Organizers are giving one shot and one opportunity for participants to seize victory of the Umoja Festival Rap Battle Friday evening, which is one of many musical acts available.
“The last three years have been awesome,” said Vickie Briscoe, who is in charge of the Young Adult Stage for the free festival.
She and her fellow Umoja committee members have strived to bring in a variety of acts and talent for the event, set to run in downtown Johnson City for Friday and Saturday.
The Rap Battle, she said, has been extremely successful because it’s utilized rappers from the local colleges as well as people of all ages and both genders. She pointed out that winners have come from right here in Johnson City and, in the past, have included a female winner.
The format this year is a lot like it has been in past years, with rappers being able to sign up just before the competition begins at 7:45 Friday night. Not knowing who is competing until it actually kicks off adds to the excitement of it all, she said. Briscoe doesn’t know how many will sign up or where they’re from, but says the cash prize awarded to the victor usually gives them stiff competition.
Rules are simple, Briscoe said, with profanity being the only thing not allowed. Rappers are expected to be respectful of their competitors, but are supposed to work the beats to earn applause from the crowd, who, collectively, with their clapping, decided who moves on through the rounds.
Varying levels of time will be given to those rhyming throughout the length of the competition and in the final battle, Briscoe said, the finalists will be able to go until they can’t go any more.
The festival, in its 18th year, will continue to provide musical entertainment through dancing, marching, singing and more, all while putting an emphasis on a local singer this year.
Organizer Ralph Davis said Umoja will invite back one of its own in Jae Marie, who mixes styles with what Davis calls “up and rising and neo-soul and R&B.” Davis said Marie is a local to the Johnson City area who is impressive not only to locals, but people across the country while now being based out of Atlanta.
“It’s good to see local people doing so well,” Davis said of Marie.
Davis said Marie wants to put on a good show for her home crowd and will have the opportunity to do so with her performance, set to be the headliner and closer Friday night when she takes the Main Stage from 9:30-11. Other musical highlights will include a Gospel Fest early Saturday afternoon and DJing from Sherl the Pearl Saturday night to go along with the festival’s dancing and drumming opportunities throughout the two-day celebration of diversity.
Festivalgoers will have a chance to add some calories to their diets if they want to dance with the crowds. Food and drink vendors, Davis said, will be plentiful and readily available.
“There’s going to be plenty of good food and drinks and fun for everyone,” Davis said.
This goes along well with Umoja’s goal to offer a variety of things to experience.
“The Umoja festival is the cornerstone of what we do,” says the organization’s website. “A time when people from all walks of life can gather and learn a little bit more about others’ traditions and customs; a time to learn about different music, food, dance, dress and experiences.”
A full listing of the schedule and events can be found at the festival’s website: www.umojajc.org.
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