Rappers can't play ball, and ballers can't emcee. For proof, see Master P and Shaq -- or Carmelo Anthony, for that matter. While there's no doubt that Melo is gifted at handling the rock, when it comes to rockin' the mike, well, let's just say he should leave that to the pros.
Last Thursday night, rather than succumb to a tryptophan-induced coma, I headed down to Vinyl for the Thanksgiving bash/shoe-release party held by Mootown's favorite twenty-year-old multi-bazillionaire. Having been to several of Melo's previous outings, I knew the party would be off the hizzle, for shizzle, as the Highlands Ranch-hands would say. And number 15 certainly delivered.
Perhaps due to the recent hippie-lettuce incident involving Saint Lunatic, James "Slim" Cunningham, his erstwhile protegé and the man behind Tip Drill Tuesdays at Rise and other parties, Melo had the good sense to tap the 3 Deep Production crew and DJ Chonz to put together this latest joint. There are no better hype men in the business than 3 Deep's Francois, Alvin and Kevin, and no one rocks a crowd like Chonz, who, after Thursday night's set, should change his moniker to DJ Firestarter.
Around midnight, Chonz played a Dirty South set that would have burned down most places. Like a gasoline mist sprayed on the masses, each cut exploded on the floor. I've never seen anything like it. During Lil Wayne's "Go DJ" and Lil Scrappy's "No Problem," the throng chanted the hooks, drowning out the beats and hoshing -- my term for moshing with a hip-hop twist -- as guys with their fists in the air gathered in a circle and slammed into each other. There was enough testosterone in the room to make the entire Fab 5 homicidal. Then, just as the night was about to careen out of control, Chonz started slowly breaking things down, starting with a West Coast set that kicked off with Snoop's "Drop It Like It's Hot" and following it with a chill old-school set. "Where's my 25-and-ups?" Chonz asked. "This set's for you. I know y'all want to hear that other stuff, but I already played it."
Just like that, as though someone had pumped pure oxygen into the room, the club decompressed and the crowd calmed. Cats started macking on honeys, bro hugs were passed around like blunts. It was all good. Well, not all good. As Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" played, a couple of knuckleheads started clobbering each other in the bathroom behind the DJ booth -- once and for all dispelling the idiotic notion that hip-hop is the music that brings out the savage beast.
About 1:15 a.m., a little before the ugly lights came up, Melo and a mini-entourage emerged from the VIP area. Clad in a vintage Ahmad Rashad away jersey from '76 and a matching Vikings cap, Melo stepped to the DJ booth carrying a stogie in one hand and a glass of what I can only assume was grape juice in the other (after all, my man is still six months away from legal drinking age). At first it seemed that he would just stand there, give a royal wave to his subjects and then call it a night. Unfortunately, his ego had other plans.
"Where all my single ladies at?" Melo asked. And then he started trying to work the crowd. "Go DJ, he's my DJ," Melo croaked over a random beat. When Chonz realized what was up, he scurried to find Lil Weezy's "Go DJ" and threw it on, although he'd already played it. And even so, Melo managed to come off the beat. (Dude, it's four bars -- what the hell?) Realizing he'd dropped the ball, Melo urged Chonz to start the track again. It wasn't any better the third time around. Melo let loose a couple "heys" and "hos" to diminishing effect, followed by a little "I wanna see all my gangstas on the floor"-type pandering. Finally, after softly crooning along with R. Kelly for half a verse, Melo laid back in the cut and just let the music play out. While a few groupies clamored for his attention after the beats stopped, the rest of the crowd's silence spoke volumes.
You may dress and act like a rap star, but that doesn't mean you are one. If Melo decides to further diversify and try his hand in the rap game -- and it could happen, since he's already delving into the mix tapes -- the only advice I can offer is JUST SAY NO. Melo may kill it on the court, but he's a lousy MC. Watching him at the mike was like seeing my ten-year-old cousin yell aimlessly into a Mr. Microphone, just to hear the sound of his own voice.
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Still, props to Melo for putting on one hell of a party. Obviously, his ear is to the street: 3 Deep is taking over like Jay Hova, and the Golden Triangle has become the destination for an upscale hip-hop experience. There's talk of the Thursday-night gig becoming a regular thing at Vinyl; Serengeti already owns Saturday nights, with weekly appearances by top-shelfers like DJs Clue, Green Lantern and Clinton Sparks; and Club Ra's Friday-night entry holds its own.
If Melo's smart, he'll stick to ballin' and leave the shot-callin' to those with the skills to pay the bills. Like the Nuggets before he came to town, DJ Melo has no game.
Upbeats and beatdowns: Last weekend, another band at the hi-dive unexpectedly ripped off my face. Wouldn't you know it: A week after I listed Matson Jones as this year's fave, bar none, along comes Mustangs and Madras to give the former a run for its money. Maybe what resonates with me is that both bands use unorthodox instrumentation in a rock setting -- Jones with the cellos, and Madras with a frontman who, between bouts of screaming/crooning, plays a sax almost as big as he is. I don't know. But I do know that I haven't seen two tighter acts this year -- two bands that are more on the ball or more exciting to watch. See for yourself when Mustangs and Madras (nice Outsiders reference, by the way) stops by the Larimer Lounge, with Slouch and Bailer in tow, this Thursday, December 2. Also, keep your fingers crossed for Summer Hartbauer, a Colorado Springs-based singer-songwriter with over a hundred originals under her belt; she'll audition to appear on Nashville Star (the USA Network's slightly less aggrandized answer to American Idol) at Bender's Tavern at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 4.