Once upon a time, the Rap City booth freestyle was an institution. Rap City was in its 10th season when Big Tigger took over as the host of the BET music-video show. And from 1999 to 2005, he made the show his own. He gave it a whole new concept: The show took place in the basement of Tigger’s never-seen mother, and the guests were just dropping by to shoot pool and rap. This basement had a fully-functional recording booth, and once a show, the rappers would jump in there to lay down freestyles with Tigger. (They were never actual freestyles, except when Big Tig was rapping.) There were so many great Basement freestyles; you could fall into a YouTube wormhole for hours watching them.
Big Tigger left Rap City in 2005, and BET cancelled the show in 2008. These days, you can find videos of your favorite rappers freestyling all over the internet. But those old Rap City freestyles still feel special, so it’s absolutely delightful to see the Beast Coast crew bringing back the booth cypher, with Big Tigger and a reconstructed Basement set and everything.
The loose-knit New York crew Beast Coast has been around for years, encompassing Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era group, the Underachievers, and the Flatbush Zombies. But now they’re becoming a full-on rap group. They’re playing a bunch of festivals together this summer and releasing the album Escape From New York soon. We’ve already heard the early singles “Left Hand” and “Coast/Clear,” and now they’ve made a Rap City cypher video with Big Tigger, currently a DJ on Atlanta radio.
It’s weird seeing a group of nine rappers all getting to take turns on in the booth, something that would’ve never happened on Rap City. And it’s weird seeing them get to cuss unbleeped. Few of the Beast Coast rappers could hang with the best Rap City guys. But it’s still a blast to watch, especially as the Beast Coast guys rap over era-appropriate tracks like Clipse’s “Grindin'” and Sean Paul’s “Gimme The Light.”
Beast Coast just announced that Escape From New York is out 5/24. And while you’re here, please enjoy some classic booth freestyles.