A traveling Ohio freestyle battle gives Kansas a rattle.

The Big Shakedown 

A traveling Ohio freestyle battle gives Kansas a rattle.

What started as a launch party for a Cincinnati hip-hop rag has become the American Royal of freestyle rap. Scribble Jam kick-started the careers of lyricists such as Slug, Eminem and Kansas City's own Mac Lethal, who took the 2002 championship. But this year, our KC and Lawrence MCs won't have to go all the way to Ohio to throw down. Scribble Jam is coming to Kansas.

Lethal, who isn't participating this year, calls the event "the most prestigious and fierce hip-hop competition today." He tells the Pitch, "It's the place where the best in the world clash swords. The fat is trimmed, the filler is axed, and the elite of hip-hop get a weekend to really showcase their crafts."

To commemorate its tenth anniversary, Scribble Jam has hit the road in search of the country's most ferocious freestyler. Each city's winner nabs airfare to Cincinnati to compete for $10,000 and priceless bragging rights in August. Hitching a ride are MCs Blueprint, Glue and Mr. Dibbs.

"Every year, I want my crew to somehow be involved. I used to battle in it, and then I started judging MC battles," says Blueprint, the stage name of Ohio native Al Shepard. "When you're from these parts, you just have to participate."

With his recent release of the old-school-flavored 1988 and Soul Position collaborations with RJD2, Shepard, a Queen City native, is the natural choice for headliner. "We obviously don't have a market the size of Chicago or New York," Shepard says, "but I think there are as many people out here who are interested in the type of shit we do, and they respect the fact that we're actually bringing it to them, which I think helps this thing grow."

As attendance figures soar into the thousands, Scribble Jam co-founder Mr. Dibbs is set to spin his signature mosh-pit-inducing mishmash of hip-hop and hardcore. Now tending the turntables for Atmosphere, Dibbs got his start with the 1200 Hobos crew, along with Adeem. The voice behind Chicago trio Glue, Adeem has taken the championship twice, including in 2001, when he ousted Mac Lethal in the finals. Since then, Glue has been winning over as many punk fans as hip-hoppers at past showings on the Vans Warped Tour.

Although most of the event's future stars are still below the radar, Blueprint assures us that Scribble Jam's stop in Lawrence has something for everyone. "The goal is to represent how it does in Cincinnati. If you want to see hip-hop without all the commercial baggage and in its purist form, not what's put on TV, I think Scribble is a good start."

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