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Pod People in the Place to Be

November 9, 2007

“Podcast” might be the single nerdiest word in the English language. But Elements Party, the long-running local hip-hop cabal/promotion crew that runs a popular web site, has never worried about whether being a little nerdy or tech-savvy makes it look any less hip-hop. And one of the best and most recent attempts to use the internet to promote the gospel of Baltimore hip-hop has been the Street Level Mixtape, a compilation made available in October by the site and local rap duo Pro and Reg, as a podcast or free download, featuring new music from artists such as Profound, Tislam The Great, Third Kind, Minlus McCracken, and Wordsmith.

In an attempt to get the audience for the release out from behind their computers for a night and get physical copies of the mix in the hands of regular showgoers, Pro hosted a podcast release party at the Turntable Club this past Thursday.

Several artists featured on Street Level came out, but we arrived earlier in the night during the open-mic portion of the event, when a guy named A6 was freestyling. And he was clearly freestyling, complete with occasional stumbles and spontaneous moments of inspiration. It reminded us of how rarely rappers these days actually do improvise instead of presenting a memorized verse as such. Later, a producer/rapper who (we think) called himself KK got on the mic and spit over one of his own beats, proving that “rapper” was by far the lesser half of his skill set, although the way he earnestly owned up to his own amateurish vocal abilities made his brief performance more likable than unpleasant.

Among the artists from Street Level on the bill—playing just a couple songs each—were E Major, Soulstice, Bishop, and Ogun, who, as always, performed with bluster and a sense of purpose, running through more aggressive recent material like “Real on Purpose.” Jade Fox’s performance felt like a small but noticeable step up in intensity from her set at the Latin Palace, including the single “Got ‘Em Like” and a great unfamiliar song from her album Ashes From Another Life. It’s good to see Jade holding tight to her recent Best of Baltimore title.

The most entertaining performance of the night, however, came from the Unstoppable Nuklehidz, a deeply idiosyncratic pair of rappers who aren’t afraid to look a little silly while having fun onstage. Although songs like the HIV commentary “Pass It On” display the group’s social conscience, they kept things short and goofy with “Drinks and Drugs” and the hilarious celeb-obsessed single “Camera Phone.” Still, we only had the energy to hang out for a couple more acts after that, and when Sonny Redds starting rhyming over that awful Yunng Berg song, it seemed like a good time to call it a night.