Maybe it was the free vodka. Or maybe it was the hundreds of ladies dressed to the nines. Or perhaps it was the unmistakable family vibe. Hard to say. Whatever it was, though, 20:12's release party at Casselman's on Friday night came off as something different all together. For starters, you couldn't help but notice how the numbers swayed noticeably in favor of the fairer sex; there were far more ladies on hand than at most local hip-hop shows.
The crowd was already generous by 9 p.m., and Casselman's intimate ambiance, with its dark tables romantically lit by candlelight, set the vibe for the evening. As each act did their thing on stage, they were accompanied by an entourage of hypeman and, to balance that out, plenty of scantily clad ladies.
The show started with King Devious -- though it was hard to tell the King from his court, as he was joined on stage by an abundance of other MCs and/or hypemen. Despite the fact that the mikes squealed incessantly throughout the set, the group managed to keep the crowd's attention with autotuned hooks and plenty of energy. And the lovely ladies dancing erotically in the background did their part to make sure all eyes remained forward.
D A Dubb took the stage next, and again, there were so many bodies on stage, it was hard to know who was who. Everybody danced in sync with one another as though they were following a choreographed routine. Like some sort of hip-hop pied pipers, the group had all the ladies dancing in a trance-like fashion. A highlight of this set was Mike D. Chill's performance. Get Some Entertainment's provided a segue into the next act, but their set was unorganized and delivered in a mostly mixtape style over "borrowed" beats.
Hypnautic and King Tef, who were up next, clearly know how to work a crowd. During their set, all heads were facing forward and asses were shaking, as the two weaved through their familiar tracks. The lyrics were cloaked in Top 40 beats and hooks that inspired chants from the crowd. Whatever the duo lack in lyrical creativity, they more than make up for with their ability to connect with a crowd.
Spoke In Wordz followed and started things off smooth with acoustic accompaniment from singer/guitarist Arkhightek. Spoke seamlessly transitioned from clear and soothing flow over an acoustic to a hard, Eminem-esque style delivery. Plagued with turntable issues, DJ
Chonz Psycho worked feverishly to fix whatever problems he encountered, as Spoke and DJ R² beatboxed their way out of a bind, making for a very entertaining interlude.
And if the night couldn't break any more out of the typical hip-hop show mold, Fatal Attraction warmed up for 20:12 with four beautiful young ladies gracing the stage with a choreographed routine. Though not entirely in sync, the girls regained the attention of the wandering crowd, and brought everyone back to the stage for the premiere of 20:12's video for "Por Aqui y Por Alla".
Director Eric Heights outdid himself on this one. Some of his obvious style can be seen in the color flashes and barren horizon silhouette scenes, and 20:12 and Spoke are equally as dazzling on the cut. The single is one of the most catchy and meaningful songs, and this video makes it that much more appealing.
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After screening the clip, 20:12 wasting no time and jumped right into its set. Role Pl-A and Juice have an energy and charismatic appeal that makes it hard to take your eyes off them as they perform. Role Pl-A's deep and smooth voice complements Juice's higher and quicker flow, and most of their songs have a mix of lyrics that are in English and Spanish, which the group seamlessly intermingles.
DJ Psycho and DJ R² shared table duties for the set, and the act closed out its set with crowd favorite "Asi Asi," inviting anyone and everyone on stage. As 20:12 rejoined the crowd, Soulciety finished out the night with their Colorado style of R & B, making for a memorable night overall.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I hate when rappers perform their tracks over pre-recorded vocals. Although I get what they're going for, it just strikes me as amateur. By the Way: Casselman's plays the stage music outside, so you don't miss a second of the show while you're getting a nicotine fix. Random Detail: Juice and Role Pl-A are very professional and easy going dudes.