Local Showcase at Suite Keeps It Short and Sweet
Indie Thursday at Suite was a little quieter this week than it had been the last time we visited the Belvedere basement nightclub. But since the last time was the Dru Hill audition, that’s to be expected, and we were fine with spending a relatively low-key night listening to a few talented local MCs such as PenDragon and Profound. In a more relaxed atmosphere than usual, the weekly event’s host, R&B singer Kanika, even gave herself a rare opportunity to perform, instead of simply introducing performers as usual, running through one quick song that displayed her pipes as well as some surprisingly capable rapping skills.
PenDragon recently released one of our favorite local mixtapes of the year so far, I Got Hits 4 Cheap, a mostly self-produced disc that strikes an unlikely balance between a contemporary hip-hop sound befitting his Jay-Z-esque flow and more offbeat, humorous touches–Cookie Monster samples, audio fan letters to Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell–and flirtations with dance music. When PenDragon was billed as a solo performer on Thursday, we were hoping to hear a good amount of material from the mixtape performed live. Instead, he ceded most of his stage time to other members of his crew, Team Arson, including rappers Street Heat, Jae Poet, HyDro, and R&B singer Nova. So PenDragon only ended up performing two songs, including the I Got Hits highlight “Never B4,” while five other Team Arson artists each got one before the DJ informed them that their stage time was up.
While some of Drag’s label mates had strong material, we couldn’t help but be disappointed that he got rushed off the stage before doing all the songs he intended. And given that there were only four acts on Thursday, all of which played within the space of two hours, the club probably could’ve let PenDragon play a little longer. Perhaps next time he can book separate Team Arson and solo sets.
The next couple of performers were a little less familiar and less impressive. A female rapper named Mystique huffed and puffed and gave off a lot of energy onstage but never really held our attention with any of her lyrics until she performed an X-rated version of the Crime Mob hit “Knuck if You Buck” with the hook “fuck till we nut.” And a guy named Verse was about as generic as his name, sounding much better rapping a few a cappella bars at the end of his set than on any of the proper songs that preceded it.
Thankfully, the night closed out strong with Profound, performing a brief set of selections from his Carpe Diem mixtape, including “Murda Dem” and “8th Mile,” with Rockwell chipping in a verse on “Duffle Bag Boy (100 Rounds).” We’ve seen Profound play hypeman to his friend and label mate Ogun many times before, but their performances turned out to be just as polished and entertaining with the dynamic reversed. In fact, Ogun spent half the set reclined in a chair while Profound aggressively stalked the stage, making eye contact with audience members and delivering every lyric with surgical precision.
While most rappers these days appear to think that shouting over a prerecorded vocal track can pass muster for a live performance, Profound is the rare MC who emphasizes every syllable and never falls offbeat. Hopefully, some of the acts who preceded him Thursday stuck around to learn a thing or two about how a rap show should be done.