An MC needs slick rhymes and a quickness on the mic are when it's time to battle. Jordan Lee, aka DJ Madhatter, of Rusty Ps fame brings together some of Milwaukee's master MCs for the Milwaukee Beat Down, a rap battle beginning Feb. 7 at the Jackalope Lounj.
Anyone with a little knowledge of the hip-hop world, or have seen Eminem in "8 Mile," will have a sense of what this entails. But Lee has not only decided to let the MCs throw down, he's calling out producers as well.
"I've wanted to do a producer battle for a long time," Lee says. "I've put together five nights of battles with 12 producers who will be competing, pitted head to head against each other in a three round battle format."
Lee says that battles such as this have been happening in the hip-hop world primarily on the coasts and date back even further in Jamaican dancehalls. The way he's set it up is three rounds comprised of freestyling, remixing and sampling.
"In the first round, (the producers are) doing a freestyle," Lee says. "Sounds boring but it's kind of cool. They play beats against each other, flexing their style."
The second round involves remixing a popular song, which they've been already given. It could be a track from Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ludacris, Notorious B.I.G. or another big name in the rap game.
"For the third round, they have been given a funk track or a soul track," Lee says. "They need to take a sound, phrase or loop to sample. They get judged on categories of style, originality and sound quality."
The judging panel comprises local rappers, DJs and people in the business who have helped sponsor Lee's effort.
"Back in the Fall I started a MySpace page; using that I blasted every single person who's profile said 'Milwaukee' and 'hip hop.'"
He says the good thing about seeking participants out this way is that he got a lot of responses from people who he had never heard of before, which heightens competition.
"The Milwaukee rap scene is pretty reflective of the breakdown of the city's social and racial division," Lee says. "This is a chance to get people from other parts of the area to the East Side."
The Milwaukee Beat Down, Lee says, gives people something to do on a Wednesday night.
"There aren't a lot of fun things (going on) in the dead middle of February. It's an interesting thing to do and see," he says. "Every night is a chance to hear and see different things."
The battles are an extension of Lee's residency at the Jackalope Lounj. When the battles aren't going on, he'll DJ the night away.
"This is a truly unique event. I can't think of anything in Milwaukee like this. There have been a lot of MC battles over the years and a couple beat battles, but this is a multi-night event," Lee says. "People, if they like any type of rap music at all, will have something they like."
Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.
However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.
Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson.
Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.