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My First Missoula Freestyle Experience

A freestyle battle contestant busts a rhyme Saturday night at the Palace Lounge. (Photo courtesy of Dan Bingham)

This past Saturday, I found myself in the last place in the world I ever thought I would be: In a dingy basement bar at a freestyle rap battle.

I had decided to attend on a whim — because it sounded like something fun and different, and because I was feeling really in touch with my hip-hop side after watching “8 Mile” on Showtime last week.

It was my first time in the Palace Lounge, and let me tell you, a palace it is not. But, I suppose the torn seat cushions and missing floor tiles added to the ambiance. This wasn’t the kind of show you’d see at a place with a granite bar top.

I have to admit, I went in with pretty low expectations. I mean, freestyle rapping isn’t something I would naturally associate with Missoula. We’re more Johnny Cash than Jay-Z.

But after the first battle, I was hooked. The contestants were totally legit and super talented. I was impressed not only by their ability to piece together a rap on the fly, but also by their stage presence. They oozed confidence as they interacted with the crowd and spit hilarious insults at their rivals — most of which are not suitable for publication.

Since freestyle battle winners are generally determined based on crowd noise, audience members have a chance to actively participate in the contest, which makes it even more fun. (Finally, a way for me to use my obnoxiously loud cheering voice for something other than annoying the people seated around me at sporting events!)

At the end of the night, MC Jelly walked away with the top prize of $225 and two hours of recording time at a local studio, and I walked away with a new appreciation for rap music and basement bars.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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