Urban Underground [Monthly] presents… The Strictly Business Beat Battle (round 2)

Thank God for the few, dedicated heroes of underground hip hop who strive to keep it alive and relevant in San Diego.  Among those, SAC would like to thank DJ Leviathan and Jiji aka Urban Underground Weekly for their now monthly installments of UUW at The Kava Lounge.  Wednesday, June 29th was nothing outside of the expectation one would have of an event held by UUW.  DJ Adamnt, of The West Indies and Supa Unknown, is a monster on the ones and twos, and he and DJ Leviathan kept the night moving from behind the turntables.  While the focus of the night was the second round of the Strictly Business Beat Battle, the crowd was also graced with the presence of many of SD’s underground’s staples (not to say that there are not many more/other ridiculous underground artists in SD).  DJ Adamnt warmed up the room as five barflies multiplied to ten, to fifteen and so on.  Before the opening acts went on, the mic was opened up to any emcees feeling like verbally flexing a little bit, so Dapper Dan and NathanAnthony (myself in the 3rd person) shared a verse each.  That made for a smooth transition into those who walked us through the night to the beat battle, the lineup was as follows: Dapper Dan took the stage first, second was SD transplant from Baltimore, J.Sharif, next was LowKey and OZ aka Striktly Mulah Productions, they were followed by Mantix, then came AD of House of Rep, followed by his House of Rep associate, SighphurOne, and finally UUW regulars, Generik and Anek aka LNC (LeftInCompany).  After being drawn in by the personality and lyricism of the aforementioned artists, the audience was blown away by the quality beats provided by some of SD’s finest beatsmiths/producers.

Dapper Dan recently relocated in SD from AZ, but you would think that he was born and raised in OB based on his demeanor, delivery and content.  Dapper Dan donned an oversized Hawaiian shirt, baggy jeans and skate shoes and touched on life, weed and graffiti lyrically.  DD is quickly becoming a name recognized by many at local venues.  He currently has an album available at Access Hip Hop titled Fresh New Kill and has an album that will drop on 11/11/11 titled Uplift.

J.Sharif is on the rise.  He recently released his debut LP Life Matters independently on his own label, Top Floor Connections.  Sharif displayed a wide range of talents both topically and musically during his set.  Sharif has a positive energy both in his music and in his stage presence, which was made clear as he encouraged others with his story of overcoming the odds and finding hope in the pursuit of his dreams in music.  J.Sharif maintained a solid presence from start to finish and is someone that I’d suggest keeping an eye on in the near future, though I am not sure that that success will be in the underground – his music seems to have more of a commercial appeal, while not being poppy.

Striktly Mula Productions (OZ and LowKey) definitely both have talent.  I do not feel that they accurately display the talent that they have due to such a limited focus in their music.  The duo seem overly focused on making music about weed, as opposed to making hip hop, which allows for a variety of ways in which to speak about such activities.  It is never my goal to tear artists down, which is why I definitely want to reiterate the talent and skill that both of these young men wield, but I would suggest branching out from where they are comfortable and broadening the scope of their content.  As the two mature, they will continue to build momentum and listenership.

Mantix was an interesting mixture: one part emcee, another part hipster, two parts comedian and one part deviant youth.  I am not sure if the content of Mantix’ lyrics are for shock value, or if he is/was, in fact, active in the streets the way he comes across, but regardless of the root of the content, he is definitely head-turningly entertaining.  The first thing to catch the listener’s attention is the premium production over which Mantix kicks his audience in the face.  Once the beat gets the crowd moving in unison with the kick and snare drums, Mantix lyrics and delivery cause the audience to simultaneously tilt it’s head in confusion while nodding hypnotically.  As Mantix begins to connect with his audience as he kicks in their teeth, he may just be on to something.

AD (House Of Rep) is making his transition from hip hop head to performer.  I have been lucky to see him a few times recently, and watching his presence and confidence grow is fun.  Wednesday night I learned that he actually produces his own tracks, which added a layer of depth to what he does.  AD is very lyrical and his production is unorthodox, while not being outside the confines of hip hop by any means.  AD combines the above with a really positive vibe on stage which is infectious.  As he continues to learn to control the nerves and further connect with the crowd, AD is only going to become an even stronger presence in what’s going on in SD’s underground.

SighphurOne blew my mind yet again.  My first experience of his prowess on the mic (sadly admitted) was at UUW’s rap battle a couple of months back.  Wednesday night’s performance even outshone his battle-winning performance.  SighphurOne shared a bit of written material intermingled with freestyles, both of which exposed his heart and soul, both of which are drenched in essence of that which is at the heart of real hip hop.  Words cannot even express the emotion and power in the combination of the beats he chose to use and where his mind (and mouth) chose to go throughout his set, but I will definitely suggest that you support and promote his music and do not miss an opportunity to experience him live.  After his set I let him know that he embodied what/why we all do this hip hop stuff…

LNC never ceases to entertain.  Generik’s ability to command the crowd via his oral drum kit, lyricism and singing coupled with Anek’s uber-infectious energy can not be stopped.  The duo performed some crowd favorites as well as shared some unreleased, new material.  I cannot wait to cop the new album whenever it becomes available.

The eager audience was ready for the beat battle after the energy built as each of the opening acts led it closer to the pinnacle of the night.

The results (and some commentary, of course):

1. Juice vs. Jonathan Tramp – Juice seems to be a boom bap/golden era sample-based producer and his beat was dope, but JonTramp’s electronica infused beat was so different, that everyone sort of spazzed out on it.  WINNER: Jonathan Tramp

2. DJ Inform vs. Sojourn – DJ Inform’s production was solid, but Sojourn’s versatility and change-ups were too much for the more straight forward style of his competitor.  WINNER: Sojourn

3. AYA vs. Jimmy Javier – Both of these fools had ridiculous beats, but Jimmy Javier just beat out AYA.  WINNER: Jimmy Javier

4. AD vs. RJ – AD’s beat was sick, but RJ’s straight-forward beautiful soul samples a la Kanye were just too powerful.  WINNER: RJ

5. DJ Tactic vs. Beatsmith Resist – this is the only decision that I disagreed with, though it was close enough to have to go two rounds.  DJ Tactic’s beats definitely had more changes in them, but Beatsmith Resist’s raw drums and choice samples were just too moving for the judges to overlook.  WINNER (after an extra round): Beatsmith Resist

Quarter 1: D.Levon (Quills) vs. RJ – D.Levon’s beat wrinkled all of the faces in the room and had every head knockin’, but it was not able to knock RJ’s soul samples off of their march toward to 200 dollar prize.  WINNER: RJ

Quarter 2: Beatsmith Resist vs. Jimmy Javier – what a stark contrast!  Beatsmith Resist’s raw boom bap was just edged out by Jimmy Javier’s keyboard/synth beats.  WINNER: Jimmy Javier

Quarter 3: Sojourn vs. Jonathan Tramp – this was one of the fiercest match-ups of the night.  Sojourn’s traditional hip hop sound and JTramp’s forward thinking production went to war, but in the end, the foundational beats of Sojourn overcame.  WINNER: Sojourn

Semi: Sojourn vs. RJ – another fierce competition.  The originality of Sojourn’s chops (how a sample is dissected and re-interpolated) was more powerful that the smooth soul samples of RJ.  Winner (after an extra round): Sojourn

Final: Sojourn vs. Jimmy Javier – While both producers were absolutely ridiculous, the originality and raw hip hop vibe of Sojourn’s beats could not be stopped.

WINNER of the second round of UUW’s Strictly Business Beat Battle and the $200: Sojourn

Peace and Love,

NathanAnthony (KB)

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