His hat concealed his eyes, which never made contact with his opponent. His hand delicately wrapped the mic, and he stood B-boy style - sideways.
That's how Stephen Norris, a.k.a. Blind Fury, rocked every time he spit on MTV's MC battle back in 2003.
The Camden native made it to the semifinals, where he had a classic showdown with Chicago lyricist Swann. Sound bites from their two-round slugfest blew up hip-hop Web sites.
"He spits his own flows, but can't pick his own clothes," Swann said, adding that Fury's red, white and blue outfit made him look like a pack of Skittles.
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That dis was dead on, but Fury's counter was heavier:
"You can believe what this 'ho say. He's been wearing the same sweater for four days," Fury opened his rhyme.
"You speakin' to the feds. It looks like spiders is straight meetin' on your head."
The crowd had Fury's back, and even though he lost a 2-to-1 vote, Fury had made his message more than clear.
When he's got the mic in his hand and battlin', MCs better watch where they're stepping.
Fury sees all.
Don't let his blindness trip you.
IT'S NOT WHERE YOU'RE FROM
Southern hip-hop is riding dirty on the pop-music freeway.
Atlanta's deep-fried grease is popping all over the road. OutKast was the in thing for a year. Crunk has swung its elbows to the top of the charts and Ludacris held down the "No. 1 Spot" earlier this year.
Led by Paul Wall's "The People's Champ," which debuted at No. 1, Houston's chopped and screwed sound parked its candy-glossed Cadillac in the fast lane.
North Carolina has been repped hard by Petey Pablo, and Tennessee is held down by Three 6 Mafia. Louisiana is Cash Money and New No Limit country.
But while those states have been riding on chrome rims since the late '90s, South Carolina has been a hip-hop hooptie.
It must be mechanical problems, because it isn't the drivers.
Carolina MCs don't fit the typical Southern slow and drawlllled-out cadence. Up-n-comers such as Blind Fury are more like Big Pooh and Phonte from North Carolina trio Little Brother than a lot of rappers from the South, where only recently Ludacris and Lil Wayne have raised the lyrical bar.
There is undeniable depth in the MC talent in the state, but can anyone break through?
"South Cak is about to blow," said WHXT-FM Hot 103.9 DJ Venom.
Charleston's Infinity Tha Ghetto Child's 2002 CD "Pain" didn't get much backing from MCA Records. Columbia's Lyrikal Buddah saw his album with Boston's Detonator records repeatedly delayed until he asked out of the deal.
"They didn't know how to promote me," Buddah said before he self-released his debut CD, "Inmetrospekt," in 2004. "I'm not a backpack MC and I'm not hardcore.
" (Detonator) didn't know how to push my sound."
Venom, who has known Blind Fury since he used the nameVerbose, said he has as good a shot as any to put South Carolina on the hip-hop freeway, because he shows no fear.
Venom once hosted an event in Sumter where Blind Fury made other MCs lean back.
"It's almost good he couldn't see, because there was 200 black people surrounding him and he held it," Venom said.
Fury's high profile from his 2003 MTV performance and the smoothness of this summer's "Gifted" EP got record companies interested, his manager Travis Jiles said.
Fury is about to sign a distribution deal with Universal Records, which will release his full-length "Blindsided."
"Everybody want to talk. They want to see if you can make records," Jiles said. "When Universal saw that, they said, 'These guys can make a record. We can put it out.' "
Fury is ready to knock mic skills with major-label MCs.
"I could easily tell you I do it because I want to make music, give you cliche answers," he said. "Truth is, I'm tired of turning on the radio and listening to retarded music."
CLOWN ON THE COME UP
It's not always that you see a white guy trying to get into a rap cipher. Especially a blind white guy. But that's what Fury has been doing since elementary school.
"In second and third grade, I began putting rhymes together," he said. "The fat kid in the cipher would be doing the beats. At first, they wanted to let me spit for somethin' to clown."
Fury, 20, was born with several birth defects - spina bifida, clubbed feet and no eyeballs - so taking a chance on making a fool of himself was nothing. His feet were broken and reset at birth. At 2 months old, Fury had surgery to remove tumors on his spine.
When Fury began rhyming, people called him "Gifted" because he had talent. Like "Verbose," it didn't stick. "Blind Fury" did.
"Blind Fury" is title of a 1991 film in which Rutger Hauer plays a blinded war veteran who becomes a master swordsman.
When Norris showed up at a small battle in Camden in 2001, people said, "Blind Fury in the house," Jiles recalled.
"They did it as a joke, but it stuck. Soon Verbose was gone," he said.
Jiles, who once hosted MC challenges in Camden, almost didn't let Fury rock the mic the first time they met because he was sure the "blind dude" was going to get clowned.
"He came out there and his moms dropped him off," Jiles said. "I was like, come on, who's going to watch him? He's blind."
Cool as ever, Fury chilled by the DJ booth until the last rapper spit. He then asked for the mic.
"They (crowd) was like, 'Trav give him the mic.' I thought they wanted to clown him," Jiles said.
"I gave it to him and he killed it."
Fury slayed more MCs at another Camden battle. Then Jiles took Fury to Atlanta to see what he could do in a large city.
"I took him to the MTV (regional competition) thing," Jiles said. "He killed 30-something MCs. He was the last MC standing."
It's impressive, but the MTV appearance didn't leave Fury thinking he's king of the ring in hip-hop's circus. That's for clowns and those who don't know that rappers don't blow up like their heads do.
"When you're sittin' on the couch and you pick up the remote and press the button on top, what are you turning on?" he said. "It's just television."
Fury earned the respect of the MTV champion, Wreckonize, from Miami.
"He had a dope flow," Wreckonize told www.hiphopgame.com. "It was close because Blind Fury surprised everyone."
But Wreck wasn't into Fury's lyrics. "I wasn't too sure about that whole gangster image he kicked."
The gangster talk Fury drops is amusing, Venom said.
"He had a line, 'When you see me in the street, I hold heat,' " she said. "I don't want to be a part of your crew if you're holding heat."
Maybe Fury is as steady as Hauer was with the sword in the movie. Maybe.
What is certain is that Fury doesn't surprise anyone now. At the End of the Weak Grand Championships in New York this summer, Fury battled big underground names such as Reef The Lost Cauze, Breez Evahflowin' and Pumpkinhead.
Someday, Fury wants the battling to stop.
"I don't want to be cast as a battle rapper," Fury said. "A true lyricist can battle and make songs.
"Battlin' on the street corner is not sellin'. Battlin' is good for publicity, having fun and letting off steam."
On the "Gifted" EP, Fury makes songs around a direct, stone-cold flow. His topics have cohesiveness that less-practiced rappers lack.
And those guys get to write down their rhymes. Like Jay-Z, who is famous for not putting his lyrics on paper, Fury has to record his ideas immediately or commit the words to memory.
"Rhymes hit me in the most inopportune moments. I could be chillin' around no booth, no recorder," he said.
"It's a lot of stuff I spit that you'll never hear because it's never been recorded. It's some of the hottest."
Even hotter is the fact that Fury programs most of his beats, plays the keyboards and sings the hooks on his records.
"He did everything on there," Jiles said. "Every song you hear on there is him. I call him Beethoven."
Who, after all, wrote some def jams.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362 or firstname.lastname@example.org