Over the weekend: 3 the Hardway at the Marquis Theater

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3 the Hardway
February 28, 2009
The Marquis Theatre

Better than: The Talib Kweli show the night before at Club Vinyl where you could have had your jaw tapped.

In celebration of the release of their debut album, Set in Stone, rapper A.V.I.U.S., producer Es-Nine, and DJ Cysko Rokwel, collectively known as 3 the Hardway, threw a release party at the Marquis Theater on Saturday night. Hosted by Rakaa Iriscience of L.A. hip-hop group, Dilated Peoples, the night began with a high energy set from the Diamond Boiz. Featuring the MC stylings of Ze, Zome, and Dyalekt, the trio easily won the crowd over and had them chanting their hooks and choruses. Don't be surprised if you start hearing fans chant "D-D-D-D-Diamond Boiz" rollin' through LoDo on next weekend.

ManeLine took the stage next and performed a set consisting of the music from last year's

...And Sew it Seams

album. As with most any ManeLine set, Mane Rok, Inkline, and DJ Tense delivered an undeniably vigorous performance.

The stars of the night, 3 the Hardway, took the stage next after a short Cysko Rokwel-led intermission. The set consisted of select tracks from the new album, which most of the crowd had yet to hear. The crew ran through bangers like "Came Up," "This Moment" (featuring Aurora Lopez who came in and killed the hook) and "Reach for the Stars," which the act dedicated to Kenya Sims, a former Chicago gang member who was paralyzed from the neck down in a shooting. Sims, an avid hip-hop fan, was in attendance as part of Bessie's Hope "Dreams Can Come True" program. The crew's stage show also featured contributions from Mane Rok and Inkline of ManeLine, and a wickedly dope mini-battle set from Cysko. His scratching and juggling was so clean, it sounded like it was off a previously recorded set. The group definitely had the biggest crowd participation and reaction of the night, ending its set with a bang, performing "Truth" with Rakaa Iriscience.

Unfortunately, after 3 the Hardway left the stage, a lot of the crowd did too. The group flew in the Likwit Junkies (Defari and DJ Babu) from Los Angeles to headline the show, but the outfit hardly had the energy to follow the real stars of the evening. Near the middle of the duo's set, however, they were able to salvage some of the crowd and get some reaction, but the night was still all about the hometown crews.

Critic's Notebook
Personal bias:
I've kind of been jockin' Es-Nine ever since I found out he produced a beat on one of my favorite albums of the 2000s, Future Classic, from Surreal and DJ Balance.

Random detail: SP Double, Spoke-In-Wordz and Ichiban all came through to show support for the group.

By the way: 3 the Hardway gear is pretty cool.

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