My favorite week of the year came and went again, and definitely did not disappoint. For a fourth straight year I left Austin with new friends, new t-shirts, new memories and a huge stack of new unsolicited demo CDs. And for the fourth straight year, I had an even more incredible experience than the previous year.
I got in earlier and left later this year, mostly due to a sweet deal on Southwest, but also partially because I had more responsibilities than ever. Rockwell Knuckles had 8 scheduled shows, plus a showcase with Killer Mike, the GOP Party, HoopxHang, and Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg and Nas. I actually had to turn down some pretty dope events with good people because my schedule was just too crazy. #goodproblems
First show was with Rocky at the Gypsy Lounge for Brooklyn Bodega & Couch Sessions’ Circus event. The bill had some super dope acts on it (Electric Wire Hustle, Pharoahe Monch, Nneka, BJ The Chicago Kid), but unfortunately like so many other SXSW shows, we had to bolt right after our performance (which was the first of the day, and delayed by an extra-long soundcheck by superstar crooner Miguel, who performed later in the on).
After heading to the convention center to pick up Rockwell’s artist wristband and free goodies, we hit up 6th street where I ran into Black Spade and a few other STLiens. Spade and I proceeded to the Lustre Pearl for the Life or Death PR/HipHopDX/Mshka/RAP Music showcase (major shouts to Ashley from Adult Swim/Williams St). After Action Bronson, Mr. Motherfxcking Exquire and a super wild band named Trash Talk did their respective things, Prodigy took the stage, rocking solo work, Mobb Deep classics, and featuring an appearance by Big Noyd.
^Prodigy of the infamous Mobb Deep
After Prodigy it was time for Killer Mike’s headlining set. Mike had just gotten a tooth pulled so he was in pain and having trouble even talking before the show, but once he took the stage he was as professional as ever and the crowd wouldn’t have known he was having any issues had he not explained that “my dentist told me not to perform, and I told him ‘Doctor Fxck You’”. We went through the normal array of throught-provoking bangers and Southern classics, with one surprise–halfway through the set he brought out El-P for “Butane” and “Big Beast” off their new collaborative album “Rebellious African People’s (R.A.P.) Music”. It was their first time onstage together, and it was an honor to be present for the moment.
^Killer Mike, El-P, and my neck
Post-show note: IHOP never tastes as good as after a 12 hour day of walking and performing.
Thursday started early, since DJ Lowkey and I were the house DJs for the 4th annual Smoking Section/Nahright/KnuckleRumbler GOP Party at Peckerheads. It turns out our services weren’t needed for most of the day, so we spent most of the time chopping it up with the many, many bloggers, rappers, DJs and fans that congregated out front on 6th street. Eventually I bounced to check out a gifting suite at the W Hotel. I didn’t get any free stuff but I did meet Mannie Fresh, who was very down to earth and friendly.
From there it was back to Peckerheads where Rocky was performing at the MTV2 Sucker Free/Closed Sessions Digital Freshness party. This show ended up being one of the highlights of the weekend, as it was a capacity crowd (including a good 30 or so STLiens) and new material off the upcoming Take Me To Your Leader was incredibly well-received. The energy was crazy, we had a ton of fun onstage, and it sure seemed like the crowd felt the same way.
^my view of the packed house at Digital Freshness
Plus, Rocky brought Tony Williams (from G.O.O.D. Music, sang hooks on “Spaceship”, “We Major” and many more for Kanye) out for their as-of-yet unreleased collaboration “Pouring Rain”–it’s always cool to be onstage with such an accomplished artist. Check out the recap of the event on
After some much-needed dinner, we headed to the Scottish Rite for the Geffen/Interscope showcase for Rocky’s 1:30am set. My dude Peter Rosenberg was hosting alongside Lowkey from UHeardThatNew.com, and although the room was still filling up and there was sound issues still being ironed out, Rocky did his thing, bringing Tony Williams out again. Industry folks like Green Lantern, Kevin Liles and DJ Drama were in the building, so it was definitely a good look.
^Rockwell and The World Famous Tony Williams at the Geffen showcase
Friday started with a quick set DJing for another KnuckleRumbler act, God-des and She. Unfortunately the venue did not have turntables, so I was basically pressing play on iTunes, but it was still a good time. From there I stopped at Deco Lounge to catch Dirty Glove Bastard’s party just in time to catch Indeed (the first group on DJ Burn One’s new label). They did their thing, with guitarist Ricky Fontaine up to his usual rockstar maneuvers.
^Ricky Fontaine doing his Ricky Fontaine thing
From Deco it was back to Peckerheads, where Rocky, Tef and I did our thing yet again during an event called Vaya Con Tacos, impressing a high-energy crowd mostly full of fans new to the Rockwell experience. It was a productive time, and Brother Ali–always a good show–was set to perform next, but of course we had to head directly out the door to Sean Falyon’s Red Cup Party down the street. Plenty of familiar names on the bill and familiar faces in the building, so Red Cup was a guaranteed good time–plus Falyon demanded Rocky perform “All Aboard”, which wasn’t on the setlist, so this particular show included surprises for everyone.
^Vaya Con Tacos
After hanging out for a bit and catching my breath, I headed to The Belmont for the Def Jam Live showcase where I would be spinning while Peter Rosenberg interviewed Nas live onstage.
