Observations from Scribble Jam

-The 11-hour drive to Cincinnati isn’t quite as brutal when you’re used to making several trips between NY and VA per month, sometimes going back and forth the same day.  It also helps when someone else is doing some of the driving, you’ve got GPS, and you have a rental so as not to worry about adding all those extra miles to your own car.  Don’t get me wrong, now that I’m back I want to stay home all week, but the travel experience I’ve racked up over the past few years made this year’s trip to Scribble Jam seem more manageable than its 2003 and 2004 counterparts.

-On the flip side, the attendance level this year was considerably lower than it was the last two times I went.  I’d attribute that to the economy, a general declining interest in Hip Hop, and STAGING AN OUTDOOR FESTIVAL IN LATE OCTOBER.  Moving it from the summer to the fall was a mistake.  There were still thousands of people out there, but not tens of.  Having to wear a winter coat all weekend wasn’t the greatest thing in the world.

-Being a swing state, Ohio was cluttered with campaign signs on nearly every lawn.  Cincinnati in particular is a major population center for the state and one of the key areas that will decide the election.  For those not up on the electoral map:  without Ohio, John McCain would have to win every other remaining swing state and both Virginia and Pennsylvania — two states where he’s behind by seven to twelve points — to win the White House.  As that’s a highly unlikely scenario, he absolutely needs to win Ohio to stay alive (and even then his chances are still slim).  In Cincinnati this past weekend, about three out of four signs that I saw were for Obama.  That’s good news.  I did get a laugh out of seeing one lawn with both an Obama and McCain sign, illustrating the overall indecisiveness of the state.

-Gas was $2.4X a gallon and a two-bed Howard Johnson hotel room cost $60 per night.  Every time I travel outside the region, I feel like a dumbass for living in the northeast.  Being right across the river from Kentucky, the girls also have country accents which is always welcome.  Kno told me in 2003 that everything closes early in Cincy so if you want food after midnight, you’re best served going to the Waffle House in KY.  For the sake of tradition, we went there again this year (and saw the same cops waiting the tables) but we also found a 24-hour I-Hop in Cincinnati with the help of Timid’s iPhone that we hit up the second night.

-This one dude from Cali stopped us and said, “You’re from New York, right?”  Timid said, “Yeah, how’d you know?” and he replied, pointing to my Yankees hat:  “Because of the hat, and how fly y’all are dressed.”  A photographer also excitedly asked me if I painted my own sneakers.  I said no, but that didn’t erode his excitement any, and he asked if he could take a picture of the footwear.  As he was taking the flick, Timid told me, “I guess that officially makes you fresh.”  A girl also asked if she could “rub against my puffy coat,” but I question her motives there.  Not that I’m complaining.  I was looking good.

-The entries for the video battle were playing on a flat screen all day Saturday, including Timid’s “Let Freedom Ring,” which was the main reason we went.  There was a problem with the playback on their screen, so we wanted to make sure it wasn’t like that on the version the judges had.  This mission somehow led us to Eyedea’s mom, who gave Timid psychology advice for 10 cents.  Don’t ask.  The I-Dee video with Wrekonize and Jean Grae ended up taking the battle, and none of them were even there.  I was also disappointed that they only played the first minute and a half of each video in the finals, because the critical Vote message of “Let Freedom Ring” doesn’t play out until the end.  Surprisingly, there was very little focus on the election at Scribble Jam this year.  I figured every artist would be talking about it constantly on stage, but very few did.  In 2004, it was all anyone talked about.

-KRS-One is batshit crazy, but it was good to finally see him perform live.  He ran through all his classics in the first fifteen minutes of his set, then did some weird freestyling for close to an hour, including a piece that went nowhere fast about how he’s really two people, one of whom is living three hours in the future.  He wouldn’t shut up, so the club actually had to cut his mic off in the middle of the freestyle.

-My favorite moment from the emcee battle was when two Asian rappers went at it and exchanged disses like, “My kung fu is better than yours” and “We’re from the same country, but he’s from the Communist part.”  A Hawaiian emcee was also told to get off stage and “go rhyme battle a pineapple.”  On the whole, the battle was lacking compared to 2003 and 2004, which just had more talent such as Swann, Rhymefest, Juice, Deacon the Villain, Pack FM, Breez Evahflowin, and others.  This year it came down to 2005’s winner The Saurus and last year’s winner No Can Do, with Saurus winning the $10,000 in the end.  He did so by kissing up to the judges in the final round, then shamelessly admitting it in his rhyme.

-Speaking of the judges, they included Block McCloud of Brooklyn Academy, the group with whom we ended up kicking it with the most.  Of the other two members, Pumpkinhead was hosting the battle, and Mr. Metaphor was just happy to be somewhere without his girl.  They also performed a set before the emcee battle.  Another Rawkus 50 artist Cymarshall Law performed and was judging as well.  In fact, we knew most of the performers and judges this year personally, which would indicate a strong possibility of stage time next year.  Nonetheless, our presence was felt throughout the weekend.

Don’t forget, November 2nd is the NYC Marathon featuring a very special performance by Timid and myself at around 1 PM on 115th Street and 5th Avenue.  Until then, I’m probably not coming out the house!

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