By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Before the P-town Rihanna and I get blunted at the four-year anniversary of the Dolemite of hip-hop clubs in the PHX, there's a little information we must convey to the masses. In the last Inferno at WWIII Sadisco ("War Games," May 18), I mentioned that Sadisco co-founder Donnie Burbank believed the County Attorney's Office was not going to press charges against Pedro Madrigal, the bouncer at Palazzo's Tranzylvania club downtown, who allegedly broke Burbank's arm while ejecting him from the goth spot last October. Well, the case is still ongoing. The County Attorney's Office is pressing charges against Madrigal for one count of aggravated assault, a class 4 felony, the sentence for which could earn him up to three years-plus in the poky.
Bill FitzGerald of County Attorney Andy Thomas' office confirmed that a trial date had been set for September 18. A phone call to Steven Rogers, Palazzo's owner, was not returned, so I wasn't able to determine if Madrigal still works at the posh, Anne Rice-y nightclub. Some friends of Burbank's in the industrial/noise scene continue to boycott Tranz, so the beef keeps on keepin' on. Stay tuned for more drama as it develops.
Anyway, it's been a looong-ass time since the Jettster and I visited the cats over at the Blunt Club, but their four-year anniversary par-tay seemed as good an excuse as any to stop by the Blunt's current digs at Mesa's Hollywood Alley on the northeast corner of Price and Baseline roads in a ghetto-fabulous strip mall called Don Carlos Village. We last inhaled the Blunt's funky haze back when it called the old Priceless Inn home. Since then, it's changed venues a couple of times, and now seems to have made its match in this extra-gritty Alley, a way-cool venue that looks like it hasn't changed in 20 years, with these black scallop-shaped booths that sit up off the floor and face a ragged dance area and a low stage. That's on the right side, the tight side, the side you enter on. The other side has pool tables and old-school pinball machines. Traversing both areas in the far back is a long bar, with 'tenders who move like they're all on something that ain't speed, if you feel me.
As we step up in that bitch on a Thursday night, it's already tighter than a virgin at a Baptist Bible camp, with booful breezies all about and plenty of fly guys tryin' to get with 'em. Up on stage, Blunt Club co-founder/graphic artist Dumperfoo is busting out a canvas like Bob Ross on crack, while artist Jim Mahfood does likewise to Dumper's left. Foo-man-chu's piece is of this big yellow dude's face with black glasses, smokin' a butt in the corner of his puffy lips. MC Ohm is on the mic, spittin' faster than Chi-towner Twista, with vocalist Nug backin' him up with some soulful crooning. I'll be damned if Ohm doesn't resemble a darker version of Japanese cult leader Shoko Asahara of the wacky Aum Shinrikyo "Supreme Truth" Buddhist sect. Of course, I doubt the sarin-gas-lovin' Asahara has the kinda flow that Ohm boasts.
En route to the beverage center, the J-Unit and I bump into Blunt Club pooh-bah Emerg McVay, who rivals even yours truly in circumference, and yet always seems to have a passel of fine squalies all on him. I know the game's to be sold, not told, but share some of that science with me, Merg! You know it ain't no fun if the homies can't have none.
"We just got written up in the June issue of Spin magazine," relates the amiable MC. "I was just telling the crowd that if we were in New York, Chicago, some place like that, we'd be all over The Sourceand XXL. But because we're out here in the desert, it's like we're not supposed to have this shit goin' on."
"You've been here since the beginning, right, Merg?" I ask.
"Yeah, I'm one of the founders," he replies. "Along with Dumper, Keith Nichols, and Hyder, and my man Catalyst. We started it out. At first it was poetry, then it turned to hip-hop, and now it's this big ol' thing. A lot of the big underground acts are running tours through here because of the love they get. I think that needs to be recognized."
True dat. The kind of performances you see in the Blunt are world-class, and could easily be taking place at, say, either the Knitting Factory in Gotham or La-La Land. The Bay Area-based jazz-hip-hop troupe Crown City Rockers have played the Blunt before, and they always raise the roof with their De La Soul-ish, Roots-esque jams, led by MC Raashan Ahmad. The rest of the eve is like a big house party with the 'rents away on vacay. After the performances, b-boy shit pops off, with battles between dancers going down in the makeshift circle that forms before the stage. There's a sort of electricity that's natural, not forced. And folks are all about having fun, rather than just getting faded, though, thankfully, that does happen, too. At least, I want it to happen, if Miss Skankervision and I can ever push past the bodies lined up three-deep at the bar.
