Rappers use words to battle at Coffman

The audience chose by applause who would go on to each round of the contest.

Naomi Scott

After they finished spouting profanities at each other and exchanging dirty glances, the two men shook hands like old friends and quietly left the stage.

This scene was repeated many times throughout the evening as eight MCs showed off their rapping and rhyming talents at the first Friday Night Freestyle Battle at Coffman Union.

The rappers and the crowd of more than 100 students thrilled organizer Silas Parmar, Minnesota Programs and Activities Council recreation chairman, he said.

Parmar, a civil engineering sophomore, said the idea of a freestyle contest came to him because Gophers After Dark has a lot of bland programming.

Parmar said he wanted to organize something more flavorful that would appeal to a different crowd.

“Freestyling is kind of an art form – people coming up with things off the tops of their heads,” Parmar said. “It’s fun to watch, exciting and entertaining.”

He said Friday’s battle was a structured way to have fun freestyling.

Battling it out in the one-on-one rounds were University students and nonstudents alike.

One person in the contest was Peter Duggan, a young, soft-spoken fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Sun Path Elementary in Shakopee, Minn.

Duggan, who goes by the stage name; “Thuggin’ Duggan,” said he performs for his students, who are mesmerized by his freestyle talent.

“I use it like candy to get them to behave,” Duggan said.

He said he decided to enter the contest, which is his first, after seeing online that it was open to the public.

University English junior Angelo Vescio said he has won more than $3,500 from local and national freestyle contests.

Vescio said he has participated in Scribble Jam, a large annual gathering for hip-hop enthusiasts in Cincinnati, in which people battle in competitions of everything from breakdancing to DJing, to freestyling.

Vescio, who has also battled at the Loring Pasta Bar, said freestyling comes naturally to him, but he still practices and tries to do as many battles as possible.

Both Duggan and Vescio said their strategy onstage is to insult the other person as much as possible through clever rhymes. Duggan said that for an insult to be good, it’s important it comes off as funny.

“If you talk really fast, that sounds good, too,” he said.

Parmar said that in the evening, profanity was allowed. In every round, contestants were paired up and allowed three 30-second spots each to showcase their talents. He said the audience would decide by applause who would move on to the next round.

The crowd cheered as the freestylers rhymed words such as “whack” and “hemophiliac,” “nice” and “Vanilla Ice,” “philosophical” and “tropical.” Participants rapped about celebrities from Mariah Carey, to Eminem, to Milhouse from “The Simpsons.” The insults were plentiful, and the crowd loved it.

“I’m sportin’ Jordans and you’re sportin’ Payless,” eventual winner Paul McSweeney chanted at his opponent in the second round, as he pointed at his challenger’s shoes and the crowd jeered.

McSweeney, a business sophomore, said he has participated in other battles, including a contest by Voices Merging, a student group, which he won last year. The group hosts events in which students share poetry, writing and spoken word.

As the crowd dispersed, the beats played on as competitors and some crowd members took to the stage for a little more informal freestyling.

Parmar said he was very happy with the skilled MCs and the enthusiastic crowd the event attracted.

“There were 100 people in the crowd cheering them on,” he said. “It was great.”