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Rap It Up

Rave organizers turn to hip-hoppers to entrance the kids

If you felt the earth quake on October 28, don't worry. It was just the tectonic plates shifting beneath Houston's rave culture. It was on that night that two separate raves broke from the DJ-only tradition and featured a hip-hop/rap headliner. Kids had their choice between the De Andas Ballroom (5201 Hopper), where Cypress Hill was putting it down over at the "Fun Haus" rave, or the Funplex (13700 Beechnut), where Method Man was rhyming and flowing for the midnight masses at "Thriller." All this newfound flavor may have had some diehards asking themselves, "What the hell are these rappers doing at my rave?"

Well, promoters have been scooping up rappers as main-event attractions in an effort to put a new gloss on the city's tarnished rave scene. "Our purpose in something like this is to maybe bring the culture and the music to a different crowd," says Charles Cherkui, better known as DJ Friendly, who helped put together "Thriller." "I think it's a good boost in the arm for raves."

Indeed, the concept of rappers as headliners for these massive cocktail parties is nothing new; the East and West coasts have been dabbling in it for years. "Raves like this go on in California all the time," says "Fun Haus" co-organizer Bobby Rodriguez. "And what goes on out there trickles down all over the country, and Houston raves are beginning to get the idea."

Method Man: Injecting hip-hop into the glow-sticks crowd.
J Mannion
Method Man: Injecting hip-hop into the glow-sticks crowd.

Those two October events weren't the first time a Houston rave had welcomed a big-name MC to its party. In September, Run DMC was the top dog at the "Infrastructure 2000" rave, also at Funplex. Still, the "Thriller" and "Fun Haus" parties were noteworthy for the simple fact that they were on the same night.

"This is what crews do; we compete with each other," says Rodriguez. "It's a friendly rivalry." It didn't even turn out to be much of a rivalry; there was no clear winner or loser. Organizers for both events, regardless of who claims to have signed their rap star first, say their raves were successful. Kids came in droves to both. "It doesn't really happen much," says Cherkui, of the two-rave pileup. "Everybody tries to avoid it as much as possible. It's just business."

As for the other talent on board, they were more starstruck than snobbish. "A lot of the local DJs were pretty hyped about working with Method Man," insists Cherkui. The feeling was mutual for the MCs. Dope House recording artist Baby Beesh says about the rave scene, "I think it's more positive than the club scene here." Beesh performed at "Thriller" along with Houston's own South Park Mexican and other Dope House artists. As a first-time performer/attendee, the Bay Area-born Beesh found the experience surprisingly liberating. "The kids were just out there venting their fun, you know," he says. "It was a good feeling, a secure feeling."

This isn't the last we've seen of rappers dropping in on the rave culture. Rodriguez plans to have a big-name rap act signed up for an April rave, and Cherkui and company may have some hip-hop orators perform at their large-scale extravaganzas next year. But the rave kids shouldn't feel threatened by the thought of rap and hip-hop fans infiltrating their scene -- and vice versa. As Baby Beesh says of his present and future fans, "I like to tell them to have an open mind and come in with a party feeling."Last Call

Officially billed as the club that breaks all the rules, Danzoo (6130 Richmond), the latest venue looking to wreak a little fun-filled havoc on the Richmond Strip, has been seeking to attract a crowd that's adventurous, and a little ambiguous. Before Danzoo opened up earlier this month, the club often was rented out for private parties. On one such night, the club hosted a party for the gay and lesbian community, in which the queer crowd and a few curious breeders came together, put aside their differences and got really drunk. Now you can't say that's not a beautiful thing. "You can be free and have fun and dance and feel alive, at the same time," one inebriated, possibly bi-curious gal said. Owner Allkir Iuiez says that the club, with its uninhibited style, is looking to lure in more patrons, whether gay or straight, black or white, Democrat or white. "At Danzoo, we don't have rules," says Iuiez. "The only thing I care for is that everybody have fun and enjoy a good time."

And let's not forget about the getting-drunk part. That's still a beautiful thing.

 
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