The Road To Total Slaughter: A Week In The Life Of Dart Adams [#KBXEXCLUSIVE]


I’d been asked repeatedly by friends and associates three weekends ago when I was finally going to return to New York. I told everyone that I couldn’t call it because I’d been so busy with my new duties with KillerBoomBox conducting daily business in our new office space provided by the new Smarter In The City initiative in Roxbury’s Dudley Square. After a full weekend of that I returned to the office the following Monday just for G and Brandon to tell me “You’re going to New York this weekend”. OH. Correction: I had sex with Katie. The original plan was to leave Boston early on Saturday to hit up Brooklyn Hip-Hop Fest then Total Slaughter later that night. Logistics had to be worked out first and when the KillerBoomBox crew is involved they get worked out ASAP (no Rocky). By Tuesday night, it was established that I’d ride to New York in a van with my dude Easy Money of ST Da Squad, Chilla Jones and several other members of the ShowOff Marketing & ST Da Squad extended fam.

Things were going smoothly so far that week as we handled business in the office. Brandon reminded me that CJ Fly was doing a show at the Middle East in Cambridge on Wednesday and right afterwards I got a phone call about making a post about it on KillerBoomBox. I got on my job and hammered it out in under an hour. Then it suddenly hit me, I was going to cover an all ages show at the Middle East the next night. I already knew I was going to be at the Pharaohe Monch show at Church that Friday night and I had been invited to a Termanology/Alyssa Marie show on Thursday. In short, I was going to spend a full day at the office, go home, walk to the venue & back for three straight nights then take a day long road trip to New York Saturday afternoon to try to make two separate events. No one said journalism was easy, B.



Wednesday, July 9th (CJ Fly)

After a full day at the office I walked home, changed and waited a significant amount of time so I’d miss as many opening acts as possible. I entered the door at the Middle East Upstairs during the set of the second to last opening act. Dude performed on stage over other people’s instrumentals with a gang of guys that looked like they were dressed up as rappers for Halloween. The lead guy (who mentioned his name several times while he was onstage but could barely be heard over the conversations in the crowd) finally stopped his set and chided the audience for not paying attention, mentioned that he had “people in the audience” (no shit buddy, you had to sell tickets) and then he said “Fuck you” to the “hater ass” audience. Multiple times. I was in shock. After his crew’s set was over, I saw several people approach the stage. I assumed they were going to “address him” about how he talked to the crowd (as in knock him the fuck out). I was wrong. They all gave him dap and agreed the audience was “lame” and “full of haters”. It had nothing to do with the fact they were underwhelming live performers incapable of genuinely engaging a crowd. Rap enablers are the worst.

Another issue is this was an all ages show. I got called “sir” & “mister” so much that night I felt like Sidney Poitier plus I was asked if I was famous several times. I had no clue why until I realized that some people were taking pictures of the mythical Dart Adams being a Rap curmudgeon. I honestly could’ve fathered about 90% of the audience, the Daltons, Gunners, Ians, Paisleys, Addisons, Schuylers, Ainsleighs and Cheyennes that attended included. I felt like that show was going to birth a gang of new Daquan meme pics. The final opener performed a few songs and had the crowd. During his set, he called his crew The Misfits up to the stage. I saw what looked like the cast of “Silicon Valley” get onstage and rap about as well as the Bones Brigade did in “Animal Chin”. After they got offstage high fives & hugs greeted The Misfits. All I could do was look over at CJ Fly who was waiting to take the stage & save the show like a Playstation memory card. CJ Fly got onstage & rocked the show. I went home.



Thursday, July 10th (Termanology/Alyssa Marie)

I returned to the Middle East Upstairs after a late night at the KillerBoomBox office for the second straight night during Term’s set. He was performing his verse from Big Shug’s “My Boston” when I got there and tore through a bunch of other classics in front of a packed house before getting off the stage. Typically when a beloved local act gets off stage the crowd thins out. Not the case tonight as it looked like the spot filled up even more after Alyssa Marie took the stage. I watched her band set up & I wondered what I was going to hear from this tiny curly headed woman. Does she sing? Does she rap? I know she opened up for some other cats at previous Leedz shows but I hadn’t seen her live myself yet.



After Alyssa Marie ripped through her first two songs of her set I was thoroughly impressed. After her third song with her band, I needed some answers. She is a dynamic performer with excellent stage presence and she raps her ass off. I asked anyone with information about her I could find at the show like I was Scott Pilgrim after Ramona Flowers left the party. DJ Deadeye, DJ BeanZ, Termanology & Lisa Finelli of Leedz Edutainment all had nothing but glowing things to say about her. Term even exclaimed “There’s a reason I’m opening for HER!”. I honestly forgot to get footage early on because I was just enjoying the show like I didn’t have a handheld device on me. After Alyssa Marie’s set was over the crowd chanted “ONE MORE SONG!” for three minutes until she returned to the stage to freestyle with the band. Her voice was gone but she still held it down. I left the Middle East Upstairs that night impressed, she’s since been profiled in the Brockton Enterprise and performed at the Hartford, CT stop of the Vans Warped Tour with Bad Rabbits. Check out her new LP “No Parades On Easy Street”.



