
Rowe disagrees somewhat, saying that he thinks the club already knows has a purpose.
“I think it offers a voice to people who normally don’t get to speak, and it’s good way to express opinions through music that people could hear,” Rowe said. “For instance, we’re doing a rap album on violence that’ll be releasing with the Summit, and hopefully, we can get our opinions out there to spread peace.”
Rowe already dropped a song called “The Pursuit of Peace” as a contribution to the album, and Baransaka has also prepared a song for the collection as well.
Additionally, the club put on a performance at the Brophy Rodeo where they just let people rap on the microphone.
They’re not sure where they’re going in the future, according to Mr. Orem.
He also said that a new bracket is likely to start soon. Anyone interested in participating in the next bracket can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit him in his room, B206.
“Make sure to stop by and experience something new,” Rowe said.