Kain (left) holds court at the Beasts of the Boro .(photo by Ryan Snyder)
Area MC and producer Ed E. Ruger sent out a mass text Sunday afternoon as a reminder for that night’s installment of Beasts of the Boro, a regular local hip-hop revue that he has a hand in organizing. SMS promotions aren’t anything new for local show organizers within the hip-hop community; it’s cheap and encounters less interference than social media. But at least one thing about his message was odd. There was none of the typical bluster, the party-to-end-allparties hype that promoters usually shout in all-caps missives. Instead, it simply said the show starts at 8 p.m. and ends at midnight, noting that, well, everyone has somewhere to be the next morning.
That assertion might be expected from a less experienced promoter, but Ruger has been around for more than a minute. To think that one can clock the hip-hop beast in and out at will seems like wishful thinking at best. Hiphop participants are notorious as some of the most fickle in music, beholden to no timepiece. That idea remained steadfast when 9 p.m. ticked around and DJ Phillie Phresh was dropping massively clipped bass beats over hip-hop samples to four brick walls and a bartender.
This bill, with no fewer than seven scheduled sets and one semi-national headliner whom Ruger gave a decent chance as being a no-show, didn’t appear to be the most amenable on the surface. That headliner, a “106 & Park” freestyle winner named SunNY, recently tracked with Ruger and was supposed to be driving down from a Rochester, NY gig, an 11-hour, 15-minute trek. But the show had to go on either way.
Thirty minutes later, it started with Greensboro hip-hop collective FRAT House stepping up cluster of their fellow performers and a handful of supporters. The five-man party unit worked something like a Rube
Goldberg machine — a lot of moving parts working in uncanny solidarity. Two MCs spit perfectly synched verses while a third bounced hype-man commentary on the downbeat, their chemistry reflective of their group’s handle. Two others waited in the wings, one with a perfect Sen Dog two-step, to be tagged in to name-drop Russell Westbrook and Brett Favre in weed raps in one instance, and the ups and downs of cyberswag and online game to punchy breaks and flashy brass samples in another.
Host Ruger served as the stop-gap between sets with Iconoclast and Mightier Than the Sword comrades in support. His blunt instrument flow was a natural complement to Stitchy C’s rapid-fire delivery, reminiscent of recent Beasts of the Boro headliner Yelawolf’s laserprecise cadence.
The night snaked on with MTTS artists J. Bryant, Paxx Morris and Ty Shoffner, Shoffner easily the youngest in the lineup looked reticent and introverted standing at the edge of the stage while Bryant and Morris went to work. When his turn came up, his demeanor completely reversed, calmly and confidently letting loose smooth, Currensy-esque rhymes from his mixtape Tylenol: The Refill. At this point, the room was halfway full as people trickled in.
Many came to see the evening’s unofficial headliner Illpo, the vaunted Greensboro duo who can be counted on as the surest draw just about anywhere they play in town. Just as many, however, came to see the newest inductee into Iconoclast Records, 20-year-old UNCG student Quayshaun Weston who performs under the name Kain. His Secret Wars T-shirt gave some insight into his style: fantastical rhymes, stoic demeanor and indomitable support from his Ghost Ent coterie.
The messages presented at Beasts of the Boro were clear: Get blazed, pay dues, look out for fam, support local hip-hop. Some had a more confrontational message. S Dot Gold and Lazarus adopted the mantra of “call the radio station and say no more bullsh*t.” Illpo, always true to the most grown-up of subjects, took it a step further, directing their ire at the rap status quo itself. On the topic of internet buzz they stated, “We don’t need that kind of love,” reflecting the DIY ethos that brings these shows together.
As performers, Illpo are as legit as they come. Maybe it was the headliner treatment, but the pair Mundae Boones and J.
Bond just sounded louder and their bass hits harder then everyone else. They powered through their 30-plus minutes onstage, dropping tracks from their last album Classic and beyond, displaying the lockstep chemistry of the Golden Age duos from which they’re molded. And their end time? Just after midnight.