Friday, July 11th (Pharaohe Monch)

I showed up at Church behind Fenway Park just in time to catch the last two opening acts of the Pharaohe Monch show. When I first got there I was in the middle of the floor next to the sound guy and I could make out the bar at the other end of the room. I moved up about 10 or 12 feet and by the time the last opening act finished their set I turned around and realized I could no longer even see the bar. Keep in mind that I’m 6’4″. I don’t remember Church being that packed before and I’ve been going there for years. DJ Boogie Blind and Pharoahe Monch came out and straight up bodied the show from the outset. Pharoahe Monch’s incredible energy, delivery, breath control and stage presence are magnified when you consider his rap career has been going on in excess of 20 years and we’re approaching the 15th anniversary of his debut LP. Following seeing Boogie Blind & Pharaohe Monch completely body Church on a Friday night I was amped to ride to New York with the fam the next day.


Saturday, July 12th (Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival/Total Slaughter)

The original plan was to leave Boston early via a rented van and first make it to Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival then swing by the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan to catch Total Slaughter. As you can imagine damn near nothing in Hip Hop happens when it’s scheduled so it was about 1:30 PM when I was picked up by van on the way to get the homie Chilla Jones & his manager. Contained in the van were several ShowOff Marketing & ST Da Squad crew members, Easy Money, Chilla Jones & I was the lone journalist. By the time we hit the first rest stop of the trip my iPhone battery was already below 80% percent and we weren’t even out of the damb Metro Boston area yet. The conversation in the car was about the history of battle rap going back to the New Music Seminars, Scribble Jams, Wake Up Show, Blaze Battles, MTV Direct Effect battles, 106 & Park Freestyle Friday, The Next Episode, Smack DVD’s, Fight Klub, URL, Shark Tank, Red Bull EmSee Battles and beyond. We were getting updates about what was happening backstage at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival from people on the premises and we realized that with all of the events going on in New York and the sheer amount of traffic we were dealing with there was no way in hell we were going to make it to Brooklyn in time. We were going to have to focus on making it to Total Slaughter instead.


After making a quick detour through The Bronx we made our way to the Hammerstein Ballroom, surveyed the situation and got in line. There was a line going down the block in the general admittance area and a much shorter one for the VIP’s/guestlist. Once we were about to get inside we all had our credentials ready to show someone but after we went through the metal detectors we kind of looked around waiting for someone to…I dunno…check us for ID or passes? We were watching celebrities and bloggers pass us while listening to conversations from people who clearly had ZERO idea what was going on in the venue that night. You could spot all of the corporate types easily. Eventually we asked one of the employees what the deal was and they said we were all good to enter. Really? It pays to show up to events with Chilla Jones & Easy Money plus the ShowOff team, I guess? The door opened and we realized the first battle was already underway even though there were still MAD people trying to get in. My iPhone died back in The Bronx but the last tweet I read was from Millyz who said the pay per view feed wasn’t working. According to the others who got texts and read Twitter it STILL wasn’t up. As we stood in the back watching Arsonal spit bars we wondered what we were in for tonight.

The battle between Big T and Arsonal had a very clear winner from the outset. I could hear everything Arsonal said and most of what Big T was spitting. Regardless, after three rounds Arsonal was the obvious choice. I noticed Fab 5 Freddy was right behind me and I thanked him for everything he’s done for the culture. During the set up for the next round I moved over to under where the judges table was with Brandon & Walace of ShowOff Marketing and I draped a Chilla Jones promotional towel in front of the Judge’s Table where Royce Da 5’9″ & Ebro Darden were sitting. Brandon got me to use my height to slide some ShowOff promotional items onto the Judge’s Table. These cats are kings of guerilla marketing and the security was focused on the stage area. We all focused our attention on the competitors as they began the second battle. I had to pay close attention to everything because my iPhone was dead & I had NO backup handheld device. If there was ever a time I wish I was recording it was then…


Daylyt entered the ring dressed as Spawn to battle T-Rex. We all moved next to where the competitors walked up to the stage and I saw in T-Rex’s eyes this was going to be an evisceration from jump. T-Rex was as ferocious as you could imagine and Daylyt disappointed with his performance and his bars in contrast. I thought Daylyt was going to set T-Rex up for an epic third round when he began to strip away the uniform. I was expecting Daylyt to go Super Saiyan and spazz out for the last 3 minutes but I realized I was wrong when he started writhing on the floor. I immediately scanned the crowd who was booing him relentlessly and I looked back up to see him eat something from the stage. I simply didn’t care by then because I was pissed off that he gave away his third round and the battle in that instant. The old battle format I came up with meant you built up to your third round and for Daylyt to NOT rap in a high profile event such as this one seemed like a slap in the face to both the audience and the sport itself. After the fact, I felt Daylyt did it because he felt like he was being exploited by Shady/Interscope.


