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Thursday, January 28, 2010

808 Experiment: Vol. 2 release party puts the A on blast

click to enlarge ALL A'S: The crowd was on that crunk juice Friday night at the Star Bar.
  • ALL A'S: The crowd was on that crunk juice Friday night at the Star Bar.

UPDATE: SMKA, Fadia Kader and Esperanza hope to recreate the magic of last week's release party at SXSW this year by throwing a free Atlanta showcase involving many of the same artists who performed at the Star Bar on Jan. 22. They're currently seeking partnerships with Atlanta businesses, brands and/or personalities interested in collaborating to pull it off a show that's not intended for them to make profit but to put the spotlight on the local scene. There will be two shows here in Atlanta, March 5 and 12, to raise funds for the SXSW show scheduled to take place Thurs, Mar. 18 at the Light Bar in downtown Austin, Tex. Email smkaproductions@gmail.com for more info.

Hate to sound like a hype man, especially since CL was "co-hosting" SMKA's mixtape compilation release, but even I was surprised when I got to The 808 Experiment: Vol. 2 release party last Friday night after the start time to see a line snaking outside the Star Bar onto Moreland Ave. Inside, the place was vibrating with the kind of energy I haven't felt at a local scene hip-hop show since...dare I say, ever. If you missed the show, you missed an insane amount of underground Atlanta all-stars under one roof. A cat like Tom P could have easily packed out the place by himself with the rabid Decatur fanbase he's built. The same could be said for Yelawolf, Hollyweerd, Rahbi, Gripplyaz and a host of others who were on the bill that night. But the success of that show proved there's strength in numbers.

The best performance of the night came from ALeon Craft, who gave the crowd a snippet of "Botanicals," his song on Vol. 2, while firing up a skinny blunt onstage. Before the song was halfway through, he had DJ Sol Messiah cut the track and asked the crowd if they wanted to hear some new shit. The track Messiah proceeded to play was such a dookie funked-out groove that it felt like we were entering an alternate dimension with ALeon as some extraterrestrial Clintonian (George, not Bill) tour guide.

click to enlarge MASH OUT POSSE: ALeon Craft (right) puts it down with his first live performance of "Donkey Kong" as 808 Blake soaks it up.
  • MASH OUT POSSE: ALeon Craft (right) puts it down with his first live performance of "Donkey Kong" as 808 Blake soaks it up.

The hook featured a backdrop of heavenly voices cooing in harmony while ALeon transformed the slo-mo flow he'd been using on the verses into something more androidish. It was too loud to detect most of the lyrics, but from what I could make out the title was self-explanatory — a salacious shot-out to women with that "Donkey Kong."

The beat housed this haunting, sensual three-dimensionality that made the Star Bar seem cave-like for the moment, as if overhead stalactites were dripping with delectable sexual energy. Then again, maybe it was ALeon's contact smoke. I was standing pretty close to the stage. By the time the song ended, Hollyweerd, Grip, Sean Falyon and some white dude who looked like Kevin Federline had all jumped onstage, too, doing a Donkey Kong-like dance. (There's a video of the performance but the bad audio doesn't begin to do it justice. ALeon says the song will be included on an upcoming mixtape due to be released in March, and he also has an SMKA project titled Solar Hop due out this spring.)

And that was just a two-song set, but the whole night's bill was pretty much crazy like that. I arrived too late for Hollyweerd's performance of "So What" and Rahbi's performance with Slimm Duddy on "Ooo Wee" — both standout songs on the disc — but people were still talking about both by the time I got there. Yelawolf threw in an acapella performance of "Pop the Trunk" after performing his SMKA song "Deer Mama." Alexandrea Lushington gave a fiery, R&B vocal performance of "Think You're In Love." Fish Scales and Skinny DeVille performed a piece of their ’02 Nappy Roots classic "Awnaw" before hitting us with the mixtape closer "P.O.N." And Pill, also featured on the mixtape, took the stage as a surprise guest to do "Trap Goin' Ham" and his song off the compilation, "Aine Givin Up." And I can't forget Gripplyaz who had the whole club mouthing the hook ("You jockin' on dat bitch ass?") to "Jockin'."

The crowd was so one-nation-under-a-groove — racially and vibe-wise — that a baby mosh pit formed in front of one section of the stage while dudes were slow-grinding with their girls in the same vicinity. A little unnecessary tension almost popped off at one point when the two extremes collided, but it was quickly squashed by other people in the crowd who weren't having that ish. It was as if everybody felt invested in the project and the scene for Atlanta's sake.

Señor Kaos summed it best when I talked to him earlier that night. Though he wasn't on the bill since the song he makes a killer appearance on, "Light Your Fire," features two out-of-towners who couldn't make it to Atlanta, he showed up anyway to support. When I shared my surprise that the place was so packed, he had a simple answer that put the night, and the scene's continuing emergence, in perspective: "That's what happens," he said, "when cats come together."

Barely a week after the party and SMKA Productions has already planned the after party. According to SMKA business manager Mike Walbert, they hope to recreate the scene at this year's SXSW Fest in Austin, Tex., since the majority of the acts that performed already intend to be there. He says they've already booked a venue.

See CL's photo gallery.

For more recap, including photo reels and video from the Smoking Section of the party at the Star Bar and the listening session at Wish, check thesmkaexperience.com.

Download The 808 Experiment: Vol. 2.

(Photos by Dustin Chambers)

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