When you hear that Raekwon, a founding member of the legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan, is coming to Miami July 30, your first question will of course be "Where?" The city doesn't have an enormous number of live music venues, but you'd probably guess quite a few sites before thinking of Churchill's Pub. The famed 38-year-old Little Haiti institution is better known for the International Noise Conference, its punk-rock and metal shows, and even the filthiness of its bathrooms than for booking national hip-hop acts.
But Ian Michael, the booker at Churchill's, says if you think the legendary Miami venue is just a punk hangout, you haven't been paying attention.
"Our event calendar has always been very diverse," he says, "and we’re looking to continue to book an array of national and local acts in all genres."
Over the past few years, Churchill's has reeled in a bunch of big names from the rap world. Del the Funky Homosapien, Mobb Deep, Immortal Technique, Kool Keith, and Trick Daddy have all graced the pub's stage. This summer, though, Churchill's is hitting a new peak in hip-hop. Raekwon will perform just ten days after legendary duo Dead Prez.
Says Eric Faden, who helped organize the Dead Prez and Trick Daddy concerts: "These shows brought in some people from the hip-hop crowd who had never been to Churchill's, and they are in awe when they walk in. There're no rules; it's the Wild West, and there is a bit of shell shock for them when they see people dive off the stage."
Trick Daddy, for one, was certainly impressed, Faden says. "He kept saying, 'This is the real shit!'"
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MC Jumanji, a local rapper who's lost count of the times he's played at Churchill's since his first set in 2010, thinks it's natural for the venue to bring in acts like Raekwon. "They're very accommodating as a venue, and the way the rooms are all set up lends to the intimacy. I just caught Mayday there live a while back, and you feel like you're front row anywhere in that room. To have the bigger names come through makes sense as a fan and as an artist because it gives you a chance to be up-close and personal."
More and more nationally renowned hip-hop acts will soon make their way to Churchill's, Jumanji predicts. "Churchill's has always been a home for underground rappers. It has the reputation of being a home base for the independent artist. It's the kind of place where if the right DJ is playing, you can grab a mike and be 35 minutes into a freestyle set before you know it."
Where does this leave Churchill's punk-rock regulars? Exactly where they want to be, Faden says. "For the Dead Prez show, the stage I'm in charge of [was] an all-punk-rock stage. Everyone I've spoken to is humbled to play in the same place as Dead Prez." He adds that members of Nutcheck, a punk band playing that night, "can't believe Dead Prez will be playing at their backyard dive bar."
Though no other hip-hop shows are on Churchill's calendar after Raekwon, Michael says no hip-hop act is out of bounds for the pub's stage. "We are known for some of our edgier stuff, like punk, metal, and noise. However, anyone who really knows Churchill’s knows that we are always open to any genre of music."