The Murda Mook/Loaded Lux rematch had the potential to wash away the fiasco that was the previous battle. The first round opened in grand fashion for both competitors and it looked like it was going to be a classic. One for the ages. Especially after Mook stripped away his hat to reveal a durag echoing his early Smack DVD days. This is what I rode in a van 4 hours for! However, that feeling quickly wore off as Loaded Lux failed to carry any of the momentum he’d built up after the initial round. His schemes and punchlines seemed to take too long to execute and the sting was lessened by that fact. Add to it that we couldn’t really clearly hear everything Lux was saying but we could make out all of Mook’s bars fine. When Mook used the Lux song that dissed Busta Rhymes it was huge because I knew he was there. Busta had already been down on the floor with Fab 5 Freddy like 15 minutes before. Mook showed up for the 3rd round and Lux brought people onstage and used a prop that didn’t go over well with the crowd. It seemed like Loaded Lux’s chambers were empty. He wasn’t prepared to go to war with Murda Mook that night so he took home two L’s like his rap name.


Now onto the final battle of the night. This was supposed to be the main event. The crown jewel. The big draw. I looked up at the VIP area & the Judge’s Table. I saw Fabolous, Kid Capri, Busta Rhymes, Cassidy, Elliott Wilson, Smack from Smack DVD and Kool Herc himself was floating around. Suddenly I saw this short kid with a green plastic bag like he just came from a Duane Reade down the street walk onto the stage with a bunch of people. He looked like a Hammerstein Ballroom employee who just came back from lunch break. I was wondering who this guy was talking to Sway and Kay Slay. Oh shit! It’s Hollow Da Don. Joe Budden was in the wings smoking a cigarette with Slaughterhouse (minus Royce) all around him. I could swear that in the previous battles everyone was outfitted with lav mics BEFORE they were even onstage. They didn’t mic Hollow or Joe until after the fact and guess what? There was mic trouble. GO FIGURE. Everyone was anxious to get the show on the road to try to save the event. I was right next to the stage so I saw the production manager & stage manager got yelled at a lot when they didn’t recognize Craig G or Kool Herc and tried to stop them from getting word they were present to Sway who was onstage at the time. The crowd had to tell the stage managers that they were talking to Rap gods and out of their depths.

The crowd essentially came to see if Joe Budden could survive a roasting from Hollow Da Don. Joe Budden was the fat calf that was to be sacrificed to the young battle Rap lion in front of a bloodthirsty audience. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out that way. There was little Hollow Da Don could roast Joe Budden on that we hadn’t already read, seen or heard numerous times over on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Vine. Also, Joe Budden was not expected to be able to hold his own in a modern battle setting. He wasn’t expected to be able to perform in the manner battle fans expect their verbal gladiators to. In the end? He didn’t. No surprise there, either.

Joe was impatient with the stage manager and the lav mic, he wanted to be heard so he chose the handheld mic. Problem being that the handheld mic restricts movement and takes away from the all important performance aspect of battle emceeing. Just like with spoken word or stage acting, your body becomes an instrument that helps to sell your bars and although Joey was heard he’d already incurred a serious strike against himself even though he had two solid rounds. Hollow Da Don wasted a lot of time on unfunny jokes and tired concepts rather than really putting together bars & concentrating on performing the way Budden wasn’t. Hollow Da Don’s third round was extremely underwhelming but in the end Joe Budden didn’t capitalize on the opening. He just proceded to have the third round from Hell himself. He got rattled by the crowd’s booing (due to the fact he thought he was doing better than he was in the battle) and committed two cardinal battle rap sins, he told the crowd he’d quit if they booed, they booed  (of course they did!) so he put the mic down. It was all downhill from there. That’s your ass, Mr. Postman!

The stage started getting broken down the SECOND the judgement came down and the crowd wasn’t super happy or excited about it. Mostly I was confused. Things seemed rushed considering that they made Joe Budden FINISH rapping after he dropped the mic and that action just further incensed the crowd. Although Hollow Da Don “won” it was by a thin margin and he didn’t give the diehard battle rap audience the Mortal Kombat Rap fatality they were all hoping for. The reality of the matter is the overall event underwhelmed in numerous areas. It seems like almost everyone involved either was a guinea pig or felt exploited in some way or another from the participants down to the guests. Things often seemed disjointed and unorganized across the board. The first battle was the most solid all around. The second battle was a buzzkill although T-Rex gave an excellent performance thanks to Daylyt. The third battle had the potential to be a classic based on the the initial round but quickly turned into a clear win for Murda Mook. The main event was the payoff that ultimately underwhelmed in every way imaginable.



Chilla Jones, Ea$y Money & I were talking about how the event fell short in both execution and performance which soon turned into an all out debate about the shoddiness of the entire operation. I will admit that if they throw another event it will definitely go smoother since the first Total Slaughter felt like a trial run of sorts. Regardless people were talking about it nonstop and in this new real time media era that kind of buzz is what everyone is fighting for. The next Total Slaughter couldn’t possibly go any worse and I liken that first foray into the world of live streaming battle rap to a product beta test. Right now many of the participants feel exploited but the more comfortable they feel in the space & the better compensation they’ll receive in the future that ill feeling will eventually dissipate. For now? It is what it is. Total Slaughter is still a subject of constant discussion a full week later and it brought mainstream attention to the battle rap scene. So…when’s the next one?