Kool A.D., Fat Tony, Chingo Bling, Franchise n Yung, Amber London Fitzgerald's August 14, 2012
Call it Underground Rap, or Alt-Rap, or Underground Alt-Rap, but whatever the fuck you call it, these guys won't really care. They are making music, spitting rhymes, touring the country, and having the time of their lives doing it, and that's the only real consolation they need.
Categories are invented and implemented by some guy wearing a suit, sitting in an office, who will never ever set foot in a music venue unless it's in a private suite far above us common folk. Luckily, the fans showed up in force at Fitz, on a Tuesday night no less, ready to hear good music and disregard the bullshit.
In your face, music industry!
The proverbial "they" in this case is Kool A.D. of the NYC-Based rap crew Das Racist, hometown boys Fat Tony and Tom Cruz, and the Ghetto Vaquero Chingo Bling. Each of them is currently going through a creative growth, elevating their talent, style, and fan base in the process.
Kool A.D. is strutting his solo stuff with two recently released mixtapes called The Palm Wine Drinkard and 51. Fat Tony and Tom Cruze are pushing the album Double Dragon, a frantic party record that was well received on their recent tour of the country.
Chingo Bling has traded in his cowboy hat and boots for streetwear, making danceable beats and club raps at a frenetic pace, booking shows from San Francisco to Detroit, Kentucky and Oklahoma, on a mission to find his old fans and add new ones.
In other words, these muthafuckas be grindin!
The artist lineup was stacked Tuesday, with opening sets churned in by Hollywood FLOSS, DJs iPod Ammo and Third World TV, and interesting rap duo Franchise n Yung, who opened by rapping over everyone's favorite song of heartbreak, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know."
I told myself that I would barf if I ever heard that song again, but this was surprisingly good. The melding of indie music and rap can be hit or miss at times, and this hit.
The other surprise of the night was provided by young upstart Amber London. Decked out in a Chicago Bulls jersey, skinny jeans and Jordans, this 20-year-old rapper confidently knocked out lines like "Watch me do No. 2, take a dump on your shit" and "Wake up early in the morning, smoke a sweet."
She rapped from a dark, raw place, something that could be attributed to her upbringing in Southwest Houston. I look forward to hear more from her in the future.
Chingo bounced back and forth from his club hits ("Clap", "Bars") and remixes -- like the especially fun version of Kanye's "Mercy" that ended with a tribal guarachero breakdown. DJ OG Bobby Trill did his best to keep up with The Tamale Kingpin, a feat not easy to accomplish once Chingo turns it on.
He also debuted his new version of 2Chainz's "No Lie" aptly named "No Hay". Chingo Bling snatches hot songs and reinvents them better than most.
Next up were the Denim Guinness Boys, Fat Tony and Tom Cruze. They urged the fans to come closer to the stage, and Tony sang "Deep In The Heart of Texas" as a warm up. In his signature Lion King tee and Vans tennis shoes, Tony began his microphone assault. Rapping, sweating, dropping to his knees, he never half-asses a performance.
His Double Dragon partners Cruze and DJ iPod Ammo were especially turned up, probably because both were celebrating their birthdays. Old and new songs were soaked up by the crowd, including an impromptu soul-clap-assisted, a cappella version of "Like Hell Yeah." Half of the audience was onstage doing the Southside at one point, adding to the myth and legend that is Fat Tony.
Kool A.D. took a minute to savor the moment. He sat at the DJ table, jamming to Tupac's "Changes (The Way It Is)," he just started his show. With his San Francisco Giants ballcap and overgrown beard, he looks more like the pitcher Brian Wilson than a rapper.
He needs no intro, just jumps right into his set. To hear him rap is like hearing a very important whisper, calm and smooth, smart and undeniable. He bounces around in what I am now dubbing "Six Degrees of Separation" Rap. GOD DAMMIT! There I go making up categories!
He rhymes non-traditionally and in a non-linear fashion, bouncing around a certain topic or name, then another, then another, ending on a tangent that kinda sorta, but not really associates with the subject at the beginning of the verse. Very stream of consciousness, not quite freestyle, not exactly pen to pad.
Kool has a penchant for naming songs after different personalities ("Manny Pacquiao," "Al Green," "Hugo Chavez," "Selena" "Michael Jackson"). He offers up the track "Piñata" from "51", a funny little song that makes fun of the "beef" between Drake and Common, asking the question/scoffing "Who cares?!"
That seems to be an underlying motif in his raps, why trouble yourself over something trivial when there are more important issues out there. He does know how to party, but also knows how not to give a damn.
He is a character, and he surrounds himself with other characters. It seems the only label needed is this:
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Personal Bias: I've been following Fat Tony and Chingo Bling for a long time. They never disappoint.
The Crowd: Fat Tony devotees who came early and stayed late to support the rest of the line-up.
Overheard In the Crowd: "This place is rockin! Y'all making it feel like a Friday night." -- Host & MC BBC Craig
Random Notebook Dump: kudos to the Chingo Bling fan that was wearing a Crooks & Castles tee, Jordan Jumpman basketball shorts, and ostrich boots. I was gonna wear the same outfit, but I chickened out.