Here's a Letter to the Big 5 Click:

Dear fools--
I caught your wack excuse for a live set at the local hip-hop talent showcase last Friday (10/18) at Electric Ballroom. Your beats were tired, your rhymes had more bites than the house virgin in a vampire's castle, and your delivery choked and backfired like an old Impala with a potato up its tailpipe. So I ask you--what in the hell made you think you represented enough to spray-paint your little group name all over the backstage dressing room? Crack cocaine? Is that it? Were you fellas sucking the glass dick, or do you just always act that stupid?

See, the irony here is that I'm positive at least one of your crew sat around at some blunt session recently, talking high and mighty shit about how racist a city Phoenix is, how there's unfair scrutiny of hip-hop here, and how no clubs are out to support the local scene, etc.

Now, I agree there is discrimination against hip-hop in the Valley. When cops routinely use selective enforcement against clubs that host hip-hop, that point is hard to argue ("The War Against Hip-Hop," December 21, 1995). And yes, club owners in this city are generally wary of booking hip-hop, mainly because of its reputation for violence and vandalism at concerts and club nights (though usually punks like you take it to the parking lot, not the dressing room, for Christ's sake).

On the record, Ballroom co-owner David Seven laughed off that graffiti piece you threw up--"We're thinking about selling it to the Metropolitan Museum as genuine urban art from the Southwest." Seven said his partner, Jim Torgensen, however, was considerably less amused. "Jim's not smiling," Seven said. "He's taking this a little hard."

Listen, "Big 5," what you need to understand--and evidently don't--is that hip-hop in the Valley, like hip-hop in most cities, is fighting a battle of public perception, and you just emptied a clip for the wrong side. Five hundred people attended the showcase at the Ballroom. That's an excellent turnout for local music around here in any genre. The hip-hop scene here is growing, but when you misbehave like this, it only hurts the promoters, performers and fans trying to nurse it along. Show some respect.

P.S. Did you really complain about having to go on early in the night? You know they're cooking that crack shit with sulfur these days--you know that, don't you?

Other notes from the hip-hop night: Underground Sound Unit rapper "MPL" made a decent showing in his solo debut, weaving his way through a couple of tracks before his whole crew came on. As usual, USU was unremarkable, but didn't embarrass itself. Cohesive interplay between the MCs, but I thought just maybe I'd heard some of those beats before.

Know Qwestion turned out a solid set before a curiously unresponsive crowd, performing several selections from its tape Conversation and Public Speaking, including "To Each His Own," a phat track with several tasty string samples. MCs Cash and Cappuccino pulled out a few new cuts, too, including a sweet little rhyme centered on a twist on the "I'm not aware of too many things" refrain from Edie Brickell and New Bohemians' 1988 hit "What I Am."

Now, when I heard it, I thought Cash and Cap surely stole that idea from the "Street Dreams" track on Nas' new album (a similar play on the Eurythmics song "Sweet Dreams"), but their producer P-Body swears it ain't so. In any case, the Know Qwestion rappers lose points for originality on the song's title: "Groove Tonight"? Ouch. Let's see . . . give me ten seconds and I'll give you three alternatives: "Too Many Things," uh, "Ode to Edie" or "Red Rhymes for a Blue Lady." Hell, I don't know. Better than "Groove Tonight," though.

Finally, the Weirdoz made a show of force with a hard-core set of assaultive beats, believable posturing and intriguing rhyme schemes on thug life. I don't like this group's attitude or content, but the Weirdoz looked confident and sounded precise--key when you're going to come out with that much aggression.

Blue Notes
Loud shout-out to Phoenix all-women blues band Sistah Blue, which took second in the 13th annual International Blues Talent Competition in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this month. The band--Rena Haus (rhythm guitar, vocals), Nancy Delessandro (lead guitar, vocals), Rochelle Raya (harp, vocals), Claire Griese (drums), Laura Adelia (bass) and Lila Sherman (vocals)--performed two covers and two originals for its ten-minute competitive set at the New Daisy Theater on Memphis' legendary Beale Street. Sistah Blue played Ike Turner's "Fool in Love," a slow blues song called "Keep It to Yourself," an instrumental by Delessandro titled "Lightning Boogie," and "Big Dance Party," a song by Haus that she describes as "Bo Diddley meets Little Richard."

Sistah Blue came in just behind a nine-piece band from Oklahoma City called Smilin' Vic and the Soul Monkeys. Aside from their competition set, the ladies in Blue also got to play a couple sets at Black Diamond, another Beale Street club, two nights before the comp. "That got a buzz going around us," says Haus. Playing on Beale Street, the blueswoman says breathlessly, "was like making a religious pilgrimage."

--David Holthouse

David Holthouse is now wired.
The Web site is Mothership. The address is www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/holt/index.html. The options are myriad (multigenre criticism, archives, rave data, freak links).

 
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