Night Life

Hip-hop's House

With alt-country rockers the Jayhawks performing in the background, Lulu Turner sat behind the ticket counter at Fitzgerald's earlier this month and did her thing. She took tickets and fielded queries while manning the telephones. Then she got the call. Someone had dialed up Fitz's to ask about the club's "Hip-Hop Live" Wednesday event. When Turner told the caller that the event was no longer taking place, he became, as people in certain neighborhoods would say, ignant. A colorful barrage of foul language proceeded from the caller's mouth, which, needless to say, shocked Turner. "I can't even repeat what that person said," says Turner, who also remembers that the caller accused the venue of not supporting hip-hop in Houston.

Whoever he was, he was sorely mistaken. Fitzgerald's had been dedicating its downstairs section to hip-hop all summer. You could even say Fitz's was the place to catch live Houston hip-hop during the season. Of the few places that can claim they're devoted to live hip-hop, such as Club Waxx (1601 Leeland) and maybe the former Chocolate Town (478 West Parker Road), none compare to Fitz's (2706 White Oak), which has one of the best sound systems and generally the best live-music vibe around. "We were more than [happy] to have hip-hop come to our club," says Ryan Plagman, Fitzgerald's manager. "Ceeplus really brought it all together."

Ceeplus is a well-known local DJ. Along with fellow DJ and partner Comp-One, Ceeplus and his crew, Mathmatech DJs, with the design team Mad Grafix, hosted the hump-day hip-hop extravaganza in which MCs, DJs, B-boys and whoever else was down were invited to hang. "I wanted people to know that there is a place where hip-hop is seen as a 100 percent positive art form," Ceeplus says.

While the relationship between Fitz's, a perennial rock club, and Houston's hip-hop community seemed unusual or unprecedented, it really wasn't. During the late 1990s, Ceeplus and his crew held a similarly themed event in the same locale on Saturday nights. They only got away from it to visit other clubs, spreading the hip-hop gospel like Baptist preachers spread the Good News. Ceeplus and company have been hip-hop nomads ever since.

Ceeplus says he is "flattered" people would phone the club and open up a can of verbal whup-ass on the personnel. But, he says, hard-talkin' folks shouldn't make a habit of it. Both Ceeplus and Plagman agreed to end the party after the summer. They had other gigs to get going. In short, "Hip-Hop Live" was a summer fling.

Live hip-hop still happens in H-town, though not at such predominantly -- let's just say it -- white clubs like Fitz's. Club Waxx, of course, provides hip-hop flavor every night it's open, especially on Sundays. That's when the DJ team, the Krackernuttz, hosts "Sunday Night Sessions," in which brave amateur MCs and DJs are invited on stage to test their skills. And for the finest in hip-hop turntablism, there's "Community," the Thursday-night affair at Club Diesel (5851 Southwest Freeway). There, you can dance on the main floor or chill in the club's VIP lounge, which is transformed on Thursdays into the hip-hop DJ revue the kids call "HIPHOPFUNKLAB." Though you won't find them much at Fitz's anymore, you can catch Ceeplus and company at The Hub (312 Main) on Tuesday nights. At the same time, he's looking for a place to put on a live hip-hop night. "I'm looking," he says, "for any place that'll be willing to offer up some live hip-hop music."

Since hip-hop shows are usually as exciting as Olympic skeet shooting -- it's usually just two guys and a microphone -- clubs haven't exactly been lining up at Ceeplus's door.

Last Call

Johnny J and DJ Seek are doing what they can to get a piece of the dressed-down action at the mostly upscale NoDo joints. When Tonic (310 Main) goes casual, "Lift" -- not to be confused with "Loft," over at Swank Lounge (910 Prairie) -- is what they call it. The event, promoted and presided over by Johnny J and DJ Seek, features fierce house and hip-hop. "[People] can have a good time without spending a lot of money," DJ Seek says, "and listen to music that they probably wouldn't hear all the time."

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey