Anyone who doesn't believe the PHX has talent like Chi-town, the ATL and the Lou needs to pop over to O'Mallys at 3544 West Glendale Avenue in Phoenix on the day after Monday and check their Roc the Mic Tuesdays, where P-town's husslas, playas, fly bitches and MCs congregate to see who can flow like Twista and drop bombs like G-Unit. It's less a battle like those that took place in the Eminem flick 8 Mile, and more a showcase of those with some serious skillz on the mic.
Sports bar by day and hip-hop club by night, O'Mallys boasts three pool tables, a dance floor, all the Henny and Aliz you care to sip, and a full kitchen (called Ms. J's), which serves everything from chili cheese fries to catfish nuggets. Every night has its own theme, from Soulful Sundays with R&B performances and Open Spin Mondays, to Sexy Chicas Thursdays and Girls Gone Wild Weekends, but it's Roc the Mic Tuesdays that've given O'Mallys mad fame in the Valley and beyond.
"The bar's been here 10 years, I've owned it for eight, and this night's been going for five," explains owner Scott Stuart, a white fella with curly hair. "We feature freestylers and local performers. Originally, we did it because there was no one showcasing local talent. Then we started getting record labels coming in, like Sony Music. Artists like DMX stop by when they're in town. Others have tried to copy what we do, but we've made Tuesday nights an institution here."
Indeed, when the bisexual Jessica Biel and I hit the club close to 10:30 p.m., it's already filling up. MCs start signing up about 9 or 10 o'clock, with the freestyling beginning about 11 p.m. or so. After several MCs step to the mic and freestyle to beats dropped by aural alchemist AL3, the actual performances go down, with rap or R&B songs composed ahead of time. Bar specials include $55 bottles of Moet, but we can't afford to get that tight, so we keep it cool with a couple of vodka tonics, while our man Kevin in the kitchen hooks us up with a plate of wings and a Chicago-style hot link with all the fixin's.
"Damn, these wings are good!" I snort, smackin' my lips and smearing hot sauce all over my Porky Pig mug. "Mmm, just one more . . ."
"Pull your Fat Albert face out of the trough, Kreme," snarls the Jettster. "We need to do a tour of the place before the freestylin' jumps off."
"Aight, Weezie," I sigh, licking my digits. "Let's get-r-done."
To quote Chingy: "I like 'em black, white, Puerto Rican, or Haitian . . . Japanese, Chinese, or even Asian," and truly there's a little bit of everything up in O'Mallys this evening, even if it's mostly a shade darker than some other clubs. The mix is personified nearby by two dime-pieces, an ebony and ivory combo, Marcy and Charisma, who are kickin' it on a couch together. Marcy has long, silky black hair and skin the color of Hershey's Kisses, while Charisma is strictly white chocolate, with long blond hair. As you might guess from Charisma's for-the-stage pseudonym, both ladies are dollar ballerinas over at the new Penthouse Club near I-17 and McDowell.
"I just moved here from Michigan this past Saturday," volunteers Mah-velous Marcy.
"Glad to hear it," coos Jett, her lez-motor shifting out of neutral. "We need more eye candy in town."
"You should come check us out at the Penthouse Club," says Marcy. "It's not all nude, just topless."
"What about you, Charisma, where are you from?" I ask.
"I'm from all around Phoenix," she says, smiling. "I was working earlier tonight, but I got off in time to come out. I love the music here. I'm a big fan of hip-hop."
I turn my head and see Jett's already moved on. She's exchanging pleasantries nearby with a tall handsome cat in a blue cap and jersey, and more karats 'round his neck than Bugs Bunny. He's a local MC who goes by Chopper L.S., the L.S. being for "light-skinned," as he is in the flesh. He's at O'Mallys to perform a single off his new 20-track CD Chop's World: Nationwide Family, and he's handing Jett a copy as I approach.
"I'm doing number six off Chop's World," he tells us. "It's a song for the ladies called 'Baby What Up?' Just a song to make the ladies feel good and let them know there's someone who cares for them."
"That's pretty impressive that you've got your own CD," I comment, taking a look at the professional-looking disc.
"What inspires you to come up with rhymes and lyrics?" asks the J-girl, wide-eyed.
