The skies cleared for the last day of the 31st annual SunFest, finally allowing the summer-kickoff waterfront jam to live up to its name. The sun was shining, and fiercely, the entire afternoon as Canadian comedic pop rock troupe Barenaked Ladies performed on the festival's main Ford Stage. For the rest of the day, it was dominated by rappers and turntables.
The two hip-hop headliners Mac Miller and Kendrick Lamar are both West Palm crowd pleasers. But we took it upon ourselves to pit the two against each other in an MC battle. They didn't know they were up for any wins or losses, and we ain't gonna tell you who won right here, but read on to see who dominated the stage at SunFest.
First though Miami's Shifta warmed up the crowd. With a little help from his well-connected father, Daddy Fras (a.k.a. the Piper of Piper Records) this dancehall artist has achieved international acclaim and pumped out remixes with such rap heavyweights as Snoop Lion, Dr. Dre, and Akon.
It was "Kush," the Shifta collaboration with all the big aforementioned names, that had the most thump of the set. With a few ladies behind him waving green, black, and gold flags, he divided the crowd up into two sides. One had to holler "roll up," the other "smoke," and then had the group work together in a "roll up/smoke" back and forth. Shifta must have not heard the news about the impending bong ban in Florida. Although this unabashed ganja lover likely could give a rat's ass about it.
This was the energetic performer's first time playing in West Palm Beach, he told the crowd. "People think it's all about Miami and South Beach, it's time to show West Palm Beach some love," he announced.
Then it was time for two young MCs that recently have tasted the bittersweetness of superstardom, Mac Miller and Kendrick Lamar. Pittsburgh's Mac Miller's style is that of frat rap, while the Compton-born Lamar definitely has more street cred. Signed to Dr. Dre's label Aftermath, the latter is a prodigy of sorts for the former N.W.A. star. With Dr. Dre's backing, Lamar's glossy record, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (with Dr. Dre himself, Drake, MC Eiht assisting and Pharrell and Just Blaze on production) the kid was basically sent into the rap world settled nicely on a golden throne.
However, his rhymes seem just as geared towards the college co-eds as Millers. With that said, we took a side-by-side look at these two top of the pop rappers and attempted to determine which is the better emcee is. Our own little MC battle if you will.
Punctuality: Mac Miller
This one goes to Miller, who started his set five minutes early. While punctuality may not be considered gangster, we look at it this way: When an MC starts his set on time, of even earlier, he has more time on stage to demonstrate his skills. Lamar started his set almost thirty minutes late, his stage time was just under an hour, compared to Miller who was over an hour long.
Best MC Outfit: Mac Miller
With his straw panama hat, broad shorts and a Hawaiian-style shirt emblazoned with parrots, Miller was on-point with his SunFest gear. Another MC point goes to Miller. Lamar in black T-shirt and jeans didn't look like he put too much thought into his threads.
Misogynistic Lyrics: Mac Miller
This one is a negative in our book. Having to rely on "bitch suck my dick," is a lowest common denominator, bottom of the barrel characteristic for a battle rapper. And it's one that Mac Miller goes to, way too often. On "Onaroll," Miller slung out these lyrics: "She honor roll, she Dean's list, her ass round like Venus/My penis, her cleavage, that freaky bitch need Jesus." One of Miller's newer cuts, which will be released this June, ends with this choice phrase: "When I die, drop a couple of dead bitches in my casket."
Seems like the word "bitch," made it into almost every Mac Miller song we heard. That's not to say that Lamar is not guilty of objectifying women here and there, case in point the ballers anthem "Pussy and Patron," which had every pimp waving their hands in synch. (Also, what's with his obsession with Halle Berry anyways?) But it doesn't seem to be the focal point in his flow.
Lyrical Content : Kendrick Lamar
This brings us to our next big MC skill, the constructing of the lyrics. Hands down Kendrick Lamar takes this on. The dude writes some whip smart rhymes. With Janet Jackson's "Any Time, Any Place" as the chief sample on "Poetic Justice," he had the crowd completely engaged. This song, dealing with an argument with his girlfriend, allows for the hip-hop star to demonstrate his more sensitive side. He comes more earnestly with his lyrics, as opposed to Miller's which probably downs a few too many Budweisers while contemplating the verse to his next song.
Delivery: Mac Miller
This might surprise you, but the freewheeling party boy guise of Mac Miller goes down surprisingly well in a live setting. The crowd, consisting of many under 18-year-old gals in skimpy outfits, seemed to enjoy every minute of Miller's set. Even the slower numbers from his set like "Of The Soul," seemed to have the younguns' undivided attention. This is where we see faults in Lamar set. While he is a talented studio artist, producing ace product with top-tier studio engineers, when it comes to live performance, the dude is just too reliant on his DJ samples and the Auto Tune. He also has less energy than Miller does on stage. Lamar just plays it too cool. He proved to be less engaging than Miller.
Give the Crowd What They Want Factor: Mac Miller
Another one that we have to give to Miller. This slacker, backpack hip-hopper gave a through display of all his hits. Dishing out tracks from his early catalog to numbers that haven't even been released yet. Compare this to Lamar, who only gave the audience a tease of his hit with A$AP Rocky "Fucking Problems." You can't turn on the radio without hearing this song everytually, and Lamar only rolled the track out for little over a minute.
So, for those of you that are keeping score, the win goes to Mac Miller. Perhaps he doesn't have the edge that Kendrick Lamar has, but as a live performer he has the advantage. Hoodie party rap takes home the prize, well at SunFest at least.
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