Review: Circle City Experiment 

****1/2
Slideshow
Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow)
Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow) Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow)

Circle City Experiment II (Slideshow)

Performers and artists showcase their talents at the Circle City Experiment II.

By Mallory Talty

Click to View 10 slides

Saturday evening was the second annual running of The Circle City Experiment. Conceived by De Gud Life as a presentation of the five elements of hip-hop, the event showcased local artists of various skill, age, and craft on the (appropriately) underground stage of The Harrison Center for the Arts. Proceeds from the event benefited Colour Blind INC, an organization dedicated to "squashing the 'ism's" (e.g. sexism, racism, classism) of today's culture and society.

The show began just after 8 p.m. and concluded promptly at 10, early enough to allow guests to still attend other Saturday night events later in the evening. The start time and venue choice also meant that the little ones could come along, too. Knowing this, event organizers established a kids' table stocked with coloring pages and crayons to keep them entertained.

Element one: beat boxers

Kicking off the Circle City Experiment, beat boxers Tony Styxx and DV8 took the stage to drop beats with their mouths and vocal chords. During the 10-minute performance we heard, among many other things, a popular dubstep replication and an "It's-a me, Mario!" sample from DV8, as well as a run of the familiar chorus from "Iron Man" that led into an impressive drum-and-bass spurt from Styxx.

Element two: DJs

It only seemed appropriate that local hip-hop's favorite DJ return to man the decks for the second year in a row at The Circle City Experiment. DJ Metrognome, with the assistance of Mr. Kinetik, kept the tracks running with no interruptions and zero complications throughout the night. Their table of equipment, in plain and unobstructed view at stage left, served as a constant reminder that the show simply could not go on without the music.

Element three: breakdancers

I was disappointed to see only one segment of breakdancing at this year's Circle City Experiment. Last year's show featured so many dancers with so much movement and activity that they performed in the middle of the room with the audience gathered in a rowdy circle around them. A shortage of breakers in 2012 left local dance expert Edge with full responsibility of representing the third element of hip hop.

"Just play anything," he instructed DJ Metrognome as he took the stage.

"Anything?" Metrognome replied with a hint of disbelief and then added, "Are you ready for a challenge?"

Apparently, he was. As the dubstep set in, Edge gave a modern interpretation of "the robot" comprised of a striking mix of glitchy, disjointed moves and smooth, fluid hip-shaking. With a constant smile and animated expressions, the euphoria Edge felt from performing for the crowd radiated into the audience and made for one of the best moments of the night.

Element four: graffitti and street art

Art from local artists surrounded the perimeter of the room where the Circle City Experiment was held. The works varied in style, size, and medium including three-dimensional collages covered in stickers to expansive canvases with mysterious graffiti symbols. Just before intermission gallery artists Justin Quello, Erica Parker, Darrin Spells, Robert Bentley, & Nick "Mandog" Smith were called to the stage, each carrying a piece from their collection. They took turns introducing themselves and gave a brief statement about their inspiration for the art. My personal favorite: Nick "Mandog" Smith (who is also a producer).

Element five: emcees

Unquestionably, the stars of the show were the emcees. The Circle City Experiment consisted of five emcee/cypher groups of various sizes and each group performed two rounds to beats selected by DJ Metrognome spontaneously.

The Heartbreak Hippies made an unscheduled appearance, kicking off the cypher portion of the night. I've got to shout out to their most active member, Vynee,for the "proper way to hold a mic" demonstration, an animated and lively performance on stage and limitless crowd energy for the remainder of the night.

Lonegevity (from "working man's hip-hop" duo Hinx Jones) received early applause from the crowd as he rapped about staying clear of substance abuse, being well-educated, and the declaration that he doesn't have an ego; he just tells it like he sees it. Blake Allee smashed the freestyle category when he asked for a common noun from the audience and delivered a rap about balloons on the spot.

If awards had been given, the fourth cypher group (consisting of Pope Adrian Bless, Tony Styxx, Theon Lee Jones, Rehema McNeil, and Devon Ginn) would have easily won for best performance of the night. Their segment, also probably the longest in duration, was performed entirely a capella- with the exception of an occasional beat from the mouth of Tony Styxx. Ooo's, ahhh's, whaaat's and wow's erupted sporadically from the mouths of spectators during the set to express astonishment, shock and awe. Although the entire batch of artists were breath-taking, my favorites included McNiel's assessment of the current state of hip-hop in her poem "We Were Born Into This Game" and Lee's "Narc in the Dark," where he used narcotics as a metaphor for hopes, dreams and aspirations, again and again shouting, "I want to be your pusher!"

Another unscheduled treat: Alchemy, beatboxer/emcee DV8's father & local muralist, opened the second half of the event and re-taught us our ABC's in a touching, almost spiritual, delivery of his verse.

The Circle City Experiment II proved to be just as successful as the first one was exactly one year ago. The event provided fans of local hip-hop a safe venue to gather and enjoy art together. It raised funds for a deserving organization that holds the same values as De Gud Life. And most importantly- it honors and brings together rookies and veterans from a variety of crafts to learn, collaborate, and shine together. Kudos to De Gud Life for investing in the next generation by putting together such a high quality, fun event.

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