"I love the way Tupac got his point across with his music," replies Chopper. "And I like the way Jesus Christ got his point across through his talking. So with me talking and liking beats and music, I just put them together, and that's how I express myself."
We thank Chopper, and Jett decides she has to hit the head, leaving me on my own. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a booful brunette in a long, powder-blue North Carolina jersey-type dress, and since I hail from the Tar Heel State, you know I have to ease up on that. Says her name is Emily, and laughs when I ask if she's from Tobacco Road like me.
"No, I'm from Detroit originally," she responds. "Baby blue just looks good on me."
"It sure does," I say, admiring her outfit. "So what do you do for a living?"
"Actually, I run an escort service," she says, sipping on a 'Washington Apple,' a mixture of Crown Royal, apple vodka and cranberry. "The name of it is Delectable Desires. We're pretty discreet, pretty low-key. Mostly in-call, full-service. You just have to find us by word of mouth or on the Internet, though I can't say exactly where."
"How did you get in that line of business, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I went to school to be a pilot, ran out of money, and needed money," she chuckles. "Now look at me! Actually, I'd like to go back to flight school, but the money's too good right now."
"I hear you. So why O'Mallys?"
"Hip-hop," she replies. "It's one of the best hip-hop clubs in Phoenix."
Jett's still not back, so I float to the bar for another vodka-and-whatever. There I'm surrounded by a group of lovely black gals, including a buxom lass named Lisa, a small girl with a nice onion who goes by Lil' Bit, and a tall looker by the name of Destiny. I ask to take their pic, and before you know it, Lisa shouts, "Hey, take a picture of this!" and proudly flashes me a large, lovely pair of breasts, which I snap before nearly fainting. "Do we get naked after this?" asks Lisa, hugging me. But before Lisa and I can strip and run home together (in my dreams), Jett rushes up outta nowhere, grabs my ear and drags me to the other side of the room.
"What the hell are you doin'?!" she fusses, about to tear my earlobe off. "I go powder my nose, and look what you get up to. Don't you know the show's about to blast off?"
For real, AL3 is already callin' the crowd to attention with the help of some comic relief from West, an MC who plays rap critic and clown while AL3 works the DJ booth. A thick circle of humanity forms on the floor, with the masterful mic magicians either jumping up on a low black box that serves as a stage or remaining on the ground with the people.
A chap named Gladiator is the first to spit, then comes a little female named Reedy, who boasts, "I put it down for O'Mally and the bitches." Next is T. Casino from Chicago, with a Steelers cap on, "poppin' Moet, 'cause I know where it's at." Following him is Robbie G., then Little D, a.k.a. "the Drunk Bastard," and Flame Boy. Arcane, all in red, jumps up on the rise, and proves why he's currently known as "the Eminem of Phoenix," with a super-fast flow, smoother than black satin panties on a hundred-dolla ho. A playa named Red throws out some dolla bills as he rhymes, making folks scramble for the paper. And finally a smooth operator in a wheelchair rolls to the mic, and everyone bows down to King Tut.
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So ends the freestylin', and begins the performances. Chaperoned by their dad Royce Todd are KeyTay, made up of Marquis "Key" Todd, 15, and his brother Emonte, or "Tay," 11. Though it's a school night for the boys, the crowd goes crazy for KeyTay as they take turns rhyming, with the refrain, "One in your nose, one in your mouth, two in your jaw, knocking you out." Then Kenosis steps up with his Top 40-bait, "Drinks on Me," and following Kenosis, Chopper garners love from the ladies with "Baby What Up?" R&B stylist C-note is next. He's got vocals as sweet as molasses, and the women are feelin' him, too. Last is Martuane, who perhaps has the most hard-core flow of the eve, rappin' while he's sippin'.
We catch up with Kenosis, who tells us he has a hip-hop/R&B CD titled So Beautiful being released January 15 with Topp Notch Records. Kenosis has been performing at O'Mallys regularly as a resident MC for about four years now. He breaks down the importance of the nightspot to the Valley's rap scene for us.
"It's not that big, size-wise," he explains. "But it is the number one spot for hip-hop in Arizona. If you're a local artist in this state and you're trying to get recognition, you have to go through O'Mallys. This is basically the church, though a little more raw than a church. There's so much talent in here, it's amazing."