Saturday Night: Space City Beat Battle At Warehouse Live
Black Keys (left) and Space City Beat Battle organizer T. Piper
Photos by Jae Tovar/The Hive Society
Space City Beat Battle Warehouse Live Green Room February 26, 2011
7:36 p.m.: Earlier this morning, our sons played their very first t-ball game. T-ball teams for 3-year-olds are six kids deep, and our group, a tiny version of the San Francisco Giants, is like cut copy from a Disney movie.
We have J, who's built like a six-year-old, runs like 1996 Michael Johnson and hits like 2001 Barry Bonds. He's our athlete. And there's D, who's built like a two-year-old, fields like goddamn Craig Biggio and slides into every base, despite the fact that nobody has ever attempted to throw anyone out during play in the history of 3-year-old t-ball. He's our overachieving underdog.
There's T, who spent 100 percent of the game looking absolutely mortified. At one point, he became so flustered with the responsibilities of playing outfield that he removed his jersey, hat, cleats and socks and sat down and cried. He's our crier.
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There are our sons, one of which chased after the ball each time he hit it rather than running to first base, the other of which spent a considerable amount of time with his glove on his head hollering to no one in particular that he was going to eat 50 cupcakes after the game. They're the goofy twins/comic relief.
And then there's L, who got lost in the day's hullabaloo. He's the forgettable one.
What does this have to do with the Beat Battle that's taking place tonight or the super packed Marcus Manchild album release mixer at SF2 that we're watching at this very moment? Nothing. Not one single thing. But it was an excellent time. Mali-booyah.
7:57: Manchild, one of the New Houston guys that's made his way into rotation on The Box, and Ira Perez, 2010 winner of the Houston Press Best Female Vocalist award, are doing a semi-acoustic performance of "Stay The Night," one of the three best songs from Manchild's new tape. It's good, interesting stuff. Cool. Interviews with both coming soon.
Steez (center, in vest)
9:59: Beat Battle now. Here's how this thing will play out: Sixteen producers will compete in a single elimination tournament. They will go head-to-head against each other, playing one minute of an instrumental they've composed. Judges King Midas (most famous for his work with Houston hip-hop group H.I.S.D.) and Symbolic One (most famous for making the beat Kanye used for "Power") will select the winner of each round.
If there is a draw, the crowd will act as the third vote. Frankly, it kind of sounds like a snoozer. A bunch of guys standing around listening to beats and not doing much of anything else? It'll be like a live version of the first six minutes of every porno. At least Taco Bell will still be open when it's over. And we're off...
10:07: First up, King Henry and G. Piper. The crowd is amped already. They've pushed in close, close, close to the stage. A surprising start.
10:09: Christ. As soon as the judging starts, it's immediately apparent how vicious this thing can be. There is no haste. You play your song, he plays his song, then you find out if your night is over. Then two more guys come up to be fed to the mob. This is already hectic.
10:11: A short-ish, mean-looking fellow named Y Phoenix is up against someone dubbed Chosen One. Phoenix is first. He's on some buttery, Spanish-sample nonsense. It is excellent. After a minute of it, it's pretty clear he's going to win.
10:11:30: Whoops. Chosen One, who is not accidentally wearing a Batman T-shirt, has sampled The Dark Knight in his preamble and blended it into a dubstep mix. Christ. The room is ecstatic. Hash is making a hardcore version of what we're going to call The Caca Face (imagine the face you make when you smell something terrible; The Caca Face looks just like that). The crowd is left to decide this winner. Chosen One is victorious.
10:20: There appear to be three key players in the crowd right now. There's a tall, tall man with dreads that looks like a less brontosaurus-ish Chris Bosh. There's a different tall man in an Elmer Fudd hat. And there's an aggressive, balding Puerto Rican guy who bullied his way to the front of the stage. He's the current star, because when he got to the front, he turned around and told those that were grumbling about him pushing threw to "Eat a dick." Awesome.
10:24: DJ Steez vs. Grizz Ali. Steez opts to hype his own beat, Grizz remains statuesque. The judges are split. Crowd decides Ali is worthy. No controversy. This is moving along at a brisk pace.
10:26:30: Hey, a flattop. Cool. Did we just get sucked back into 1993? Are Chris Webber and Juwan Howard the most interesting players in college basketball again? What the hell is going on?
10:34: A Selekt, who looks like the Mark Zuckerberg of this group, is about to battle Trendsetta. He grabs the mike from Hash and says to Trend, "You might as well get off the stage right now." The crowd erupts. Then he calls out Grizz Ali for some perceived slight as well. Cocky, skinny white guys at black-dominated events are the best.
10:36: Selekt was right. He played some obscure jazz sample that evolved into a hip-hop beat and won before his track was over. A Selekt is a soothsayer.
