Shining Soul has been relentlessly promoting their newest release Sonic Smash in both the hip hop and activist community over the past few weeks, including interviews, radio appearances, and their Sonic Smash Tour (we talked to them back in September.) The entire endeavor culminated with their welcome home CD release party at The Lost Leaf.
For a group like Shining Soul "The Leaf" is the perfect venue for a release show; the venue is free, which holds true to Shining Soul's anarchist leanings, allowing their supporters to celebrate with them at no cost. The intimacy of the venue area allows for a hip-hop group without instruments to pack the room better than most bands--not that the room takes a lot to pack, another positive of The Lost Leaf.
The venue, which is also one of the arts district's most popular hangouts, always attracts an eclectic crowd, which allowed Shining Soul to not only perform for their followers but also to get their militant message of revolutionary struggle out in front of a crowd of scenesters who otherwise would probably never hear it.
DJ Reflekshun got the growing crowd moving with some hip-hop jams, and The Lost Leaf's "stage area" doubled as a dance floor while host Michelle Ponce of Mujeres Del Sol encouraged the crowd to dance.
The first act up was Shining Soul's direct tour support I.D., who got the house moving with a more partyish vibe than the politically motivated Shining Soul. "The energy was really good," he said. "Once you get that connection with the crowd and they start dancing and they're kind of bouncing around you're kind of like vibrating off that, you know what I mean? There was really good energy in there that made for good energy for me."
I.D. spent the last five days on the road with Liaison and his running buddy, Bronze Candidate, as part of the Sonic Smash Tour. "We've had a relationship for a while; they recorded some tracks at my studio the Green Room. When they went on tour and they said they needed a roadie I was like, yeah, cool. Just happy to be there for the trip and rock wit them."
But while on the road with Liaison and Bronze Candidate, AKA Alex Soto and Franco Habre, I.D. saw the difference in the club hip-hop fans and those who rock with Shining Soul. "I just saw how supportive the fans were for Shining Soul, and it was so dope that they could share their platform with me or let me get on it and get a platform that I can rock on too," he said.
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Habre shares this sentiment with I.D. describing their reception in Tucson, Las Cruces, and Albuquerque as a "a home-cooked embrace."
Next on the mic was N.M.-born but Phoenix-based emcee Realistic of hip-hop group Divine Essence. He really got the crowd going with his catchy track "MC Means," as well as bringing I.D. up on stage to rock the mic with him.
Realistic had a stellar set, and the Phoenix crowd responded with loud cheers and hands in the air, but as well as he performed his best raps of the night may have been directed at the drunkard in the etnies shirt at the afterparty.
Realistic was abrasively challenged to a battle while just hanging around the fire, so he responded by dominating his opponent in every way possible, to the point that the opponent decided a fight fight would be appropriate.
The opponent was escorted out and Realistic went back to his beverage.
Following Realistic, Connie Muhammad, formerly Nutmeg, grabbed the mic and held it down as the lone female artist of the night. Once Muhammad took the stage even more people somehow crammed themselves into the tiny area that The Lost Leaf calls a dance floor to get down to Muhammad's more soulful style of hip-hop.
Following Muhammad, Ponce called for a brief dance intermission where DJ Reflekshun got back on the ones and twos and got the crowd boogying again with a good mix of classic and current hip-hop tracks.
The never shy Ponce showed off some of her dance moves as well.
Following the intermission Def-I of Albuquerque-based rap crew Definition Rare Chief Rockers took to the front and gave Phoenix his all, while celebrating his 28th birthday. Def-I was a passionate rapper, perfect to take the stage before Shining Soul, and he delivered songs that carried the same motifs as Shining Soul but in a smoother, less abrasive way.
"I've been on tour with them this past week, they had a great time a great run. I'm honored to be a part of their project as well," said Def-I about his tourmates for the past five days. " If you caught the set much, thank you for being part of this movement. It was a privilege.."
Bronze Candidate and Liaison took the stage around midnight, and were attacking their songs with a ferocity usually reserved for racist lawmakers, neo-nazis, and police officers.
"They straight killed it for like an hour," said Realistic, and the crowd definitely agreed, jamming themselves tighter and tighter into the floor.
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"People just love the musicality going on in the new album. The samples are really soulful, the banging beats, good vibes, dope rhymes, it's beautiful," said Habre, who besides just rapping on the album is also the Soul's producer. "CD release party, final destination PHX. The tour was stellar, man. All the love, it's been nice."