On Saturday, Aug. 2, a sold-out crowd at the Cat's Cradle buzzed like a hornet's nest in anticipation of their beloved Jurassic Five taking the stage. But some of the audience's first hip-hop moments would come from two Chapel Hill locals, kicking off with an early starting set from smooth flow MC (and assistant principal at Chapel Hill High), Spectac. Following up was Kevin Kaze, verbally playing off beats from Little Brother producer and DJ, 9th Wonder, who seems to be everywhere in N.C. hip-hop these days. Running through a solid, but shortened, batch of cuts, Kaze's soulful growl shot through mesh of big clean beats and atmospheric samples. It was easy to hear the funky influence of folks like Outkast in sets like this, as well as his debut full-length Spirit of '94.
On this recently released CD, he drops allegiance to his hometown, "...the hood in the woods, Chapel Hill." One-time UNC student, and co-host/producer of the nationally syndicated television show Hip-Hop Nation, Kaze now hosts open-mic contests for MCs and DJs to gain experience on stage, as he did by winning the titles of Mic Battle champion of the Vicious Tongues competition in Raleigh in May, and Bloodsport in Chapel Hill in March. For more on Kaze and these events, visit his label's website at www.souldojo.com.
The crowd was now warmed up to the boiling point by a blistering old school set by Durham DJ Bro-Rabb, with quick slabs like Slick Rick or old NY crews cut in under-a-minute slices, steaming hot. The room was full of liquid air, a mix of sweat, humidity and a burgeoning throng of heads. As audience members often ducked out to the rear recesses of the Cradle for air or a smoke, MC Supernatural took the stage, with a bag of novelty freestyling tricks, turning objects taken from the audience into lyrics on the spot, or doing a rap in various hip-hop icons' personae. The crowd roared lion-loud. After the reveling reception given the Chapel Hill openers, the hard part was over. The locals Kaze and Spectac sparked the fire that lasted throughout the night.
The proverbs of Hell
Down the street at Hell, the mercury was rising by the second. It was another installment of their regular dance parties, and in such a bar-lover's bar, where simplicity and regulars rule the day, a dancing-room only mass of merry-makers swimming in perspiration is getting to be quite a wonderful culture-shock in the club. The Bueno Love Baller Soundsystem was in effect with locals like DJ Tanner spinning breaks to "Off The Wall"-era MJ. The upstairs neighbors at the Treehouse, a dance club mostly used as a pick-up joint, with booty jams and frothy shots dominating the menu, appeared to have a spillover of crowds, with the pursuit of the beat in mind. Alas, the moment of sublime synchronicity, where both these two floors of the building were locked in movement to the same record on cue, as if speaking in some ancient language, never came, but we can dream can't we?
Contact Chris Toenes with your Durham-Chappie news at firstname.lastname@example.org.