The idea was simple, a free platform for the community to express and showcase their talent. Stokey Cannady, founder and creator of The Stokey Project and Shoe City marketing manager has deep ties into the Baltimore neighborhoods and a pulse on the streets. His initiative to help kids from local areas and create opportunities for them comes from his memories of his childhood in Baltimore. "People in the community that don't have anywhere to perform, showcase their talents, and network with others" Stokey says. Now they do. The campaign went viral from social media platforms, escalated from there and Stokey's broad ideals turned success into community engagement and the battle began. New Balance heard the idea and success behind it, and based on their own community ties and platform began to sponsor the event and teamed up with Shoe City.
The first Rap Battle coincided with the grand opening of the Enterprise Plaza Shoe City store earlier this year and the response was overwhelming. So overwhelming that 19 more have popped up in local Shoe City throughout Baltimore. Shoe City, The Stokey Project, and New Balance will soon take the show on the road and start the battle in DC.
I came out to see what the hype was all about last night at the Rap Battle in the Hyattsville Shoe City at Kings Highway Shoe City and can honestly say I was blown away by the attendance and the talent. Stokey was at the turn tables and the sounds from the artists did not disappoint.
Stokey at the turn tables
People came out from the local area, DC, and Baltimore and lined up to sign in for their chance to rap. The first person to battle was a young woman who rapped without a back beat and it was inspired and truthful. You could see heads moving as people took in her lyrics and seemed to make their own beat in their heads. As each performer began you could feel the hum of energy in the store. Each person that rapped resonated with the crowd and the applause didn't falter after any performance. For some it was their first time for others they have been following and performing in the battle from the beginning. For future battles I encourage the community to come out and support these local artists. It's a time where you can come alone (as I did) or with a friends and family for a safe night of local musical talent. You will not be disappointed but instead inspired that the Baltimore and DC talent is just as good if not better than any celebrity rapper.
I asked Stokey if he was surprised by the level of talent he has seen, easily he answered "I'm not surprised by the level of talent but I am surprised that the community bought into the platform of showcasing talent in the store". To those that are on the fence about performing Stokey reminds them "It's the best experience and a platform for you to showcase your voice". He's already seen performers signed and even on Ellen's show.
The Rap Battle has grown so much that Shoe City has completed its mobile studio, so when you see the Shoe City van there's a place to record and sing on wheels. Stokey remind us that "the hopeless, can still be hopeful with continued community support".
The end of the Rap Battle the performers come together on the mic
Join The Stokey Project, Shoe City, YCMC.com, and New Balance tomorrow 10/5/18 from 4pm-8:30pm for the 20th stop on the Rap Challenge Tour at
Mondawmin Mall Shoe City, 2401 Liberty Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215