CHICAGO — Life for local rapper Y.K. Supe has felt like a movie the last month.
The 23-year-old South Shore native, whose real name is Marcus Dixon, beat out nearly 9,000 rappers in a freestyle competition this summer.
Dixon has been named the winner of Verizon’s and 300 Entertainment’s #freestyle50 challenge, which is in its second year. He will receive a record deal with Kevin Liles’ iconic hip-hop label 300 Entertainment, home to such multiplatinum acts as Migos and Fetty Wap. Dixon’s debut single will be produced by London On Da Track.
And he won $10,000 — and is going to be featured on the label's upcoming Artist Development Tour.
For the finals, he and seven others battled through several rounds for the No. 1 spot. Judges for the tournament included industry experts such as radio legend Big Boy, Tuma Basa (Spotify's Global Programming head of hip-hop) and Real 92.3's DJ A-Oh.
“Y.K Supe clearly had a story to tell," Liles said. "He surprised the judges with his talent and creativity and we look forward to welcoming him to the 300 family.”
Y.K Supe raps in a video posted in July. [YouTube]
Dixon graduated in 2016 from Alabama A&M University. He majored in sociology and minored in psychology. While attending Perspectives Charter School in Bronzeville, he played basketball and said he always had hoop dreams, but would occasionally rap on the side.
“I was always good at rhymes and riddles, so I did a little freestyling in school or when on the CTA,” he said. “When I went off to college and wasn’t playing basketball anymore, I told myself that I may never be the next Lebron James but I can be the next Jay Z if I set my mind to it.”
Friends began tagging him on social media, encouraging him to enter the competition. Dixon said when he finally checked it out, he immediately submitted material. Four weeks later he got a call asking him to rap live on WGCI. He was living in Huntsville, Ala. — and now believes God helped him make it to the performance on time.
The same day of the call, Dixon said his landlord unexpectedly gave him and his roommate seven days to move out. His car had more than 200,000 miles on it, so a friend let him borrow his car. He made the drive to Chicago in 8½ hours and arrived 10 minutes before he was supposed to be on air. He couldn’t find parking at first — but then found a valet and raced inside with no time to change or prepare.
But he went all out.
“I gave it all I got,” Dixon said.
While preparing for the final round in Hollywood, Dixon said he would have friends suggest random topics and he’d freestyle over a beat. He said he wanted to be ready for anything.
He’s still processing the win, he said.
“It’s a blessing ... it’s like a dream,” Dixon said. “There’s definitely no testimony without a test.”
He said he will use some of the prize to help his mother and younger sister, who are still in Chicago.
He also wants to put money toward opening an in-house studio.
Besides the money, the exposure itself will be huge, Dixon said.
“I have the talent, the catalog of music and the drive, but I always fell short with exposure so this will help a lot,” he said.
Now in its second year, the #freestyle50 challenge was created by Verizon in partnership with 300 Entertainment. This year, Samsung joined #freestyle50 as an official sponsor. Additional partners include World Star Hip Hop and Sneaker Con.
To enter the competition, contestants were asked to post a video of themselves freestyling to Tee Grizzley’s "No Effort" to Instagram or Twitter with #freestyle50challenge and @verizon and @300Ent.
#freestyle50 cypher winner Y.K Supe (middle) pictured with Smack White (host), his guest, Sway Calloway, Jessica Thorpe (Corporate Communications, Verizon), London On Da Track (music producer) and Kevin Liles (300 Entertainment co-founder). [Provided]