One of the most popular cats on the FM dial locally is Power 92.3's JX3, who keeps things fresh and fantabulous weeknights from 7 to 10 p.m. on the Valley's No. 1 hip-hop station. That is, there's always something different going down on his show, whether it's Suns stud Amaré Stoudemire stoppin' by for a visit, battles between up-and-coming rhymers, his spotlight on future flavas and local artists, or just him, actin' a fool.
So when the booful Vivian Ware at UrbanAz.com, the party people behind many of the live-est events out there, invited Jett and myself to JX3's celebratory get-down at the Hard Rock Cafe in honor of his 28th year on the planet, you know we weren't gonna be staying home playin' GTA: San Andreas. We'd never graced the Hard Rock, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Moreover, JX3's bash would in effect be a preview of his regular Saturday night gig as the club MC, beginning this week.
Anyway, when the switch-hittin' JoJo and I hit the club about a quarter to 11 p.m., it's filling up with an assortment of regular clubgoers, as well as friends and fans of JX3, whose real name, by the way, is Jarard Just'on Johnson. Security is tight at the door, with ladies' purses getting checked and fellas getting the wand. But that's cool, as the airport treatment makes it less likely there'll be any thuggery in da club.
Inside, the Hard Rock is circular, with a dance floor in the center, some tables and chairs pushed to the sides, and a "crown" of different electric guitars hanging above everyone's heads. This being the Hard Rock, the place is filled with music memorabilia, like signed guitars from the likes of Metallica, Chet Atkins, and Aerosmith. From the right edge of the club is a rise that wraps around the dance floor and above it. This begins with a small lounge area, continues with a long black bar and a narrow walkway, and ends with a VIP area opposite the club entrance with a big, comfy couch and Easy-boy-type chairs.
People are milling around, waiting for the birthday boy to arrive and the party to jump off. The crowd's a cornucopia of urban styles and fashion, everything from home-girls in high-heeled booties and athletic socks to fly guys in Italian silk suits. There are playas wearin' cowboy hats over heads of dreads, saucy mamacitas bustin' out of bustiers, fellas who could pass for Pharrell with knit caps on, and ladies with low-cut lingerie tops that leave little to guess about. Rocawear, Enyce, Kangol, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana all co-exist with less prestigious labels. The vibe is friendly, with the unofficial drinks of the house this night being champagne, or Henny and Coke.
However, it's Belvedere and pineapple that's the drink of choice for Paul Ivory, the nattiest gent in the joint, decked out in a canary yellow jacket, black dress shirt and gold-striped tie, with plenty of blingage on his fingers and wrists. Puffin' on a "mild-mild Black and Mild" cee-gar, Paul explains that he shops for his couture in "California and Dallas," and that he heard Power pimpin' the JX3 event on the radio and decided to check it out. Tells us he's from Oklahoma, and he moved out to Phoenix a year and a half ago for the sunshine. He has a business on 43rd Avenue between Indian School and Camelback, P&P Classic Grilles and Automotive Accessories, and presents us with a silvery card announcing the same.
"That's impressive that you've got your business up and going after only a year and a half," comments my aide-de-camp, in awe of Paul's finery.
"There's no time to waste," replies Paul as he smokes that stogie. "Life is too short. We got to have fun, get money, take care of family, and enjoy people."
"That's the lesson of that tsunami," I interject. "You never know when it'll be your time."
"Yes, and being from Oklahoma, you know I know about tragedy just like that one," concurs Paul.
"Turning to a more pleasant subject, you see any lovely ladies you might be talking to tonight?" I inquire.
"Hey, man, lookin' at them ladies, I am like Lotto, I'm just trying to get the right numbers together," he says, smiling slyly.
I run up to the bar to fetch a drink for myself and Princess Jett, and when I return, wouldn't you know, she's chatting up two of the finest females in the drama palace, Tanettra Dawkins, 22, and her friend Nina, 24, both college students studying psychology.
"So why are you two boofuls out tonight?" purrs the J-girl.
"It's something to do," says Miss Tanettra, stunning in a green, backless blouse. "We didn't go out last night, so tonight we felt like being out and enjoying ourselves."
