No Coast rap battle attracts nationwide talent

The Columbia-based battle circuit has expanded to include nationally-known rappers featured in Grind Time.
Anthony Heebs, known as "Heebs," battles Columbia rapper RCX in the No Coast Valentine's Day Massacre on Saturday night at Cafe Berlin. The event featured local emcees battling rappers from as far as Alaska, Florida and California.

A small group of men gathered near the dimly lit side-stage of Cafe Berlin on Friday night, laughing, joking and setting up lights and speakers. At first glance they appeared to be a trendy hip-hop set crew, but rap bars interwoven into casual conversation hinted at the events to come later on in the night.

This was no set crew. Heebs, an Alaskan battler, kept wandering away to rattle off a few of his verses in a hallway, while Dallas from Ohio and Columbia’ s own Dr. U.G.Z. continued to hang lights. Macy Pruitt, AKA Ice-9, introduced himself to early-arriving guests, while co-organizers Spencer Snedden, AKA deadBeat, and Steve Eanet, AKA XQZ, made phone calls to late performers. Moments later, Madness, a professional rapper from Orlando, walked in the door, before heading back across the street to have a few drinks.

Welcome to No Coast Rap Battles. Originally started by Kelly Betz, AKA Dr. U.G.Z., in 2009, No Coast began as a local trend among friends who enjoyed battling.

But, the Valentine’ s Day Massacre on Friday and Saturday propelled the circuit to a level of national recognition.

It featured battlers from Alaska, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Missouri.

Mariah Henry, who serves as the timekeeper for No Coast, was excited to see the talent coming from across the country.

“It’s really cool and kind of novel to have guys like that here,” Henry said.

As a crowd of about 200 slowly filtered into the café, rappers passed the mic around to entertain the crowd with freestyles until Hindu Rock, from Florida, took the stage to give an impromptu performance.

Throughout the night, rappers verbally tore each other apart with three one-minute verses prepared prior to the battle. The event also included No Coast’ s first ever two-on-two battle, which united Dallas, from Ohio, and 3PFD, from Pittsburgh, to triumph over Speedy Calhoun and Sho’ Biz, from Chicago.

Despite the high levels of hostility present in the verses, rappers ended their battles with high fives and handshakes. The common love of battling unites No Coast natives with battlers from every corner of the country.

The night’s headlining battle was between Emily Shackelford, AKA Mudslinger, the league’s only female battle rapper, and Tony Gomez, AKA Madness.

The two battlers, despite their different backgrounds, both admitted that battling is completely for fun. Madness, a full-time rapper who has performed across the country, in London and is performing in Australia in the near future, referred to it as his sport.

Mudslinger, an actress from Kansas City who considers rap a hobby, confessed that she is a huge fan of Madness.

“I’m really excited that he agreed to come all the way to Columbia to battle me,” Mudslinger said. “I mean how cool is that? He’s gonna write a bunch of bars about me.”

Madness referred to Mudslinger as a “nice young lady,” with a great personality, and said his battling is all fun and games.

“I never have hostility,” Madness said. “I just kind of make fun of dudes. I don't know about the other hostile rappers. I think that shit's kinda corny really, because if you're not gonna fight, like, why are you getting tough? It's all for fun in my eyes.”

Lyrically sparring round for round, Madness closed the battle with a final verse that captured the unified feel of No Coast. Instead of ending with another hard-hitting verse, he withdrew a homemade Valentine’s card for Mudslinger and ended with a faux love poem and “Let’s drink!,” which was received with roars from the crowd. Instead of declaring a winner, judges joined the rappers and spectators heading to the bar to oblige his request before the after party of performances.

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