In martial-arts movies, victory only materialized after a soon-to-be champion demonstrated the five foundational disciplines of success: hard work, self-motivation, commitment, critical thinking, and structure. It's the same in hip-hop.
As children of the '80s, my friends and I glued ourselves to the floor whenever a martial-arts movie was on TV. Nothing was more invigorating than seeing a guy overcome adversity by dropping a warm can of whoopass on his opponents. Besides the cliché endings where a protagonist triumphs, my favorite parts were the montage training scenes where the main character went from zero to hero in ten quick-cutting minutes. Whether it was learning to fight blind (Bloodsport), catching flies with chopsticks (The Karate Kid), or being trained by Bruce Lee’s spirit (No Retreat, No Surrender), victory only materialized after a soon-to-be champion demonstrated the five foundational disciplines of success: hard work, self-motivation, commitment, critical thinking, and structure. The benefits of adhering to the five foundational disciplines remain unscathed, even as the films that touted them become more and more dated. And its not just martial artists that benefit: every Tuesday hungry rappers transform New York’s Pyramid Club into a hardcore training ground. For the past five years Mental Supreme has led this “Training Camp,” a safe haven for underground artists to sharpen their stage presence while simultaneously learning how to survive in today’s music industry. At Training Camp, performers receive preacher-like sermons of encouragement from Mental Supreme that reiterate the aforementioned tropes. The culmination of everybody’s hard work was showcased last week when Mental Supreme recruited renowned mixtape prodigy DJ Envy to host a competition judged by a slew of high-level industry professionals. The grand prize of this prestigious competition was five-thousand dollars, and only those handpicked by Mental Supreme were allowed to participate. In addition to the generous cash prize, artists were motivated by the opportunity to perform before a panel of judges who, with one phone call, could push their careers into fifth gear. The judges were attorney Kevon Glickman (Rick Ross, Trina, etc.), Amanda “Precise” McIntyre-Chavis (Virgin/EMI Music Group/CEO of Musaic Management Group), Steve “Raze” Julien (President of Allhiphop.com), and Jason Mazur (A&R for TVT). In addition to this illustrious panel, other top-notch industry representatives hung in the crowd, waiting to pounce on any hitmakers that emerged. With stakes this high and a club packed wall-to-wall with hip-hop advocates, the pressure was on for all 27 performers to flex their talent like true masters of the craft. Artists with names like Quest The Wordsmith, Flawless, and Crucial kicked off the showcase, spitting rhymes that were tighter than a Pamela Lee ensemble. Their unique syllabic combinations set the tone for the evening, giving the judges their first taste of the high-caliber talent on Training Camp’s roster. Flawless (representing Jamaica, Queens) brought along a live drummer to accentuate his melodic wordplay, and as faster beats began to pour out, the rapper, seemingly unfazed, sped his rhythm to match. Supernova, a three-piece “band” with a saxophone player and drummer, brought a smooth-yet-energetic sound that could be likened to that of Guru’s Jazzmatazz series or Q-Tip’s alter-ego, Kamal the Abstract. The real surprise, though, came when the Japanese whiz-kid Coo (pronounced ko-u) hit the stage, tommy-gunning lightning-quick lyrics. Coo’s hands flailed with vigor as his velocity increased to the point where it sounded as if he was rapping at 120 beats per minute. “I moved to New York from Tokyo to be a rapper,” said Coo after his performance. And, while Coo raps completely in Japanese, which appeared to stump everyone in attendance, “It doesn’t matter whether people can understand him,” explained Mental Supreme. “Everyone can feel his energy, and that’s most important.” Other performers such as Voodoo Soul (a full band), Nemesis, Dirk Diggler of Hard Body Records, and Paternal kept the crowds interested, but it was another artist that really brought the ruckus, working the stage with a stage presence matched only by his uncanny gift of gab. This artist goes by the name of NY Oil, and when his sound blasted through the Pyramid Club’s speakers, the vibrations were of seismic proportions. The sheer energy of NY Oil’s performance could have powered an electric car for 100 miles. Not only is he a top-notch lyricist who embodies the true essence of hip-hop, but, apparently, he is also good for the environment -- which is why the esteemed panel of judges named him winner and awarded NY Oil the grand prize.
NY Oil and crew after their win