March Madness is what’s up. Single elimination tournaments eclipse the drama of any reality show. Although pop culture has blessed the quasi-staged surveillance of human activity as the best modern-day theater, you really can’t contrive the emotion and exertion it takes to go toe-to-toe with an opponent fighting for survival (CBS’s Survivor falls a bit short). In the beat-making arena, this type of competition isn’t actually manifested, but it exists in our subconscious. Dare to dream with me for a minute. Picture the dopeness of a 2 minute beat battle pitting the likes of hard 9th Wonder snare drums smacking your eardrum back into the Game of Thrones period against Just Blaze’s layered harmonies. Moreover, let’s apply this single instrumental showdown into a bracket-style tournament for 16 of the world’s best. It’s a theoretical, half-baked, and quite frankly unrealistic battle format in today’s commercial climate, and that’s why it’s fantastic. Hip Hop originated from the concept of the battle, typically seen in the form of lyrical bouts, and we sometimes forget that DJ battles are just has captivating. Change the mic out for the MPC 2500 or Pro Tools and we have an event that would garner the attention of beak junkies across the globe.
Sure it’s somewhat dunk-contest-gimmicky, but we can only imagine the flame-throwing material this ‘beat bracket’ would unearth. Naturally, judging would be required, so we’d need to use a panel of emcees. Emcees with familiarity to the essence of the battle or those that double as producers themselves are preferred, so I’m pegging a quintet of KRS-One (old school battle general), Erick Sermon (one of the greatest producer/emcee renaissance men of all time), DJ Quick (West Coast Representative), Canibus (he wasn’t doing anything else and was the Bo Jackson of battles circa 1997), and Pete Rock (just far enough removed from a heavy production workload and in the G.O.A.T conversation). Determining the producer field is a herculean effort necessitating computerized algorithms that parse through 808s, hi-hats, and each artists’ overall body of work within a relevant timeframe (let’s say the past 5 years because music’s ‘seasons’ are not completed in a 5 month period). Entrants must be prolific, entertaining, and available to demonstrate their instrumentals in a live environment. Slapping drum machine pads, amplifying the MacBook, spinning the wheels of steel, or a live instrument combo with all of the above is acceptable. Spontaneity will be weighed heavily. Rule configurations are basically set, so without further jibber-jabber from my idealist, moonlighting journalist backside here’s the sick 16:
To parallel the NCCA Men’s Basketball Tournament you can find each artist’s represented conference and an overall seed below. The artist conference affiliation was determined by birthplace and overall geographical representation, plus some artistic license from yours truly (which has been in play throughout this piece).
Power Conference At-Large Bids
Industry heavyweights receiving invitations based on their past accomplishments and an uncanny ability to stay relevant in the game.
DJ Premier (Big East /1)
Kanye West (Big 10/2)
9th Wonder (ACC/3)
Dr. Dre (Pac-12 /4)
RZA (Big East/6)
Just Blaze (Big East/7)
Automatic Bids from Conference Tournament Victories
Explosive production skills and unrivaled creativity gets this group into the big dance, or for our purpose the ‘the big head-bouncer.’
Black Milk (Conference USA/8)
Alchemist (Big West/9)
Madlib (Ivy League/11)
No I.D. (Big 10/12)
The Strong-willed Mid-Major
The feisty and fierce mid-major the big dogs would like to stay away from in the early rounds. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is a shout-out to Little Brother’s collegiate meeting spot: North Carolina Central University.
Nicolay (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference/14)
The Play-in Contenders
If the college hoops tournament allows for an ‘opening round’ or ‘play-in’ game, then the beaker-makers classic should as well. This round delivers an intriguing Hip Hop veteran match-up and a most-watch contest between 2 NYC based up-and-comers. Get your popcorn, whiskey and peanuts ready for consumption.
Behold the Inaugural J Dilla Beatmakers Classic. I’m tempted to pick winners, but we should save that for another entry. Add comments to criticize my bracket field and make your own final four. Let’s toast to the newest style of March Madness.