"Order me a vodka-tonic, Kreme," the J-girl tells me. "I'll be in the ladies' room powdering my nose."
"What, you don't share any of that Bolivian NutraSweet with your boss no more?" I cry as her derrière begins to wiggle away from me.
"Oh, Kreme," she tuts, not admitting anything. "A real playa wouldn't have to be beggin' like that."
Hey, I ain't too proud to grovel, pray or hijack a plane, if need be. By any means necessary, like Malcolm X said, though I don't think he had trim or yayo in mind, like I do. It takes a few minutes to cadge these libations, and by the time I nab mine, I've seen several familiar mugs: DJ Al Page of Hidden House fame and his gal, the booful Robyn Sheppard; paint king Baron Gordon of the Alpha Monster crew; poet and graphic-stylist extraordinaire Jules Demetrius of the M1NUTM3N art collective; delicious b-girl Diva, whose upper badonkadonk could make the lame walk through the pure joy of observing it; the hella-fine Gizmo, she of the creamy cocoa-brown complexion, who counts the Kremester amongst her many male admirers; and bright-eyed Tara, a bartenderess from the Brickhouse Theater who looks like the chill girl-next-door you wish would be next door to you.
I'm wandering around with a drink in each fist, looking for my stool-hoggin' sidekick to emerge from the bog, when I see that Dumperfoo has stepped offstage, after having completed his live art for the eve. He motions me over to the VIP area, and I hand Jett's drink to the first hot chicalita I see. Reckon that bizz-atch will have to fend for herself, this eve.
Big Dumps removes the earplugs he wears to keep the speakers from crackin' a hole in his eardrum, and we scoot over into a corner with his boy DJ Hyder, so we can talk.
"Dang, Dumper, four years of anything, whether marriage or a pet hamster, is an accomplishment. How have you guys done it?" I inquire.
"It's the people who come here, and the people who are involved in it, really," says Dr. Dumpenstein.
"We never saw this day coming," admits turntablist Hyder. "Four years later, and people are still lovin' it the way they do, we're blessed. We also try to bring in big acts regularly, and keep it hot from week to week."
"Dumper, you're kind of the daddy-mack of the live art thing in the Zona," I comment. "Now it seems like every hip-hop night does that."
"Live music really inspires me," explains the Master of Dumpology. "I have trouble painting at home. And some people won't buy the art that I paint at home. They like it better when I paint onstage. We also have other artists come in here, and they vibe to the music. So it's not like you're just staring at a DJ all night. You have some visuals to work with while you're painting."
The Crown City Rockers are readying to leap up there and get at it in support of their latest and livest album to date, earthtones. Anyone who hasn't caught their high-energy act should examine their Web site, www.crowncityrockers.com, and especially the video for their track "B-boy." That could practically be the Blunt Club's anthem, with its refrain, "I love -- bein' a b-boy!" Needless to say, everyone is humming that tune by the time CCR's set is done.
After conversatin' with Professor Hyder and Señor Dumps, I chat with CCR's charismatic MC Raashan Ahmad, the leader of that multicultural quintet, whose members can -- check this -- actually play some motherfunkin' instruments! As opposed to some others these days who've never gotten beyond using prerecorded tracks.
"We definitely come from that side of like the more organic kind of hip-hop, like Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul," he says. "We follow that aesthetic. But we also love everything from Jay-Z and N.W.A to MF Doom and Living Legends, all that stuff. That's hip-hop, and we love playin' it."
Out of the corner of my eye, I spy the Jettster trying to get past a bulky bouncer, to no avail, and hear her shout, "Kreme, where's my drink, you fat-ass fool?!" I shrug and smile as she enjoys the fruits of sobriety, then I turn back to Ahmad, and ask him how he feels about the Blunt Club.
"It's beautiful," he states. "I know Dumper and these guys have been reppin' Arizona real hard. We meet those cats in other places, and they're always like, 'Come out to Arizona.' So to be here and see this kind of community, it's inspiring. There are white folks here, black folks here. It crosses all sorts of boundaries, and everybody's partying. It's great."