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MC Race One

Dancehall Authenticity

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It's hard to dance softly to drum and bass -- and even harder to maintain the stamina to step, bounce and break from the opening set through the headliner's finale. When the crowd needs motivation, MC Race One is back to provide it.

A change in his day job made it difficult for Race One, né Jason Coleman, to stay up late nights -- and he just needed a break. After two years away, 404Audio.com founder Anthony Rotella (aka DJ Mayhem) asked him to start hosting and toasting at Transit, a biweekly drum and bass event. "I've gotten really good feedback and good response and a lot of people saying ... it was weird having me not around. They're glad that I'm back," Coleman says.

The dancehall tradition of toasting -- where an MC engages the crowd with clever twists on familiar lyrics, witty rhymes and calls to action -- marks Race One's authenticity and skill. "Dancehall has always been a huge love of mine. Before I ever started MCing, I was playing hip-hop and dancehall. I still play dancehall for fun, I still listen to dancehall daily. And of course, hip-hop, I'll always love hip-hop."

For a while, back in the late '90s, the few MCs on the drum and bass scene seemed to want the spotlight, forgetting that silence is sometimes the most powerful sound. Basically, they didn't know how to shut the fuck up. "Drum and bass MCs play second fiddle to the DJ always, or in my opinion, they should. They're not there to be the headliner or anything," says Coleman. "They're there just to support the DJ and to hype up the crowd."

Still, Race One's "big book full of written lyrics ... locked away in my head" truly does move the crowd. Hands get raised, dancefloors get slayed, an MC gets brave. "It's one of the biggest things that helps me MC. ... You get to hear them react. An MC kind of feeds off that, and all nervousness goes away at that point, it's kind of auto-pilot."

Total Science, with MC Race One, Kujo, Ozone Media and Sorted, plays the Mark Thurs., Feb. 16, 10 p.m. $10, ladies free. 79 Poplar St. 678-904-0050. www.themarkatlanta.com.

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