This article was originally written by Will Jarvis and appeared in The Maneater on September 1, 2015.  It has been republished with the author’s permission.

If you’ve got bars, step up. If you don’t, step back.

That’s senior safety Ian Simon’s advice for the Tigers’ traditional “Freestyle Friday” rap battles held each week. While the football field can be an intense place, there might be no event on campus more energy-filled, passionate and downright entertaining than the weekly rap battles held within the confines of the Missouri Tigers locker room.

This is no place for the meek.

Turn on the instrumental track. Step up. Drop bars.

This weekly ritual may seem petty or trivial, but for guys in the locker room, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Simon said the hip-hop sessions bring guys closer together in what they rap about. Family, hometown, hobbies — it’s all covered.

“That’s one of the things that brings us together,” Simon said. “A lot of us had similar upbringings.”

But football is obviously the hot topic. At the end of the day, the game is what’s most important to a lot of these guys, and that’s what they rap about. That’s why the greatest hip-hop head to ever come out of the MU locker room was an All-SEC player on the field and a legend in the locker room.

Marcus Murphy. Rap name: Murph Dirty.

The first-team All-SEC kick returner/running back dominated defenses and helpless special teams units last year. Murphy also dominated helpless opponents in Freestyle Fridays.

Simon didn’t even hesitate when asked who the best of all time was.

“I’m telling you, Murph has some real songs out there,” he said. “They’re legit songs and they’re pretty good.”

The 2015 NFL draft pick also had a studio in his apartment, Simon said. Murphy, linebacker Darvin Ruise and wide receiver Bud Sasser recorded multiple songs in the tiny studio housed in their closet. Simon was even supposed to appear in a music video for the group.

Strength and conditioning coach Pat Ivey puts on the tracks and legend says that Murph Dirty could go two to three minutes before stopping. Now vying for a roster spot on the New Orleans Saints, rap might be at the back of Murphy’s mind.

Simon still has high aspirations for his friend, though.

“If the Saints ever heard any of Murph’s tracks, he’d go double platinum,” Simon said. 

It may be a while before anyone as talented as Murphy comes through the Missouri locker room, but someone has to take the throne.

Who is it?

Simon took a deep, contemplative breath. 

“That’s tough, that’s tough. That’s really tough,” he said, shaking his head. “You know, I’ve got to give it to (redshirt senior tight end) Clayton Echard. He came with the bars on Freestyle Friday. He’s better than anybody right now.”

If Simon is one to judge, redshirt junior linebacker Michael Scherer keeps tight lips on the ordeal. He wouldn’t reveal the best or worst. Scherer did give some insight on his role, though.

A self-proclaimed “moderator/hypeman,” the senior takes his job very seriously. He’ll keep his space, letting out the occasional “YEA!” to pump his boys up. But when someone’s not bringing the bars, there are consequences.

“If someone’s bad, I’m the first to boot them,” Scherer said.

He hasn’t had the chance to boot out Simon. The safety known best for disrupting passes doesn’t disrupt the flow of Freestyle Friday. His musical talent is inspired by the likes of Drake, J. Cole and Andre 3000.

But you’d never know. He won’t step into the ring. 

“My bars are reserved,” he said with a sly smile. “They’re kind of X-rated, so you can’t have my bars.”

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