Rapping for a cause
Mitch Canham sits in front of his locker Wednesday afternoon in the baseball locker room. Canham often sits by his locker between classes to write lyrics, providing an outlet to express himself.

Local rappers lend their talents to a Special Olympics benefit

When Mitch "Mitchy Slick" Canham has a spare moment between classes and baseball practice, he sits at his locker to pen rap lyrics such as this:

"Tearin' up playaz with mad-skilled attacks, ballaz title-bound, and we're countin' our stacks."

That's a line from "O-State Ballaz '06," the follow-up to last year's hit tribute to the Oregon State University baseball team, "O-State Ballaz."

Canham, a 21-year-old business administration major from Lake Stevens, Wash., wrote and produced these raps with his friends Ryan MacBriar "Pain", Lil G and Mo-X.

Tonight these artists, along with other hip-hop and rap musicians from the Northwest, will give a concert to benefit the local Special Olympics chapter.

"What better cause than to help the kids play a sport they love, and get to travel around?" Canham said, taking a break from Wednesday's baseball drills to prepare for the benefit.

Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.

Canham selected this charity after hearing about a previous Special Olympics fund-raiser from OSU men's golfer Mitch Gillis. Both men are members of OSU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Last year, the committee held an athlete date auction. They used the proceeds to purchase jerseys for the local Special Olympics basketball team.

"My interest in doing this again was sparked by seeing how much the kids appreciated it, and how much fun they got out of it," said Gillis, 21.

In addition to Canham, Pain, Lil G and Mo-X, Unexpected Arrival, Red Head Steve and Xile will perform tonight. All proceeds go to the Special Olympics, and will be used for purposes such as purchasing new jerseys for players and covering competition travel expenses.

Canham learned much of what he knows about rap from Pain, his best friend since the fifth grade. After his mother died a couple of years ago, Canham relied on rap to express his emotions and keep his mind busy.

"It's a way of relaxing, a way to vent," Canham said. "I was able to put a lot of stuff out there on paper about how I was feeling."

Pain, 21, has been rapping since he was 12. He thinks rap gets misunderstood by mainstream audiences, whose exposure to the music comes mostly from big radio stations.

He's excited to perform with his friends for such a good cause.

"We're always down to do benefits and help out the community. The Special Olympics offers those who don't have a chance to be in the regular Olympics the opportunity," Pain said.

Those who attend tonight's concert will get to hear a live performance of "O-State Ballaz '06," among other songs.

"I know all these guys love to perform. We're going to raise a lot of money," Canham said.

At a glance

WHAT: Benefit concert for the local Special Olympics program

WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight, doors open at 7:30

WHERE: OSU Memorial Union Ballroom, 2501 S.W. Jefferson Way

COST: Suggested $5 donation

Mary Ann Albright covers higher education. She can be reached at maryann.albright@lee.net or 758-9518.

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