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For Hip-Hop Open Mic, Back to Where It All Began

bb44Courtesy Corey Lima. Corey Lima, a.k.a. iLLspokinn.

While other hip-hop open mics have come and gone, Freestyle Mondays has been one of the scene’s staples for over a decade. Launched in 2002 at the now defunct Sin Sin, its doors were open to any rapper who wanted to grab the mic and perform, with a live band supplying the beats. When the club closed in 2010, the party migrated to Bar 13 and then to 116 MacDougal Street, until noise complaints resulted once again in the search for a new venue. Tonight, Freestyle Mondays returns to the East Village with an inaugural 16-MC battle at Ella Lounge at 9 Avenue A.

We spoke to co-host Corey Lima, better known as iLLspokinn, about coming back to the neighborhood, the challenges of having a weekly hip-hop event in New York City and new plans to broadcast online in high definition.


How does it feel to return to the East Village where Freestyle Mondays started?


It’s kind of nostalgic to get off on the same train to hit Freestyle Mondays again. I used to live in the East Village, so I’m hoping it brings out my East Village friends who just like to walk up the stairs or down the street. Read more…

After Nearly Five Years, Hip-Hop Showcase Ends Its Run

bondfire2EMA Photography/Elizabeth Allen. TastyKeish and Bronx Uber Villain

For almost five years, Bondfire has served as a monthly family reunion for New York’s hip-hop scene, but the open mic will end its run tomorrow night at the Bowery Poetry Club.

After starting the event in 2007, musician Ausar Paumam’ki handed the reigns to current co-host Tony Walker, a veteran of hip-hop open mic circuits better know as The Bronx Über Villain. “We made Bondfire warm,” said Mr. Walker. “An inviting, but still no nonsense place where one takes pride in being on our stage. We’re actually a listening, encouraging, true community.”

Co-host TastyKeish (born Keisha Datés) was asked to become a permanent fixture after hosting the first annual all-female Bondfire. She said that the monthly’s non-judgmental vibe meant that it was more diverse than most. “Anyone can come through and rock, and you won’t be scared to come back,” she said, “but you will get some criticism.” Read more…