If you had an e-mail address in 2003, you probably received a copy of "The Meatrix." The animated short tells the story of a pig named Leo who thinks he lives on a happy family farm. Then Moopheus, an enlightened baritone cow, arrives and gives Leo the red pill. We learn that Leo represents the brainwashed American public's perception of where meat comes from. In reality Leo ekes out his existence in a factory farm, hidden from daylight, crammed into pens with his fellow porkers, fed a diet brimming with antibiotics just to keep him healthy enough to slaughter.
"The Meatrix" was exceptionally successful because it was both a laugh and a serious wake-up call, a pop-culture film parody with The Jungle-style implications. The short was the most-viewed of its kind on the Internet last year and brought deserved acclaim to its creators, the folks at Free Range Graphics.
So when the League of Independent Voters decided they needed help reaching the youth vote and made plans to stage a nationwide MC battle against George W. Bush, they contacted Free Range.
Free Range produced a video clip for www.slambush.net featuring Wordsworth, a Brooklyn-based rapper and co-creator of MTV's Lyricist Lounge Show. The clip brilliantly sets up a mock debate between Bush and Wordsworth, complete with podiums and moderator. Bush drawls his stance, then looks to Wordsworth just as the moderator calls on him to respond. And respond he does:
"Non-humane/Iraq, Saddam Hussein/Didn't find weapons still went and bombed with planes/Arms are aimed/ Children and moms are maimed/C4 killing soldiers when the car's detained/And you still getting money from these corporations/And how you pay them back is with these altercations."
The idea, born from hip-hop journalist, historian and political activist Davey D's book How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office, is simple. Organizers are encouraged to reach the largely ignored hip-hop demographic by staging battles in which MCs freestyle not against one another, as they traditionally do, but against sound clips provided by our Commander in Chief.
The concept was passed down to League representatives from key swing states at a national conference last month, then proliferated on the Web thanks to Free Range. In St. Louis, local DJ and promoter Trackstar (no relation to the similarly named producers) spread the idea to area MCs and slam poets. He collected a group of eight competitors: EQ, Wafeek, Kash, Teflon Poetix, Young Thunder, Chill, Jersey and Shavonne. Competing in what is less a battle than a rhyme contest, the rappers will be challenged to flow with intelligence and wit, to prove they have a grasp on political current events and to spread that knowledge to those who are not already active in the voting process.
But Slam Bush is doing more than just bringing political consciousness to the hip-hop street scene. The prominence of the contest also brings attention to socially conscious rap, the kind of rap that is often forgotten in the wake of bitches and gangstas. In St. Louis, that may mean greater recognition for Honors English, Nato Caliph and Altered St8s of Consciousness -- all local hip-hop acts that inject political views into their rhymes.
The winner of this Friday's St. Louis Slam Bush rhyme contest at Blueberry Hill will receive $500 and a free trip to Miami, where the national championship takes place in September. The national champ will walk away with $5,000.