^Salute Gotty for this dope pic
It was an incredible experience, the anticipation for Nas’ arrival was insane and there was some impressive performances from the opening acts. I was already a fan of Kid Daytona and had met Nemo Achida the previous night at the Geffen showcase, but Denzil Porter really impressed me–I’ll be on the lookout for more from him. Some artist from Cleveland performed last before the interview, and brought out Machine Gun Kelly. They performed a song about Rossi, and for some god-awful reason thought it was fun to cover the entire stage–INCLUDING THE TURNTABLES, CDJS, and $1200 MIXER–with the beverage. Fortunately my laptop wasn’t in harm’s way, otherwise there would have been a serious problem. Pricks.
^it still makes me mad just to look at the pics
Eventually word came that Nas was on his way, and I warmed up the crowd with some standards (T.R.O.Y., Triumph, the usual), then ten minutes of Nas classics before Peter brought Nas to the stage.
It was unbelievable being six feet from an artist I had spent countless hours listening to over the last 17 or so years, an absolute honor. I’m grateful that Peter and his brother Nick extended the opportunity–it’s not every day you get a chance to be onstage with an honest-to-goodness Hip Hop God, someone who would be on the Mount Rushmore of MCs. Nas was slow to warm up but once the interview got rolling, Nas really opened up and shared some great insight into his career.
^6 feet from frickin Nas
After the interview, Nas announced that AZ was in the building while I repeatedly played his new single “The Don” (on orders lol)…at one point he hinted that he wanted to rap, but the Def Jam higher-ups shut down that idea quite quickly.
^I’m on the right
After Nas left, Big K.R.I.T. and Wally Sparks absolutely tore the stage down. New tracks off the 4Eva and a Day mixtape hit just as hard as I expected live, and it was a great show. Asher Roth and DJ Wreckineyez had just taken the stage when I took off to meet some folks to catch a ride. I got caught up talking to Brother Ali outside the Duck Down showcase, and long story short I made a serious of poor decisions that resulted in my walking about 3 miles back to where I was staying, wearing my 30-lb DJ backpack. It was terrible, but the incredible night I’d just had at The Belmont eased my pain.
That long walk didn’t bode well for HoopxHang, which was the first stop on Saturday. My new team featured L.A. journalist Jeff Weiss and RT-Faq, an MC from The Force crew repping East St Louis, who I may or may not have gotten incredible scouting reports on and recruited sight unseen. Our first game was against Ro Blvd, Thurz and Skotch Davis, and it was a hard-fought game but RT-Faq proved himself as dynamic as his reputation and we took the victory. The second game was against Team Hardknock TV with Nick Huff, DJ Hyphen and Carl Chery from XXL. They had finished second in the tournament last year, and I knew going into the game that Huff and Hyphen were quite legit. It turned out Carl could play as well, and although we put up a good battle, they beat us and sent us to the consolation bracket. Read Carl’s HxH recap
here and the TSS recap here.
^RT-Faq, Jeff Weiss, myself. Next year’s HxH champs.
The third game was redeeming, as we won by a decent margin and I got hot, hitting a few three-pointers in a row (as a streaky shooter, a hot streak at HoopxHang is all I ever wanted, so I was happy). Hardknock TV ended up winning the title over Smoker’s Club, so we took solace in the fact that there’s no shame in losing to the champion.
From HoopxHang we rolled to SXMW2, the STL-centric showcase at The Eastern. Unfortunately since it began at 2pm and HoopxHang didn’t end until almost 5, I missed most of the performances, but it was great to see all my people in one place, and catch sets from Hawthorne Headhunters, Lyfestile, Family Affair, Kash and Gotta Be Karim among others before rocking with Tef Poe and Scotty (an MC out of ATL who I met through Burn One–real good music). It was amazing having so many STL folks together–I kept saying it was just like the poster shop in The Loop (our regular hangout spot in 2003-5 or so), minus a few key players. Who knows when we’ll have that much of the whole crew in one place again so it was great…
^this is but a quarter of the STL crew reppin hard in Austin
After another Jimmy Johns stop, we mobbed over to The Dope House, 2Dopeboyz dance party collaboration with The Well Versed. The party was very cool, and after greeting Shake and Meka we rolled back out to the final Rockwell performance, promising to return to the Dope House afterwards.
Rocky’s last show at Malaia was another smash, as folks came in off the street, and down from the upstairs room to check out our presentation. Incredible energy, and a lot of relief when it was done, since it was the very last of so many responsibilites over four days.
^Rocky’s official showcase at Malaia
^my view at Malaia
We headed back to The Dope House about 20 deep and celebrated the end of a great week. It’s about a week later and I’m starting to feel recovered but you already know I can’t wait for next year to roll around.
*Major shout to the dozens of STL folks who made our presence known everywhere we went in Austin. I think the solidarity was very impressive, and I hope we bring twice as many people next year. I think I speak for Rocky and Tef when I say we are VERY grateful for the support.
*Worth a read: David D, Beware and Chan-Lo post about
10 Things They Learned at SXSW.
*Oh yeah, I also met WWE wrestler Mark Henry backstage at the Nas event:
^I’m on the left
*Eating at SXSW (at least when you have as many responsibilities as I had that week) is about keeping things comfortable, so I ate Jimmy John’s and Extreme Pita about four times each lol. Food from the street vendors is often delicious but comes with it’s own unique risks, so I played it safe.
*Photo credits: John Gotty, Icy Mike, Hip Hop Mike, Lyfestile, Nice Kicks, sorry if I missed someone