New York City, the birthplace of the historic culture infusing the influence to rap, spin, mix records, break dance, graffiti tag and bomb, fashioning fresh kicks and advocates diversity for people to respect where you come from.
Last week I was able to catch a full glance at the Big Apple's love for the scene I call home: the world of Twin Cities hip-hop. A week ago I came across a small venue the Sin Sin. A lounge over in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (my parents' old stomping ground), where a line of backpack hip-hop heads signed up for the monthly emcee battled. I was invited by an NYU graduate student who had interviewed and informed me of the event earlier that day. After ordering a cocktail and scoping the environment with Chilo (the other half of New York's Dr. Loco crew which toured the Twin Cities last August), I recognized a few artist with whom I performed alongside my NY release tour last June.
One of them known as MC Niles Davis (whom I did a show with in Brooklyn and was also a resident of Brooklyn Park,MN), insisted I sign up for the first round of the night's battle. My intentions weren't to go and participate, but I couldn't help but sign up to see what type of lyrical ammunition I could spread. Later on that night I met with Minneapolis' Chaz Kangis, who has been the succeeding champion for more than 15 times. The 23 year-old, De La Salle alumni rocked a rugged-US flag bandanna on his head, with a similar lyrical swag that could be compared to the style of Slug from Atmosphere. His comedic metaphors and expressions placed him on the list of favorite emcees who attended the annual cypher sessions that occur every Monday.
Hosted by Ill-Spoken for over 8 years with Dj Milk Money- on the 1s and 2s, and a small house band (made up of musicians who select the beats for each round;the bass players wife is from St. Cloud I found out), the battles are broken up by different topics: world politics, current events, tv shows, rap songs, sports and more, which are all spun "price is right" style on the themes' bicycle wheel. With double digits numbers of men battling and me as the only female in the competition that night, I had to listen to the weak hits of "you're a lil girl and honey go to the kitchen." But, the small smacks didn't do nothing but make me fire back, like a dragon burning down a wanna-be emcee castle. It was no question that between Chaz and MI, the Twin Cities came in and exploded a "sota-can" to fizz and drown what was being represented as New York underground battle rap.
"There's something happening in the Twin Cities. A bomb that is helping the true hip-hop culture survive," commented native New Yorker Ill-Spoken after hearing a similar phrase from Dr.Loco's Chilo.
Before leaving Sin Sin that night to head back to uptown, I said my good-byes and reminded everyone to attend and support the following Saturday's NYC stop of the "Fresh Air" tour presenting Rhymesayers Entertainment artist Brother Ali alongside label mates Toki Wright, BK-One and the most recently signed Evidence of the well-known crew Dilated Peoples.
The following Saturday I met up with hometown brotha, rapper and mentor Toki Wright right before his set at the famous Irving Plaza's Fillmore venue. He treated me as he always does, like an older brother/big cousin on the watch for his sista. It felt great to see the homies from the Miny-apple in the Big Apple, and for once feel the love for them outside of the local TC scene. With a packed venue the emotions and reactions from the crowd felt just like I was back at home watching them at First Avenue's Main Room or SoundSet. As Toki hit the stage to introduce himself seconds before his set began, a stage production set off with BK-One breaking the ice on his 1s and 2s, along with an awe of lights and video back play flashing Rhymesayers' and featured artists' logos; I remember smiling as the center glare flashed at Mr. Wright, who stood like a king on a throne with his crown as a traditional Twins ball cap in a Yankees wonderland.
As the beat to his first track of the night dropped, the energy of the whole room waved there hands side to side as if Toki's dreds advocated their direction. In other words: the crowd was feeling it! A recap towards one of the ways Toki is an advocates, his latest video of the single "Devil's Advocate" off his recent release 'A Different Mirror,' is currently on rotation at VH1 and MTV stations. Toki closed his set commenting that it was time for others to recognize that he "was way more than a hype man!" I have to agree with the rapper who has devoted years of his art towards non-profit organizations and toured through Africa. But that wasn't the end of the night for the opening act and host who announced the next Rhymesayer emcee on the set list.
Evidence! .....To be continued
Be sure to vote for Toki Wright's "Devils Advocate" video on MTV.com and VH1.com!!
Check out the official Toki Wright website at www.tokiwright.com
Song of the Post:
"Devils Advocate"- Toki Wright
A Different Mirror Album of the Week "Us" - Brother Alí