For being a boutique that happens to aid others with ticket sales for bigger shows, the owner of SF2 looked at the bottom line for sales for its own show, dubbed Raw Talent, and scoffed.
"We only sold two tickets," Suzie Rivera explained. "The kids did the rest."
Since Kickback Sundays' second battle had first been announced in mid-July, the ten artists had been busy letting people know via Twitter, social networking and any other form of communication that they had their own hallowed ground to work with in August. Word spread, people became engaged and before long, anticipation grew further and further.
Throughout Kickback's second season, each winner was given performance slots for shows across the state. C.I.T.Y. opened up for Texas legend Z-Ro in San Angelo, Curren$y here in Houston.
Most of the artists, save California transplant Mac Fame, had little to no video exposure, and none of them had major backing in terms of a label or anything that would slingshot them closeer to success. Fame's closest call came with his "F.Y.I." video that first appeared on the niche WorldStarHipHop Web site and featured Doughbeezy and rugged local hero Delorean (or Delo).
Six days before Raw Talent's Friday-night start time, Rivera's partner Teresa Waldon took to Twitter, beaming with pride. She and Rivera's show, the baby that they had cultivated and grew with the help of artists who simply believed, had sold out Warehouse Live's green room and threatened to sell out the larger ballroom, all without a headliner or prominent figure behind it. By comparison, two of the city's better-known acts failed to move even 25 people only weeks later.
On show night, controversy once again beset the duo and their kids, whom by now they had come to nurture like children. The city of Houston decided to shut off the water for three blocks near the venue, destroying any chance of using a bathroom inside Warehouse Live. Still, everyone soldiered on.
"I'm thankful for the outlet," Trail Blaze said before hitting the stage for his set. "I hate to sound predictable, but it means everything to me."
From San Diego to New Orleans to Beaumont, ten artists went out in front of their select group of fan bases and proceeded to become a whirlwind. KDOGG opened, fulfilling his premonition that he was going to "turn that bitch out." Luke Duke closed at around 2 a.m. and even in between they came out for the other artists sets. Young G had C4 and Duke flanking him for a rowdy track, ET could be seen in the crowd bobbing his head during Trail's performance and vice versa.
Lyric held her own as the lone female, Mac Fame brought out a live band for "F.Y.I.," Flame flexed his biceps and pursued on.
After her performance, the flowery wild child beams from left to right, tugging on her screen printed shirt, her Twitter-handle emblazed on the front. "I didn't know how'd they take me after all the guys performed."
Towards the middle of the night, I had found a moment of peace inside of one of the backstage rooms, but not before Rivera and UZOY found me with a bottle of Hennessy in celebration. I declined, they smirked and proceeded to pour for everyone else.
Reflective, Waldon put everything into perspective.
"It's definitely bigger than us," she said. "SF2, same thing -- it's way bigger than us its a brand I wouldn't say Kickback is a brand but it still feels new for me. To a certain group, Kickback is bigger -- to the underground scene, it's better than SF2. But to other people, they know us for sneakers and streetwear and ask, "Do you guys still do that open-mike thing?
"Its gone from labels, artists, producers, DJs, the whole music side of it, they know. maybe someone like Bun B will poke in, ask "how's that going?" Kickback could be bigger than SF2 to a certain crowd of people but even to that crowd of people or the underground scene I never think it would be the way it is now. If you would have told me then it would have been this - I wouldn't believe."
After the crowd finally began thinning out, the bottle of Hennessy long empty, Rivera opened up even further with a wide grin.
"After all this shit ... I think we can take a day off now," she said.
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That break only lasted one day. Up early on a Saturday morning, Waldon once again broke out her Blackberry and launched Twitter, typing in another major contest where the winner would appear on a Lil Keke track that would be distributed nationwide. The contest was extended another four weeks, culminating in the season finale.
KDOGG, always the slight underdog whenever he appears, was game.