Illadope and I wake up wild early so we can get my bag back. Thank God I was able to get shirts made in Roanoke and slang something, but this festival is the original reason for this whole trip. I am a co-headliner along with some underground Hip-Hop legends, and I'm being promoted as such. It's been 6 months since I've been to Charlottesville, and I made I huge impression. I strategically released the video to "Hallelujah" the Monday before I left for this show, because the video is contains footage from the bullshit Unite The Right Rally shot in Charlottesville, and was shot on location in Charlottesville by a videographer from Charlottesville. My guy Cullen a.k.a Fellow Man was the consumate host last time, and is a huge supportor of what I do. So it was imperative that I have merch, because I had a great feeling that people would shop with me.
We check out of our nice ass hotel, then catch 3 hours slab to Richmond where my bags were supposed to be after traveling God knows where with out me for the last 2.5 days. Mind you, we have to drive through Charlottesville to get to Richmond, as Richmond is a full hour and fifteen minutes past where the festival is located. I literally slept the whole way, till Illa wakes me up as we pull up in the terminal. I walk into terminal, and see my bag, and damn near break into a praise dance. The guy tells me the bag JUST got there, and that I have impeccable timing.
I sign the papers, we head back to the hotel. We decided to just get a room in Richmond instead of Charlottesville since I fly out of Richmond the next day. The festival was slated to end at 8pm, so an 85 min ride back to the room wouldn't be so bad.
GOOD VIBES FINALLY...
For once, everything is going right. We park, head over to the tent where the festival is taking place outside of a brewery. I see my OG Cesar Comanche, my road dawg Ghost Dog, and the great A.D. Carson, a Professor that teaches Hip-Hop at UVA. He was the guy who successfully presented his dissertation in form of a Hip-Hop mixtape. An all around bad brother. I run down to them the hell I've been through the last few days, and FINALLY set up my full merch display next to Cesar & Ghost's.
COME SHOP WITH ME
Mane, it's like people were waiting on me to set up my table. I made a quick $100 as soon as I set my table up. Alot of people remembered me from last time, some said they first heard of me from the video, from that wanted to see me live. The "Real Emcees Dont Rap Over Vocals" tees were a hit! I only had limited amouts, and sold all but one asap at the festival.
I WANNA ROCK RIGHT NOW!!!
My call time was 5:40pm, It's about 5:30pm, and the last act before me is finishing up. Illadope mans his position at the tables, and the host, my dog Remy St. Lacroix (a terrible dominoes player lol) announces a whole nother act. Both Illa and I look silly af getting all pumped up for a false start lol. Apparently someone had missed their performance spot earlier, so they went on before me, which actually worked out for me in the end because it gave me more time to hydrate, study the crowd, get my mental together.
Finally, the act before me finishes, after rapping over entirely too many vocals, and Cullen starts to bring me up. He gives this epic announcement, people make noise, but noone moves to front. Illadope tells the crowd that we will not start the music until people crowd the front, and a few people move, but not many. Cullen is looking like, "Mane, we ain't got time for all that shit..." And I get it. They gotta be outta there by a certain time, after all this is on a Sunday evening, and this is an outdoor event. There were probally 250 outside, alot of people were sitting out side of the tent, but there werent' that many under it. I'm a veteran emcee who has the hunger of a rookie. I'll never stop needing to feel the need to earn my keep, so fuck it, I'm not gonna wait on them to move to the front, I'm going to make them move to the front.
IT'S THE MICROPHONE CHECKA...
I tell Illa to run the record, and hop immediately into "#CultureOverEverything." It's a rough ass start for 2 reasons, this is show #3 in 3 days, a night after inhaling wild tobacco smoke from Roanoke, so my voice is dry af. Also, Illa got the gotdamn BPM up high as it can go lol!!!! So I'm rapping this song wayyyyy faster than it should go, barely getting the bars off, at least that's how I felt. I've been working out hardbody to make sure I don't be getting winded, but a nigga ain't plan for this shit mane.
Finally the hook comes, and I tell Illa to slow that bitch back down, and he does, and I finally find my groove. The crowd could tell too, because they no longer see me struggling to keep up, and kinda settle in once they figure out this fat Black ass nigga finna do this Hip-Hop shit. I get the crowd on my side with the "Culture Over Everything" chants, then cut the record to talk for a second so I can catch my damn breath. I begin to introduce "Principles & Standards," tell Illa to drop it, and he drops "Henry Clay" instead. Instead of correcting him, we play it off, and I rock the fuck out that bitch. Around this time, I see Wordsworth walking in the back of the crowd, and while people are talking to him, it seems I've peaked his interest, now I really gotta cut up. So I put more energy and animation into my voice, inclement hoarseness be damned, because I'll be damned if I don't rep in front of a legend.
