San Diego’s hip hop scene is in full bloom this summer. Wednesday nights seem to be when local hip hop is watered by those tending the garden; the fruit born from their labor will not go unnoticed and everyone in attendance at The Ruby Room last night was nourished by that fruit. The time, energy and passion each of the artists – No Sucker DJs and all of the performers and producers – put into his/her respective craft was a pleasure to behold. The night was quite diverse due to the variety of styles of the DJs, emcees and producers/beatsmiths.The night was kicked off with a newcomer to live hip hop – DJ Habitat seemed right at home (cheesy pun intended) behind the turntables in spite of the fact that it was his first time spinning for a live audience. No scratching took place during his set, but phenomenal beat matching and a knack for crowd control through his set list were ever present. The standout track from his set list, though the entire set was thorough, was “The Ride” by Masta Ace’s supergroup, The INC, which I have not heard since the late 90’s and that made it all the more potent. Big upps to DJ Habitat – Keep doin’ you man!
Daygo Produce, local underground hip hop duo, alongside Parker Edison of Parker and the Numberman and accompanied by DJ Tramlife on the 1’s and 2’s, took the stage next. The group has a trueschool vibe musically and a west coast bad-ass vibe lyrically. Their pride in reppin’ SD was quite evident and the duo, plus one, bring a lot of energy to the stage. The two are graceful performers and put on an entertaining show despite a few technical/mix difficulties.
No Surprise, a Texas educator and high-energy emcee, followed DP. Last night was his first time performing in California and he certainly made an impression. NS maintained the energetic vibe and, at the end of his set, even raised the bar a bit. NS touched on a lot of subject matter in his rhymes, from good ol’ braggadocio to weed to education and he even touched on love quite a bit as well. During the bridge of his final track, a track about frustration with the lack of authenticity in much of hip hop today, the passion and anger took hold of NS and he raged across the stage and ended up even damaging a mic – this display was very in the moment and Parker Edison was nodding heavily in agreement with the sentiment.
The opening acts were warmly received and a joy to listen to, but the focal point of the night was the beat battle. Beat battles are a funny thing in a time when anyone can download a bit torrent copy of FL Studio or drop some real money on an MPC or midi-controlled software (FL Studio included) and call him/her-self a “producer”. It can be quite a crap shoot to go to an event in which any self-proclaimed beatsmith can sign up, but the Spinn Cycle beat battle on Wednesday night was chock full of quality producers, whether you love keyboard rnb influenced beats, west coast gangsta vibe beats or gritty boom bap drums under soulful samples from across the globe. The following is a rundown of how the battle progressed until there was only one man (would love to see some female representation at the next one) left standing:
Round 1 | Young Sick vs. Illustrate
The round did not take place due to Illustrate’s absence.
Round 2 | I See You (ICU?) vs. Smiley
Smiley’s west coast anthem seemed too much for the dope rock sample of I See You. It was a close round, but in the end, Smiley walked away unscathed in round 2.
Round 3 | Shay Renard vs. Solus
Solus’ marvelously chopped soul sample and Shay Renard’s latin influenced rnb joint went head to head and left the judges scratching theirs, asking for another round. For the second go, SR dropped a beat with a fresh chop on Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. The nail seemed to be in the coffin, but Solus hit back with a ridiculous chop on The Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black and took the round, hands down.
Round 4 | AbJo vs. Parker Edison
Both producers definitely think outside of the box, but AbJo took the round. Very difficult decision for the judges due to two very dope beats.
Round 5 | Juice vs. AudioCrack
Juices’ ethereal choir just could not compete with Audio’s crack beats, that are very traditional and, at the very same time, in the vein of LAs Low End Theory as well as electronica-influenced.
Round 6 | V Rock vs. Young Sick
V Rock’s wild west, high noon, shoot-em-up sample with raw drums made it seem impossible for his competition to keep up, but Young Sick went tit for tat with V Rock, going double overtime, until YS’s variations swayed the judges his way. *V Rock – throw some changes into your ill production and you will be a force to recon with for beat battles in the future!
Quarter Final 1 | Smiley vs. AudioCrack
Smiley and his keyboard continued to smash the competition with the west coast bangers that just couldn’t be stopped. AudioCrack has put his fingerprint on production, but his unique style just couldn’t break through to the next round.
Quarter Final 2 | Solus vs. AbJo
Solus continued the sampled goodness with a strong vocal sample, but the beat lacked in variation, so AbJo’s production just nudged its way past Solus.
Quarter Final 3 | V Rock vs. Illustrate
V Rock, yet again, dug out a gem with the sample he used, but just didn’t introduce any change-ups in his beat, so Illustrates high-powered sample with some changes won.
Semi 1 | Young Sick vs. Smiley
The battle of the strings and synths, it seemed that this had to take place at some point in the battle. Both producers do what they do very well, but Smiley’s vibe continued to cruise right past everyone at under 15mph and bass in the trunk.
Semi 2 | Illustrate vs. AbJo
AbJo found his groove and noone could put him down. Illustrate found a gem of a sample, but his lack in changes had no chance against the many styles of AbJo.
LAST MINUTE WILD CARD | Illustrate vs. OFrappe/CrateCinema
The level that OFrappe took it to was one that had not yet been reached during the night, he stole the round before it was even over – that’s saying a lot because Illustrate had a strong showing in each round he was a part of.
4th Place – Solus
3rd Place – Smiley
Finals | AbJo vs. Young Sick
The two producers who earned their way all of the way to the finals duked it out and AbJo seemed a formidable opponent for all he face and walked away on top… until OFrappe, who had hit some traffic on his way down arrived late and proved that he deserved a shot at the cash prize.
Final #2 | OFrappe vs. AbJo
The battle could have gone on all night long, but Ruby Room security asked us wrap it up, so after two rounds and pleas for more beats, the judges were pressured into making a decision based on what they had and went with the deserving champ for the night, AbJo. Congrats to AbJo and all of the nights competitors.
A special thanks to NoSuckerDJs and DJ Tramlife and the judges (DJ Artistic and Mr. Brady of DeepRooted and W.Steele). Thank you to all involved for your contributions to the carrying on and passing down of the legacy of hip hop.
Peace and Love,