With local rap icons Pat Stay and Quake Matthews as hosts, about 70 young rappers and fans from around Nova Scotia gathered to freestyle and rap battle at Halifax’s all-ages venue, the Pavilion, on Saturday night.
In rap battles, participants compete in rap dialogue to see who can come up with the wittiest quips and smoothest verse to tear down their opponent and boost their own reputation.
The event was part of an all-ages arts festival called Emerge, held in conjunction with the Halifax Pop Explosion.
Connecting with Pop Explosion to host the festival seemed like a good idea after identifying a need for professional development opportunities for young artists and musicians in Nova Scotia, says Ryan Veltmeyer, director of Emerge and co-founder of Halifax Youth Art Connection.
In the past few days, Emerge has featured a punk rock show, a fashion show, an indie pop show and the rap battle.
Andrew Johnson, a 20-year-old from Pictou, was one of many artists pleased with the event and the venue.
“It’s a deadly cool environment, we’re in a room full of writers right now,” says Johnson. “There are definitely some people, maybe 16 and up, who have the maturity to be here.”
Martez Wiggins, known as Woozy Blanks or King Wooz, is the founder of R.A.W. Cypher and he organized a freestyle cypher for the event. Cyphers are when rappers cycle onto the stage improvising one after another without pause.
Wiggins appreciates the Pavilion all-ages venue and expects he would have worked harder on his craft at a younger age if there had been a place like it where he could have performed.
“All-ages venues are key to Halifax because you show the next generation that there is this culture out there, there is a place to go display your craft if you want to be a part of it,” says Wiggins, who is used to hosting cyphers in bars where younger people don’t have access.
Noah Carter, 18, from St. Peter’s on Cape Breton Island, has been writing rap since he was 12. He enjoyed being able to perform at the venue.
“There’s not always too many opportunities for me, being 18, but I work on my stuff really hard; I’m a big fan of the event so far,” says Carter, who was happy to dominate his battle in front of his idols, Matthews and Stay.
Chantel Nicholas, a music business student, says she was surprised how few all-ages opportunities there are in Halifax when she arrived to attend the Nova Scotia Community College.
C.J.Hill, another organizer at the event and a longtime regular at the Pavilion, has been working on getting the Pavilion back on its feet and better known after a two-year closure due to city funding cuts.
They’ve been hosting shows, fundraisers and now this festival to broaden the Pavilion’s reach in the community and to expand Halifax’s all-ages arts and music scene.
“It used to be a lot darker, mostly punk and metal venue,” says Ryan McGinn, an under-aged community college student from Halifax who was at the show, “but it’s becoming more than that, there has been more variety lately and we hope to keep that up.”