The call & response aspects of the record go well with the hardcore ass boom bap ass beat, and now I've gained my wind back, finally finding my full groove, lowkey feeling myself. "Principles & Standards" comes on, and I'm batting a thousand. The crowd is filling up the front, heads are nodding, a few white women are dancing, and now they got they hands up when I direct them side to side. They really fucked with the "Real Emcees Dont Rap Over Vocals" chant, even the niggas before me who rapping over vocals said it.
That's when you know you a dog.
SHOULD I, OR NAH?
In the group chat before the show, Cullen tells us to keep it PG-13. I ask him can I say "Fuck Donald Trump." Cullen knows what I do, that's why he brought me here. However, the whole night, Remy is telling people to watch their language. So now it's time for "Hallelujah," and I tell the crowd my dilemma. I ask Cullen again, from the stage, and he's out of fucks to give at this point, and gives me his blessing. For once, I wasn't apprehensive of saying it due to backlash from Deplorables, I was apprehensive because there were children out there. After all, it was an all ages show. As a father, I would love to take my kids to more rap shows, but I can't always be sure that the language will be appropriate so I don't. So we come to compromise, I will do a radio edit version of the record, sans the words "fuck" & "bitch." Instead of "Fuck Donald Trump" I said "Eff Donald Trump," and the crowd loved it.
I still called Richard Spencer a "cracker" though.
The crowd is with me full tilt, I'm really on my shit. All call & responses are loud af, and mad middle fingers are in the air. Next is "FreeBLKPPL" comes on, and when the beat drops, I see the brothers in the corner start grooving a bit. I run through it flawlessly, and end with "Cry Freedom." Mane, I soul'ed out with this one. I put all the anxiety, frustration, annoyances, inconconveniences, etc. into this last song, and I feel it really went well with the crowd. I left it all on stage.
This was our first run of shows togther as Illadope being my official tour DJ, and though we had a lot of hiccups, I feel like we finally gelled as emcee & DJ by the end of the set. I hop off stage, and people flock to my merch table, and shop like a mf. I mean I sold ALOT of shirts, cd's and USB's, nearly double of what my performance fee was. Cullen Cash App's me my bread, and it's super lit.
AN APPROACHING LEGEND APROACHING A LEGEND
So it turns out that I end up sharing a merch table with Wordsworth. After my table slows down, I introduce myself, and he immediatley tells me my set was dope. I tell him that I've been a fan for 20 years, since before the Lyricist Lounge show aired on MTV, I got all the eMC albums, and I'm looking forward to "Champion Sounds." I love Hip-Hop so much, I still see guys like this through the lense of a 13 year old rap nerd who watches all things Hip-Hop on whatever station Viacom had playing rap music. Still that teenager who had subscriptions to Blaze, XXL, and the Source. Still that Okayplayer, Word Of South, All Hip-Hop, & SOHH.com guy at heart. I often have a hard time hiding my fanboyism when I meet rappers I admire, because I love Hip-Hop THAT MUCH, and I'm super greatful to be apart of the culture.
So for him to tell me I had a dope set, meant sooooo much to me. But what he said next got me. When I told him I was a 20 fan, he told me, "After seeing you perform, I'm a fan now..."
Ya'll know what I been going through in 2019 as it pertains to self esteem and self worth as an emcee. I've been open about my insecurities as a rapper, as a businessman, my space in Hip-Hop culture period. Mr. Wordsworth doesn't know how much those words meant to me. We exhange contact info, he autograph's "Champion Sounds" for me (I got it damn near a month before it comes out, and that bih slap), I give him a USB of "The Black Experience." Of course I inquire about us working in the future, and we'll just see how that turns out.
I'll end it there.Thank you to Charlottesville, the good people at Rugged Arts, and the 9 Pillars Hip-Hop Festival for having me. Here's a few pics from the day...
Venue: 5/5. Outside stage under a dope ass tent. 0 complaints.
Crowd: 5/5. Once Illadope & I got cookin', it was super lit.
Sound: 5/5. Crisp af.
Merch: 10/5. Top 3 merch sales days of all time for. I made alot of money. Thank you for shopping C'Ville.
Next Show: 5/11/19 in Atlanta, Georgia.