The Elevated! San Diego Slam team made the trip to LA to participate in the InkSlam, part of the 4-day spoken word and literary festival taking place in Hollywood. There was a total of 8 teams competing for the $3,500 in prize money: Bay Area All-Stars, Slam Charlotte (2-time repeat National Slam champs), Walla Walla, Empire Mind State, Da Poetry Lounge, Elevated! San Diego, Mark My Words, and Nuyo/Louder Arts. These teams are packed with some of the best talent in the spoken word game: Aja-Monet, Oveous Maximus, Ner City, Simply Kat, Bluez, Rudy Francisco, Chas, Rachel McKibbons, Ner City, Prentice Powell, Nikki Blak, Ant Black, Javon Johnson, Kessed, Marc Marcel, Tam Blu, and Jude Holiday...damn!
So, the first bout had Da Lounge, Bay Area All-Stars, Walla Walla, and Elevated! San Diego. It was a powerhouse bout that turned into a slug fest. The beautiful Dasha Kelly was the host for the first bout and we could not have asked for a smoother, more gifted icon to get us thru the bout. Da Lounge drew the 1 and went first in the 1st round. Bay Area drew the 2; Walla Walla drew the 3; Elevated! drew the 4. My strategy, like most coaches, was to jump on the others teams from go...let them know that Elevated! SD was here to win and not give them any hope (I don't think Shihan or City would tell you any different. Coaches/Teams that save poems usually don't get a chance to perform them!).
The bout started with the Sacrifice Poets: Brother Gimel (also the DJ) and Imani. Brother Gimel did his thing and moved the audience into the consciousness stage. Some of you may know Imani from Elevated! in San Diego. She left for college after the summer and man...she has grown! She ripped the stage with her piece about the current state of music and the audience loved every slammin bit of it. It was a moment of pride and joy to seen one of the young poets nutured and cultivated at Elevated! excel to that height. I gotta say thank you to the Bay Area for taking great care of her and welcoming her into the great poetry community up there! We got a winner growing y'all! I can't wait for her to come home and rip the stage @ Elevated!
1st Round: Everyone knew Da Lounge would send up Mr. Javon Johnson to get the hometown crowd hyped. This dude kicks off the slam with Black...the audience went nutz! It was a good coaching move by Shihan to get the jump on the other teams. Unfortunately, the judges did not work in their favor and Javon pulled a 26.3 total. Next up the Bay sent -I- and she killed her poem, Skin! I've seen her perform a few times and trust me when I say, SHE WENT IN! The judges slept on her and she a total of 27.6, another low score from the judges. Walla Walla made an adjustment to move the judges off of the scoring stump. Their piece about Girlfriends got a score of 26.9. Elevated! SD was up last in the first round. I put Rudy Francisco in the A slot and he left it all on the stage with Jacob. The judges were pushed into the high score range by the audience and pulled by Rudy, giving him a total score of 29.6.
Note 1: The crowd did go a little crazy when Dasha Kelly announced Elevated! It was a great feeling to get that kind of response in Da Lounge. We have been slamming up there for 3 years and it was always good vibes...but tonight they went bananas for us! It might have helped that we had Simply Kat, Nikki Blak, and even though Rudy is Team SD inside and out, Da Lounge is his 2nd home. Regardless, they know us up there and appreciate the talent Elevated! SD is bringing to da game.
Back to the bout: so after the 1st round Elevated SD is in first, Bay Area second with Da Lounge close behind and Walla Walla holding it down.
2nd Round: First up was the Bay Area...they sent Chas up (please don't sleep on this dude...great spirit, great writing, and he delivers...we are bringing him back to Elevated! soon!). He performed Collect Call to perfection, just like I knew he would. The judges agreed and he scored a 28.4 (nice way to start the round...the 1 is the weakest slot in a round). Next up was Walla Walla...they brought the heat with a team piece about environmental issues. Don't get me wrong, the piece was great...Da Lounge just isn't the most environmentally friendly crowd. The judges gave them a 24.9 (BOOOOO with 3 thumbs down to the judges). I sent up Nikki Blak next for Elevated! SD...she delivered This is Warning in her quiet, yet power-packed style. The judges rewarded her with a 29.4. That score put us in a great position. We were 3 points ahead of the closest team (Bay Area). Last up in the 2nd round was Da Lounge. They put up Danielle and she brought the house down (the ending of her poem...WOW!), getting a 29.6 from the judges...Round 2 ended with Elevated! SD in the lead and Da Lounge and Bay Area fighting for 2nd place.
Elevated! SD 59.0Bay Area 56.0Da Lounge 55.9Walla Walla 51.8
Note 2: All of the poetry on stage in this round was way above par. The poets were leaving the stage emotional and exhausted. It was exactly what you would want to see in a slam...great poetry from great poets being scored fairly from the judges. Kudos to Dasha for selecting a great panel of judges! Whew, I was sweating just from thinking and strategizing. Worse yet...me and City (coach for Bay Area) were only feet away from each other and I could see him watching me watching him. It was like pistols drawn at high noon. I knew round 3 would be ugly.
