With Eric Biddines, Fusik, and Dynas
As part of The Rising Hip-Hop Concert Series
June 17, 2011
Better Than: Last weekend's Lil B performance at Eve.
Performing Arts Exchange, PAX for short, is a new live music venue showcasing reggae, hip-hop, and Latin fusion with a packed calendar of upcoming events.
On Friday night, the space hosted its flagship hip-hop performance showcase, The Rising.
The series approaches hip-hop from an upstanding, community-oriented arts-and-culture approach, rather than bling-bling party hysterics or ribald gangster narratives. And this month's guest of honor was decorated ATL rap veteran, Killer Mike, who dished out a bangin' set despite a distinctly timid audience.
PAX greatly resembles both the Stage and Eve in being an inside-outside hybrid club with a not-too-highbrow lounge aesthetic and kinda pricey drinks. Much like Crossfade's recent experience with Lil B at Eve, a respectable turnout of about 70 people was visually diminished by the size of the room. Unlike that Lil B show -- and B's set in particular -- all of the artists on The Rising's lineup delivered tight, enthused performances.
Eric Biddines took the stage first, and brought full-force energy. The Palm Beach rapper was joined by a lone hypeman who provided occasional gang vocals and harmonies. Biddines's intonation, tone, and flow greatly recalls Andre 3000. His persona and subject matter suggest an MC simultaneously capable of introspection and braggadocio, without lapsing into joyless self-seriousness. He can sing too, which was nice. And along with some effects-heavy, pre-recorded vocals, he and his hype-man achieved some pretty impressive harmonies.
Bonafide fusion band Fusik took the stage next, as a testament to both the distinct hip-hop demographic present -- backpackers and socialite urbanites, in place of, say, straight Gs, hipster hoppers or college bros -- and the underlying programming of PAX -- world music as a form of 21st century cultural cross-pollination. Fusik had chops, knowing their way around Santana-style jamming, jazz guitar, and reggae. While we must admit, this is not really our thing, we also must admit that anyone who would call fusion rock their thing would very much enjoy Fusik.
The evening returned to hip-hop with South Florida staple Dynas, who performed a Stones Throw-ish (complete with a J Dilla instrumental) set augmented by reggae-like toasting and Real G thematics. Dynas, like Eric Biddines before him, put so much physical energy into their performances. As previously mentioned, a decent crowd was in attendance but just few enough that the space to look a little bare. Yet both MCs danced and gesticulated like they were on stage at Best of the Best. Though occasionally backed-up with pre-recorded harmonies, there were actual vocals filled with character and personality.
That consistent quality continued with Killer Mike's performance, which was peppered with classic verses from singles like Bonecrusher's "Never Scared" and OutKast's "Whole World." He also performed new material from his recently released PL3DGE album, a collaborative release between Mike's own Grind Time Records and T.I.'s Grand Hustle. An ATL staple, Mike's style falls somewhere between his collaborators', referencing the hip-hop modernism (i.e. experimental and innovative while still rooted in rap's basic foundation) of OutKast and the smooth pop-trap-rap of T.I.
Despite a medium crowd at medium energy, Mike brought it spicy, barking into the mic, shimmying onstage, and hopping into the audience to deliver a few verses up close. His set's biggest highlight may have been occasional acapella verses that really showcased Mike's impeccable rhythm and diction.
The Crowd: Brickell ladies in full-on girls-night-out mode, hip-hop nightclub patrons, PAX-y world music aficionados.
Random Detail: PAX has free refills on soda.
Overheard in the Crowd: Not a whole lot. This was a really low energy audience.
Killer Mike's Setlist:
-"Ready Set Go"
-"Go Out On The Town"