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Cultivating the art of rhyme, off the cuff

Moe Joe’s, MC Nobody Really join forces to boost Whistler’s hip hop scene

What: Whistler Rap Battles

When: Thursday, June 25, 10 p.m.

Where: Moe Joe's

Cost: $5

While there's an assortment of open mic and jam nights at Whistler venues that cater to acoustic musicians or bands, no one offers an evening for aspiring hip hoppers - at least until now.

Moe Joe's has stepped up to the plate to host a monthly rap battle, tentatively dubbed Whistler Rap Battles, hosted by none other than Whistler's favourite MC Nobody Really (a.k.a. Robbie Currie).

Currie recently relocated to Vancouver where he's been immersing himself in the city's hip hop scene while working away on his second album, which he's already started recording and plans to have released by the beginning of the winter season.

"It's definitely keeping me busy," he said. "I've been in the studio to do quite a few sessions already."

He hopes to feature other Canadian hip hop artists like Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad K, Red One and Classified.

But aside from his personal musical projects, Currie has also jumped headfirst into coordinating this monthly MC battle at Moe Joe's.

"I'm super excited about just kind of giving kids in Whistler a chance to perform. I know there are a lot of kids up there that rhyme and sing, and kids that are really interested in the hip hop scene," Currie said.

He recently sat down with the new owners of Moe Joe's to come up with some events to host. They all quickly realized that there was a huge void on the local scene when it comes to hip hop events.

Greg Britnell is one of the new owners and operators of Moe Joe's, though he's been the bar manager for years.

"It seems that most of the bar nights in town cater to music on the dance tip. There are nights dedicated to drum 'n' bass, house and electro, and top 40 party jams," Britnell said in an e-mail interview. "Why wouldn't there be a hip hop night? There are a lot of hip hop-heads in town, and they are predominantly Canadian. The house and electro movement that has been so evident here in Whistler is due mostly to the influence of visitors from overseas, specifically Britain, and Australia. In almost every other North American town, hip hop is probably the most popular genre of music that gets played in clubs and bars."

So, Moe Joe's has decided to step in and cater to that hip hop crowd, offering up the Thursday Hip Hop Night on a weekly basis, and Currie's Rap Battle once a month.

"I love the club scene here in Whistler," Britnell said. "We are lucky to be subjected to so many different styles of music. We feel that, with this new hip hop night, Whistler really does have something for everyone!"

Currie actually organized a similar event last year in hopes of drumming up a solid crowd and entertaining them with a unique format and performance. Through that experience, he discovered there's actually a big demand for a hip hop showcase.

"I had thrown a Whistler MC Rap Battle at Merlin's last year, and there was a great turnout," he recalled. "We had about 12 MCs come out, we had about 60 to 80 people show up."

Aside from drawing a solid crowd, Currie was also happy to help aspiring local artists showcase their skills.

"I felt good about starting a night like this and helping the community and hip hop scene, and especially the younger kids, kind of branching out," he said. "If kids have certain skills and are really good at freestyling and rapping, let's get them out there and showcase them and I can talk to them and try and help guide them in the right direction."

He eventually envisions the monthly Rap Battle expanding to become a live, all-encompassing hip hop night.

"So if kids have their own songs already done, we could give them 15 minutes of stage time, they can bring their friends out, their family can come out to hear what they're doing. We can really get the community involved in some of the kids that are rapping and are really talented on the Whistler scene."

Currie is confident that there are enough underground aspiring hip hop artists in town to make the event a success.

"There's definitely enough that I know of," Currie said. "There are guys like The Ump, Animal Nation, there are all sorts of guys out there making music."

The "8 Mile" inspired battles will kick off around 11 p.m., with competing MCs facing off between short sets by DJ Metal. They're hoping to draw 12 to 15 MCs out to compete at each of the events.

"Each MC will have 30 to 45 seconds of a beat playing, and in that time, they have to battle," Currie explained.

MCs that reach the finals will have to incorporate words selected by the audience into their freestyles. And while the audience will help decide the fates of competitors, a panel of objective judges will decide the winner of each battle.

Whistler's rappers step up to the mic for the first time on Thursday, June 25. After the battle, Vancouver-based hip hop duo Okay City is on deck to perform. Tickets are just $5, which should be well worth the price of admission, as there are sure to be freestyle disses and clever lyrics galore.