The Red Bull flowed like wine last Thursday night at Historic Sweet's Ballroom, when Red Bull brought its Big Tune producer battle show to downtown Oakland. It was the second stop on a tour that began May 21 in Philadelphia and continues on to Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and finally New York City, where the winners from each city will compete in the finals.
Thursday's competition was a four-round affair, with dueling producers manning booths on opposite ends of the stage and taking turns playing thirty-second samples of beats they'd created. Winners, who were decided by applause from the crowd of about 500, moved on to the next round while losers left in single elimination.
After the second round, the event detoured into a concert/dance party, with Oakland rapper Turf Talk giving a well-received half-hour performance followed by another half hour or so of songs with beats by featured producer Rick Rock.
The final match-up came down to Tracy's Hitmaker and hometown producer Marc Garvey. The former had already established himself as a crowd favorite as the only white producer throwing down booming, danceable beats. Wearing a grey t-shirt over a white polo shirt, he hardly looked the part. "Guess you can't judge a book by its cover," one host emcee commented after Hitmaker's resounding second-round victory. After the third round, fans toward the front chanted "Go white boy! Go white boy!"
Interestingly enough, in the final round he was up against Marc Garvey, who took his name from the black nationalist Marcus Garvey. By this point, at least among the most invested kids up front, Hitmaker's loudest contingent of supporters were white while Garvey's were black, and they cheered their man through three sets of their finest beats. Noticing the racial divide, one host laughed it off and simply implored everyone to come together and vote for Barack Obama. The crowd cheered.
In the end, Garvey took top honors, his progressive and complex beats getting the nod over Hitmaker's more booming, classic style. Yet both will travel to New York in December to compete at the Big Tune finals. Their skills should represent Oakland well.