Forget Drake, Kanye and Pusha T. Here’s a rap beef that could do some good.
Rap battle organizer Shaka Pitts will host a free Gubernatorial Rap Battle at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center Sunday, which will feature Baltimore rappers Ray Cobaine and J. Law, who will represent the platforms of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, respectively, ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
“I want to educate the people on what’s going on, show where the politicians stand and also to have the people show that if you come out of numbers, they have to listen to you,” said Pitts, who has organized rap battle leagues in the area for more than a decade.
“We can change the topic to whatever we want to change it to, and have a conversation we don’t normally get to have.”
Each artist will be given 90 seconds to two minutes during each round to rap and rhyme their points. The topic for the first round will be criminal reform; the second, on health care; and the final round, on education, said Pitts, who has been helping the artists prepare for two months.
“We’ve been doing opposition research on both candidates and staying abreast of the debates going on,” said Pitts, who noted that he is leaving the craft and material up to each artist.
The event will also feature a DJ, free food, short talks by local organizations and event sponsors, and a performance by Baltimore’s National Youth Poetry Slam Team.
His goal, Pitts said, is to use the artform of battle rap as a tool to inspire the urban community to stay current on local issues and vote. He also hopes to educate the artistic community, which he believes could one day be its own voting bloc.
Pitts said he held a similar rap battle after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Hoping to illustrate both sides of the challenging tragedy, Pitts had one rap battle artist present the side of a civilian, while the other rapped from the side of a police officer.
“It may open people’s eyes to see things differently,” he said of the event. And if nothing else, he said, “it’ll be entertaining.”
If you go
The Gubernatorial Rap Battle will feature battle rappers Ray Cobaine and J. Law, who will present the platforms of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous respectively in a rap debate. 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Downtown Cultural Arts Center, 401 N Howard St. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.
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