Saturday evening was the second annual running of The
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.