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Squirreling Away the 'Nuttz

H-Town's most prominent hip-hop DJ crew heads back for the underground

Five-dollar pitchers are always a great way to get me out to a bar, even on the Lord's Day. Apparently the deal's a pull for plenty of others, too, because 702 (702 W. Dallas) is bustling with Houstonians this lazy Sunday evening. Our temperamental Houston weather is uncharacteristically mild, and many partyers are lounging outdoors on 702's enclosed patio. Yes, it is a perfect day for a little libation.

I peer down at the end of the bar. A dude is dancing about in an epileptic frenzy with imaginary glowsticks. I flash back to the last Sunday I came out to 702 and tell myself I should probably ease up on the brew tonight.

But there's some other activity going on behind the spaz with the glowsticks. I notice that people are now being charged at the door and that DJs are setting up tables outside on 702's second enclosed patio. But something's wrong. The KrackerNuttz of 97.9 The Box usually hold down the tables on Sundays, and glowstick guy ain't seizuring to no KrackerNuttz. A barmaid hands me a flyer for tonight's show, an electro house battle pitting Starkiller against DJ Austin Leeds. Goddamnit, I tell myself, I left my glowsticks at home.

Jokes aside, beer and the KrackerNuttz are on some Voltron shit in keeping the lazy Sunday party vibe at 702. At my last Sunday visit, the 'Nuttz, spinning everything from hip-hop to hair metal, caused a great deal of beer-sloshing and impromptu karaoke sessions for a good portion of the bar. By sunset, their set made it easy for 702 patrons to forget they had work the next morning as they formed a rather large house and break-dancing circle. That is, if my fuzzy, alcohol-clouded memory serves me right.

Rocking a party is old hat for the KrackerNuttz, and rocking a party has always been what the KrackerNuttz are recognized for. While the average Houstonian knows them as popular radio personalities, promoters and club DJs, relatively few know them as the skilled battle DJs and turntablists that they are.

Since they're not spinning, I sit and chat with the KrackerNuttz crew — Baby Jae, KleanCutt and Kosuri. Word is that a return to the underground is in the works.

"That's our backyard," says KleanCutt. "We all came up in the underground scene. But we had to find avenues for us so that we could make this our living. When we got to the radio station, we had to play the politics of the corporate hip-hop world."

"People are used to hearing our name on The Box," says Baby Jae. "We're branded 'The KrackerNuttz on The Box.'"

That prime spot on the station hasn't come without criticism.

"The whole 'selling out' thing — it's a touchy subject," admits KleanCutt. "You're gonna tell Common he sold out for doing a Gap ad? You're gonna tell Kanye West that he sold out because he's going to do a Pepsi ad? They didn't sell out. What they did was they made a business out of something they love doing. I think that's why we get the negative criticism."

I ask why a move back to the underground is important for them now in their careers.

"We want to let everyone in the underground scene know we're still here even if we're on The Box. We may have to play the commercial stuff, but if you listen to us on a Saturday night or come on a regular Sunday [at 702], we're playing stuff that you would never hear on The Box," says KleanCutt. Kosuri maintains that in that sense, they never left the underground.

"Ask anybody that knows what we do outside of the station. They know that we're the crew that's playing all the other stuff," adds KleanCutt.

Kosuri adds that the KrackerNuttz offered crews like Lower Life Form and MCs like VG Skillz a chance on Freestyle Fridays when no one else at the station would.

"There's a lot of kids out here who could probably — honest to God — if they came up to Freestyle Friday, would whup these major artists' asses," says KleanCutt. "That's my goal. If we're going to go back to our roots and help out, then my whole goal is to bring them up with us."

"So what's the plan?" I ask them. "Are you going to host a new night somewhere in town?"

"That's top secret," says KleanCutt. "Hopefully when we make it pop off, everyone will definitely be satisfied."

The KrackerNuttz spin on Sundays at 702, 702 W. Dallas, 713-654-8040.

 
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