10:42: Apparently, there is a wild card up for grabs. Three previous losers are brought up onstage, and the judges get to decide which two can come back. Phoenix, who was better than just about everyone except Chosen One in the first round, and Steez are granted reprieves. Welcome back to the maelstrom, sirs.
10:46: The Aggressive Balding Puerto Rican is now engaged in a shouting match with Elmer Fudd Hat Guy. It's getting very intense in here. There was no way to reasonably anticipate how hyped up a beat battle could be. We had assumed it was going to rate somewhere between Crocheting and Scrapbooking on the Excitement Scale. It's closer to Prison Fights and Police Raids.
10:46:30: King Henry and Chosen One start round two. Chosen One, buoyed by his victory in the first round, is now keyed up. He's a salesman, and his beats are as dynamic and layered as his growing stage presence. Hash's Caca Face tells the tale. Henry never stood a chance. Vanquished.
10:51: It's Black Keys versus Y Phoenix. The dichotomy between the two is remarkable. Keys is bouncing all over, doing this two-hands-in-the-air limp-wristed bop thing while his track goes, while Phoenix just stands there looking menacing. At this point, it's as much about getting the crowd involved as it is the beats. Keys wins.
10:59: Steez and the incendiary Selekt are now at each other's necks. Steez loops Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" over onto itself while Selekt builds layers over layers of all sorts of silliness. Judges deliberate. Steez wins. The crowd is perplexed. This is very likely the crime of the century.
11:05: Remember early in the 2000s when the New Jersey Nets kept making it to the NBA Finals because the Eastern conference was so weak - Kerry Kittles was the third best player on the team, which is mind boggling - while the league's two best teams, Spurs and Lakers, kept knocking each other out earlier in the playoffs because they played in the same conference? That's kind of like what we have going on here.
As the wins and losses shake out, the difference between Side A of the bracket (highlighted by Steez and Selekt), and Side B of the bracket (highlighted by Black Keys and Chosen One) becomes more and more noticeable. Nobody is a mope, but for the purposes of a beat battle, Side A is, for lack of a nicer term, the weaker section.
On average, the guys left on that side are simply not as forward-thinking as Side B. It's not necessarily unfair, but it's something. And that's why you have the evening's two best performers, the bubbly Black Keys and the theatric Chosen One, competing against each other in the semifinals. They'll each get two songs now. This will be monstrous. The terra firma will rumble beneath their feet.
Whoever wins this will win the finals. We're calling it now.
11:11: Holy Christ. Keys and Chosen are engaged in trench warfare. Keys bounces around like a man that knows that knows something is amazing about to happen during his song. Chosen is on his superhero shit. He extends his arm straight and mimics holding a ball in his hand, raising it slowly into the air as he beat builds towards it crescendo.
The beat comes crashing down, Chosen spins so that his back is facing the crowd. He turns his head so that you can see his snarled profile and bobs his head like he's trying to shake it clean off of his shoulders. Round One goes to Chosen.
They flip places for Round Two, this time with Keys offering up a beat that secures this round's victory before it's finished. Overtime.
After a third beat, Hash interrupts to say that this has been the best battle of the night. He's not wrong. It's unclear whether he's implying that he thinks these are the two best guys, but it's reasonable to assume so. Keys eventually wins, and deservedly so. Forty-nine percent of the crowd does not agree, which is about right. If Chosen One was going to lose, it should've been in the finals.
11:20: Steez, the best guy on his side of the bracket, mows through his opposition with an impressive efficiency. He has grown stronger as the night has inched forward. He will resist Black Keys' dominance, but eventually succumb, of this we're sure.
11:32: Uh-oh. Steez, now toe-to-toe with Keys, is not impressed. He unleashes a Castlevania-esque track that's the second most exciting he's done all night, postponing Keys' victory lap momentarily. It goes to extra innings. Steez is not dicking around. Proper stuff for him, but Keys proves to difficult to wrangle.
11:34: Winner: Black Keys. Winners In Defeat: Chosen One, Steez. Loser: Aggressive Balding Puerto Rican.
Black Keys celebrates his victory.
Personal Bias: We were not very excited about covering this event after hearing Hash's sales pitch. Lesson learned. We will now attend every beat battle for the rest of time. And we will gladly pay to get in.
The Crowd: Was seriously into this shit, and that makes a big, big difference.
Overheard In the Crowd: "ALI! ALI! ALI!" His supporters were not of the mind that he had rightfully been defeated.
Random Notebook Dump: There were a bunch of Houston celebrities in attendance, including but not limited to: Hollywood Floss, Preemo, Jack Freeman, Christolph of The Niceguys, Third World and Tawn P.