Saturday Night: One Mic Houston Anniversary At Groundhall

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One Mic Houston's Two-Year Anniversary Party Groundhall January 22, 2010

11:04 p.m.: You know what's a good way to tell if you're lost downtown? If, at any point while you're driving, someone in your car says something like, "What street are we looking for? Pease? Um, I think you need to tur - Holy shit! I think I just saw a guy masturbating behind a McDonald's!"

11:13: To get you up to speed real quick: One Mic is a concert series - previously monthly, now bimonthly - put on by hasHBrown, John Dew and David Wright. Tonight is their anniversary show. There are 40 or so acts performing on two different stages.

11:17: There's something about watching hasHBrown do his boom-bap shuffle outside in the cold at night that just says hip-hop. Sometimes, it feels like he was born 18 years too late and 1,500 miles too far south.

11:17:04: Two things are wrong the above timestamp: a) Houston isn't due south of New York. But really, if you're the type of person to point out those types of things, nobody's paying attention to what you're saying anyway; and b) It's clearly a nod to the strength of New York musicianship, but it's done only as a courtesy, because New York only used to be recognized as the place where the best rap music was being made. These days, everyone who doesn't live there recognizes that, save a handful of people, it's pretty much a hip-hop shithole.

11:22: Kane is up on the inside stage right now. As active as he is in the Houston rap community, he's hardly ever caught performing. Seeing him rap live is like seeing Nessie dog-paddling around Loch Ness in broad daylight. If someone tries to snap pictures of this as proof that it actually happened, those pictures will almost certain come out all blurry and unconvincing.

11:24: The seating in here is less than stellar. Our chair looks like it very well may immediately fall apart if you actually sit on it. We shake it to make sure that it isn't already broken, which, incidentally, is the same way we make sure that babies aren't broken.*

* Ed Note: Shea is KIDDING, people. We have met his two children, who are 100 percent unshaken.

11:25: "I don't like MILFs. I don't give a mother fuck"... "You good to you, I'm good to them. I stay in front, ahead, like a brim." Does anybody else remember Kane's The Curfew having this many quotable lines?

11:33: During a lull in the action, John Dew, who is one of the guys emceeing tonight, asks the crowd, "Anybody out there wanna come up and sp--." Before he can finish, a guy near the front of the shoots his hand up and then makes his way up there before anyone else can chime in. Everyone in here is a rapper, it seems.

11:33:10: Ha. Turns out the eager sir is none other than Doughbeezy, last week's Artist of the Week. The best part: He introduces himself as exactly that. Resident kingmakers, the Artist of the Week column has become.

11:36: Young Sensation just hopped up on stage for an impromptu performance as well. Cool, cool.

11:38: In case you weren't aware of this, anytime you hear a rapper who is freestyling say "Maaaaan, hold up" and then laugh as a way to end his performance, that's basically the same as him saying, "Welp, I just ran out of shit to say. Bye."

11:45: The illustrious Dustin Prestige (right) is up. He's wearing a scarf. This seems like necessary information, for some reason.

11:49: Prestige does not do "Polos and AKs," arguably the best song he's made to date, but he does do his new "Catalina Wine Mixer" song, which is the best song he's ever made that referenced a Will Ferrell movie. It's getting a little raucous. Good stuff.

11:55: Now, we wouldn't begin to argue that a fan of rap music has to look a certain way; that seems a silly stance to take on anything. But just know that if you're the big, bald, bearded white guy at an underground hip-hop show, it does look a little peculiar.

12:09: There's a boy from Illinois on stage. His name: The Boy Illinois. The Illini are not about the bullshit, apparently.

12:09:30: Hey, The boy from Illinois is kind of fly, though mostly because he's bouncing all over and seems generally pleased to be performing. You can always appreciate that.

12:15: El Prez, the show's headliner, is up now. He's from L.A., and has that whole West Coast featherweight-punchy vibe down pat. He's had a nice little buzz on the blogs for a bit. He mentions how he heard about Houston's food and was asking what was good (or something). In response, whoever was chauffeuring him around took him to Frenchy's.

12:20: You know what always looks cool? Jumping off stage and getting into it with the crowd during your set. You know what never looks cool? The part where you have to figure out how to wiggle back up onstage.

12:31: "What's the most famous weed song you can think of? What do you think it is?" El Prez takes a very Socratic approach to his shows.

12:34: Nya and AtmOsphere are doing what Nya and AtmOsphere do (being earthy, saying things that make women clap, etc). They brought a live band with them. There's a bongo player in tow. Does anyone actually learn to play the bongo, or do you just sort of do it? That instrument has to have the shortest learning curve of all instruments, right?

Teacher: Welcome to Bongo class, everyone. Let's get started. Okay, does everyone have their bongos?

Everyone: Yes.

Teacher: Great. Congratulations, you just graduated bongo class.

12:54: Delo, the gruff-voiced soul-sample aficionado, is rapping his balls off right now. If you've not yet taken the time to get familiar with his music, come back later this week for a complete review of his enjoyable Hood Politics mixtape. He very well may have been handcrafted by Jesus specifically to crush hasHBrown's beats into dust. Those two together are a particularly effective duo. They're like chocolate and peanut butter (the colors even match up).

1:10: Thuro, Thuro, Thuro. He looks a little bit thrown off by the current thinness of the crowd. Still, his hip-hoppy "A.M." song is always an excellent live show song. Right now is no different.

Let's wrap this up with a neatly packaged parable:

Last week, the guys who are nice had a very excellent concert to celebrate the release of their new video. Thuro was one of the opening acts. When he got to performing "A.M.," Yves, the front man for The Niceguys, came bouncing from the back of the room to the front, squeezing through the crowd shouting, 'Scuse me, 'scuse me, that's my shit!"

Now if you were to rank all of the current underground rappers in Houston on a Traditional Coolness Scale, Yves would rate near the top. He's just a naturally cool guy. He owns a custom made letterman, he never wears a hat like a normal person, he has tattoos, he starts sentences with "Aye," etc.

Thuro, on the other hand, sells copy machines during the day and once did an entire show unironically wearing a train conductor's hat. Make no mistake, Thuro is cool, but it's that self-effacing cool, which is just about the opposite of traditional cool.

The two should exist on opposite plains. But they were both there during each other's set, genuinely pleased with the other one's successes. This "I Root For You, You Root For Me"-ness reverberates throughout the New Houston Collective. It's a big part of the reason they've managed to become so visible recently; they're not all necessarily moving together, but they're all moving in the same direction.

That's why this One Mic two-year anniversary party is more important than the sold out Slim Thug/Z-Ro show happening at Arena Theater at this very moment. The One Mic concert series may not have served as the singular event that galvanized the New Houston Collective, but it was definitely there during the genesis of the movement.

This whole situation is good, good stuff, particularly for a city with a history for cultivating and sustaining its own hip-hop galaxy.

Personal Bias: We spend an unnatural amount of time thinking critically about underground rap in Houston.

The Crowd: Was almost completely Pan-American. Except it wasn't at all.

Overheard in the Crowd:

Guy: You wanna go outside?

Other Guy: Who's out there?

Guy: I'ono. Some girl.

Other Guy: Nope.

Random Notebook Dump: Nosaprise performed. Remember him? He spent most of last year working with his rock band. Now he's back at it with the rapping, and lots of people are very happy about that.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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