3rd Round: Like I said, I knew this round was going to be a living hell. This is where the other teams try to make up some ground and pull out anything they may have been saving. Since Da Lounge and Bay Area were slugging it out for the 2 spot and we were up by 3 points on them, I had some breathing room, but not enough to get comfortable.
Walla Walla was up first and they scored a 27.6, a respectable score for the the first poem of the round. In this round, going second and having Da Lounge and Bay Area go after us, I wanted to make sure we didn't lose any ground. I had an idea we would make it into the finals at this point, but it was not a sure thing. I sent Deacon up to do his ace, Job Security...
Note 3: You have to know that Deacon had driven through Friday evening traffic from San Diego to LA-3.5 hrs and had just arrived at the spot. Here I am asking him to get on stage and do his ace after 5 minutes in the building. Everyone on the team knows that I ask the impossible all the time. Deacon looked at me and said you sure. I told him I needed him to go all the way in and then he could relax from the long drive.
...Deacon delivered. He had the crowd laughing, gasping, and crying before he left the stage. The judges gave him a 27.9...good enough to hold our position and a very respectable score for Da Lounge. Da Lounge was up next and sent us a nicely wrapped surprise in the form of Kesed (we didn't even know he was on their team until he took the stage...Shihan is known for pulling rabbits from a hat!). Kesed did an unexpected love poem and scored a 27.0 from the judges (I thought the piece was better than that), which opened the door for the Bay Area. Ner City must have sensed the same thing becuz he sent up Prentice Powell next. Man....DAMN!!!! THIS DUDE!!!! He did a piece called Good Father...it was a masterpiece delivered masterfully. I've seen Prentice do his thang on more than one occassion, but this dude became his poem. it wasn't even Prentice on stage anymore...he was words and he spit! The judges melted and scored him a 29.9...the high score of the night! It was ridiculous (according to Ner City, you can find it on youtube next week...check it out!) So after 3 rounds the scores got a little tighter, but we were still in the lead! The final round was going to be Donkey-Kong-Booyah-Gangsta-ridiculous!
Elevated! SD 86.9Bay Area 85.9Da Lounge 82.9Walla Walla 79.4
Note 4: As you can see above, Bay Area made up a lot of ground with Prentice bangin out that dope piece on Good Fathers! I didn't have any breathing room. Me and City looked at each other and nodded. It was one of those Magic Johnson-Michael Jordan-Larry Bird-Isiah Thomas moments...I respect you and we are cool, but I'm comin for your blood...After its all done we will still be cool but right now we got something to do.
Final Round: I knew Ner City was gunnin and he had the drop on me. We were up first in the final round. I already told you that is the weakest position in the round. Score creep is notorious for the last round and when you go first, you don't get the boost from score creep. I did the only thing I know how to do...I swung first (he/she who does the worst damage first stands the best chance to win). If we weren't gonna benefit from score creep, then we needed to make sure no one else did. After talking with Ant Black (whom you will notice had not performed yet...I love this dude, his spirit was completely with the team...no selfishness whatsoever...all he said was get us a 30) my strategy was set. We ended the bout the same way we started...jumping on heads! I sent Rudy Francisco and Simply Kat up to smash through the scoring barrier. They performed Push...and if you have ever heard that piece, then you know it pushes people to new places, to transformation, to do something with their life. It certainly pushed the judges...they scored a 29.9, delivering on my promise to get Ant Black's request (technically). Da Lounge went next and sent up Ashlyn...this young poetess is the bizzzzznezzzz. She shut it down...literally left the audience silent! The judges heard her and gave her a 29.4...high score for Da Lounge team. Next up...the Bay Area All-stars coach called his own number. That's right...Ner City put the team on his shoulders and took the stage. After some confusion as to why he would need 2 mics it became clear that he was trying to win this thang. He started with the cord of one mic wrapped around his upper arm and then said "Some Black people talk about how they got indian in their family...I got Heroin in mine! The audience let out a gasp and it was over from there. He ripped it up. The judges hought so, too and gave him a 29.7. It was great, but it wasn't good enough to get past us!
Elevated! San Diego Slam won the bout and advanced to the finals with Bay Area All-Stars coming in second and also making it to the finals! Here are the final scores from the bout
Elevated! SD 116.8Bay Area 115.6Da Lounge 112.3Walla Walla (IDK...disrespect, I didn't hear the scores as the audience was in an uproar)
Last note: All the teams in this bout...all of them...showed their ass on stage. There was no slacking in any of the poets. It was a great bout and I am glad that San Diego participated and can be seen on the level with the poets who came, saw, and conquered. If you didn't plan on going to the finals tonight...you may want to rethink that position and get your ass up to LA. It's going to be bananas.