"Are you two students?" I wonder.
"I'm studying sex psychology," responds Tanettra. "I'm going to be a sex therapist."
"Then let me present you with your toughest challenge," announces the Jettster, her open hand indicating her Gorilla Black-size partner-in-crime. "They're still trying to locate Kreme's male reproductive organs beneath all that."
"Don't mind her," I snap back, forcing a grin. "She softens up after her fifth vodka-tonic. What about you, Nina?"
"I just got my master's in psychology from the University of Phoenix," says the model-gorgeous dime, dressed in a ready-for-bedtime top. "I'm trying to knock it all out. I'm going for my Ph.D. next. I'm looking to go into counseling, and to teach as well."
"See, Jett, these are intelligent girls, girls with ambition," I admonish. "Pay attention and you could learn something."
"Yeah, I've learned that you'd be nothing without me helping you. Check it out, Einstein: JX3 is in the building."
Like a busted Rolex that's right twice a day, so too does the Jettster have her sucka-free moments. While we were talking first to Paul and then the psych majors, the man of the hour, lookin' playa-perfect in wraparound sunglasses, dark jacket, and blinging cross dangling from his neck, has made his way to the VIP section, where he's drinkin' from a bottle of Moet, and addressing the crowd, urging them to get their groove on.
When JX3's not on the mic, a dark, suave MC named Seven and DJ Vee Money have people swaying to the beat on the dance floor. Vee Money's droppin' tracks by Ciara, Snoop, Petey Pablo, Too Short, and too many others to mention.
We make our way through the near-capacity crowd, and by the time we're at the other end of the building, Capricorn's king is down on the dance floor getting mobbed by femmebots. He cheezes for our camera, then helps us score some orange armbands to ascend to the VIP area, where bodies are quickly getting thick. Up here, JX3 seems busier than the proverbial henhouse rooster, meeting and greeting. But we catch him for a minute and talk about his almost three years as a Power jock.
"I have kind of a Cinderella story, if there is such a thing," relates the dapper young on-air personality. "I was MCing at a club, and Power's station manager Bruce St. James approached me and said, 'Can you do what you just did on the mic on the radio?' The rest is kinda history. I can't say anything negative about it 'cause I get paid for being me."
JX3 originally moved to the Valley from Denver, to study meteorology at ASU, but he now seems firmly entrenched in the entertainment business. So far, two rap singles from JX3 have earned airtime on Power and popularity with listeners, "Hit the Scene" and "All You Need," and he tells us an album is in the works.
"My album's gonna be called Mathematics, and I'm looking to release it in the next few months," he says.
"You're known for spotlighting local talent on your show," I say. "What do you think it will take to propel the local hip-hop scene into the national spotlight?"
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"The thing Phoenix lacks in the music game is camaraderie," he replies. "Everybody's in it for themselves, stepping on each other's feet. It's all about who's gonna get to the top first and get that record deal. We need to get out of that mentality and come together and be able to pump each other up. If you look at all the people who've made it in hip-hop, they've all got a crew, like G-Unit, or the Wu-Tang. And here we don't really have that. It shouldn't matter who blows up as long as somebody blows up, because once somebody blows up, it'll make it easier for other people to follow."
By now, the VIP section, and the whole club for that matter, is packed, and the body heat alone has me sweating enough to make the Salt River flow like the Mississippi. Jett looks like she's about to fall out, so we say goodbye to JX3 and begin to slowly ease ourselves through the crowd. On our way out, we pay our respects to actor/comedian Katt Williams, "Money Mike" of Friday After Next fame, surrounded by a passel of honeys; funnyman Pierre from Jackson's on Third's Showcase Sundays; local hip-hop artist King Tut, who you may recall from our visit to O'Mallys a few weeks back; and MC Ton Don, who is as big as I am, but nonetheless wearing a chinchilla coat like it's a Hawaiian shirt.
We stumble onto the pavement, gasping for air, where I see a hot dog stand beckoning to me a few yards away. I look at Jett, expectantly.
"Oh, all right," she grumbles. "But try to stop after three; the shocks on my hooptie are getting weak, for Chrissakes!"