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The third edition of The Coronation was to start by 7PM but two hours prior, a driver had taken me past the bus stop I was to find my way to the venue from. He turned sideways to tell me, “E no far from here – see that traffic lights, na there.” I had to trek back. I sighed,  collecting my change from him.

“Abeg, where Shoprite dey for here?” I asked a girl under whose yellow MTN umbrella I’d loaded a recharge card, which I also bought there. Straight ahead, then bend, she directed. 

“I dey come, I dey come!” A friend I met on  Facebook – an artiste, shouted from the other side of the phone when I called him.  I deduced from his tone, he was in a relaxed environment; hasn’t even hit the road. What to do with the time?

I made for the Shoprite mall, armed with the knowledge of Patabah bookstore – genuinely excited I could almost taste my tears an hour later when I really inside, in a bookstore, for the first time. I was so excited I went to the counter to pay without checking for a price tag. Over ice cream and cookies, I would ponder the book, lift its pages delicately, a smile playing on my lips. A seat away, an elderly couple; two seats on, there’s a snooker board. Unable to be immersed in the book, I waited for my musician friend to call. Every sentence from the book was preceded with a glance at my phone. I waited some more; then at seven, I got my things and left.

Inside the venue (Thirty 8 lounge), I saw Loose Kaynon, his beards even fuller in person. His face was bent into his phone and he hung his leg on a couch.  I sat down and let my eyes look: neon lights of ads for expensive foreign drinks. The stage was being set. A-Q walked in. From where I sit, he looked heavier than in pictures and videos, his arms well worked; his hair, almost forming locks is covered with a 100 Crowns cap.

My artiste friend arrived, popped open a packet of cigarettes and I indulged. After a few sticks, my legs were wobbly. I stand still enough however, for the first battle;  Spikey against Swaz. The latter went first, as judged by a coin toss. It was the light skinned Spikey who won eventually, hitting his opponent with clever bars which had my second Facebook friend – who had arrived quite late – screaming and repeating the puns in emphasis. Dabu The Gemini and Nobi Chess’s battle was also entertaining with the stoutly built Nobi playing on vocal aggression as a  strength even though lyrically, The Gemini proved to be superior.

It was an East African however, who rallied the crowd for the first time on the night. After a worthy battle with an energetic, often poetic female battler, one of the judges, the OG Elajoe gave his vote to her, and Loose Kaynon too, claimed she came with “one of the best rhyme schemes he had heard this year.” But the crowd wasn’t having it; they shouted U-gan-da! till the roof almost went off. Beats by Jayy was beside me, close to the bar place and he asked an acquaintance what the chant was about.

“The boy come from Uganda,” the other person told him.

“Make him go back, nah,” the heavily built veteran producer countered, laughing at the end of his conjecture.

Sandwiched between the trio of battles were performances: Phlow graced the stage with Teckzilla.  Alpha was a revelation; had the audience grooving wildly to his single Olokpa, which they sang along with him word for word. He returned for Blaqbonez’s set. The Bad Boy had performed Denied and Play, before inviting him (Alpha), Loose Kaynon and A-Q to perform Lowkey – a song off Blaqbonez’s debut album Bad Boy Blaq – for the first time on stage.

“I bet y’all A-Q has forgotten his lines.” Loose said, laughing, when it seemed A-Q was struggling to get his lyrics out. It was to happen again on the night, during the most anticipated battle, between Pathogen and Holyfield. For about a minute, the Spain jersey wearing Pathogen seemed to be searching for his bars in the crevices of his memory.

A-Q Challenged someone to get on stage to battle him, and my heart soared for the prospective plot twist. But that was it – nobody stepped up.

Drinks went round: Remy Martins in fancy holders and the servers – lord!, the skill. I had just finished a bottle of vodka poured over ice cubes when Illbliss took to the stage. Everybody felt a need to hurry up to the front and make a recording; hell, I would have done too if I had my phone with me. I mentioned to my second Facebook friend how Illbliss as a rapper really conflicts me – sometimes, he’s dope and actually makes handsome brags. Other times, his words fall flat and his Oga Boss persona seems an unacceptable alternative for his lack of depth.

At the end of his performance, Illbliss mentioned him not “feeling great” but as an artiste always down for the advancement of the culture, he had to make time. His talk branched into a semi rant about how financially unsupportive the Hip Hop audience is, “if you’re not paying for the music, you are killing the music.” As a person who’s downloaded music illegally, I felt a stab through my chest. “I’ve been a trapper and I’ve been a boom bapper. Shout out to Blaqbonez!”

Then, by way of advice, he said: “artiste, don’t just rap. We can do this (hardcore)  but if you’re rapping to be known, make the kind of song DJ Lambo here” – I turn to see DJ Lambo making a push through the sea of bodies; her skin flawless, her trademark red braids standing above her shaved sides, nose impeccable below her eyeglasses  – “would jam.”

My artiste friend would later stalk the Choc Boi Nation President for a picture and I would take pictures with A-Q and Loose Kaynon and the battle rappers and congratulate the female battler. She appeared shy, sitting in the VIP section of Lounge Thirty 8.
Lush experience in totality.  

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