A year ago I published 64 Shots (Leadership in a Crazy World). New Zealand rapper David Dallas is doing 64 Bars. Dreamed up in Auckland in 2015, 64 Bars is an online showcase where handpicked MCs step into the booth and lay down “64 Bars” of straight raps – four verses without a hook, bridge or break. Styled in the tradition of Sway’s 5 Fingers of Death freestyle segment, or Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Booth, it’s an outlet for local artists to show and prove their skills for real. Performing under the spotlight they present a short packed set surrounded by an intimate audience – moving the feeling of a crowded street corner cypher into a live scenario.
Last November David Dallas and Red Bull Studios Auckland presented a new season of 64 Bars starring local rappers. Now, Red Bull will take the idea to other cities around the world where they have studios, a long list which includes Berlin, London, LA, New York, Paris and Tokyo (which they did in July).
The set-up is elegantly simple: three MCs, one mic, one studio. The sole idea behind 64 Bars is to have a platform strictly focused on the craft of rapping – not songwriting, or fashion, or marketing. “You’ve got radio and social media for that other stuff,” says Dallas. “I just wanted this to be a showcase of people’s ability to rap.”
“There’s a platform for everything else, you can use SoundCloud if you’re a good songwriter, if you’ve got a great aesthetic, there’s YouTube, there’s all these other things, but for kids that just want to be good at rapping, there wasn’t anything – at least locally – for that.”
I wrote in the introduction to 64 Shots that “64 is a magic number. Remember 1964? It was a landmark year that changed the world in many ways. The Beatles held the top five positions on Billboard, headed by “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Bob Dylan recorded “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The Rolling Stones released their first album. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Act. Nelson Mandela gave his “I Am Prepared to Die” speech over three hours from the dock before being sentenced to 27 years. Cassius Clay became both heavyweight champion of the world and Muhammad Ali. BASIC computing language was introduced and the computer mouse was invented. Protests began against the Vietnam War. Andy Warhol began his most celebrated period. It turns out that 64 is a super-perfect number. The square root of 64 is the lucky number eight. There are 64 squares on a chessboard, and the Karma Sutra has 64 positions (but you know that!). Sixty-four is the country calling code for New Zealand, my home on the edge of the world. And the title of a famous Lennon and McCartney love song from the greatest album of all time.”
Take it away, David Dallas and 64 Bars.