By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
The Thandie Newton of P-town and I plan to stay fly 'til we die just like the Dirty South's Three 6 Mafia, but we also wanna keep it trill, y'all. That's the combo of "true" and "real." And I can't think of a spot truer or realer at the moment than DJ Al Page's The Shop (www.phxtheshop.com), which pops off at the Hidden House every Saturday eve, and has been drawing a dope crowd of lockers, poppers, break-dancers and underground hip-hop heads ever since it began back in January of this year.
At The Shop, the females are fine, the music ill, the libations low-priced, and the cover nonexistent. No wonder the spot gets tighter than Vida Guerra's thong on the seventh night of the week. And there's no end in sight -- knock on Jett's wooden skully for luck.
Normally, the Hidden House has got that blue-collar, pool-playin', beer-tippin' thing on lock, but the steelo arrives with The Shop's keepers: Page's posse of needle-droppers, crate-robbers and wax-wizards, whether they be resident or guest DJs. Page, of course, is numero uno in this soulful store, with various other DJs, musicians and scenesters stopping by to show support. Just while the J-unit and this Flabby-Five Freddy (that be me, Señor Kreme) are in the building, we spy such hip-hop hot-spot habitués as DJ Element -- the subject of a recent New Timescover story -- DJ Skip Skoolnik, Jonas "Foundation" Hurst from the Drunken Immortals with his girl, style maven Camille Messina, and Lorenzo Sepulveda of the Phunky Phoenicians. We even spot our old pal, painter/poet/playa Jules Demetrius, on one side of the room doing the live-art thing, looking as chill as a big-ass swimming pool of liquid nitrogen.
Conversate with everyone, we do, as Yoda might say. But we're also about breaking new ground like Donald Trump, chump. So we rub up on this pretty lady with light brown skin named Kellee. She's holdin' down the fort, or, in this case, a table, as her girlfriends get their groove on out on the tiny dance floor in front of an improvised DJ booth, behind which is a big, gray-and-black, bubble-wrap art piece by artist Brian Wallace: Looks like a bald alien holding his head in his hands. Kellee quickly reveals she's a sales rep/ad consultant, which means she knows how to stack some scrilla as well as look booful.
"So why are you here tonight, angel eyes?" queries the AC/DC Keyshia Cole, breathing heavily.
"Oh, I love this place," enthuses Kellee, oblivious to Jett's advances -- as are most women, unless their bi-dar is up. "They play the best old-school hip-hop, and they have the best DJs in the world. No fights. Just music and dancing. It's all love here."
"Speaking of love, how can we get you up on that dance floor?" wonders the Jettster, moving in for the kill.
"Oh, I'll be getting up there soon enough," confides Kellee, in the dark as to the Jettster's intentions. "But I'm waiting on my girls. They're out there shaking their buns right now."
"Is this your favorite type of music?" I ask, while blocking Jett's advance on Kellee with my meaty massiveness. "Underground and old school?"
"Yes it is," she replies. "It's hip-hop, from the heart. No violence to it, no B.S. Just constant energy. It's not like I'm against more commercial artists like 50 Cent. He's doing his thing. But I prefer stuff like The Roots, KRS-One, Alkaholiks, Mos Def, Talib Kweli. That's pure hip-hop."
"I hear where you're coming from," I remark. "On the other hand, there's a lot of great hip-hop that's commercial. Kanye's one of the biggest names out there, and he breaks all the rules when it comes to image and content. Common's latest album has more of that pure sound you mention, and Kanye produced that. But I guess you could argue that both Common and Kanye are in some ways a reaction to the thuggin' and blingin'."
While Kellee and I have been discussing music, the Jettster's done her David Blaine bit and vanished on me, probably frustrated by her lack of success when it comes to chasin' trim. I start easing my gargantuan frame through all the humanity up near the bar, looking for her pathetic omni-sexual ass, when I bump into this big cat named Eric who's decked out all in red, including a crimson sweatshirt that reads "Brooklyn Lions." Eric's workin' on a small pitcher of suds, and says he's from Gotham, having moved to the Zona to play baseball at a small college in Douglas. Currently, he works at the AAA office across the street, and has been making The Shop his stomping grounds for the past few months.
"I like this vibe," Eric confides. "It's kind of like a New York thing. New York has a lot of spots like this. So when I found this place, it reminded me of home, and I sort of gravitated to it."
"When you say the Apple has a lot of places like this, what do you mean, exactly?" I inquire further.