It's Saturday night at Classic's Barber Shop down on Grant Road. It's dark on the outside, but cars fill its parking area. Inside, hip-hop slams your ears and the bass resonates down to your bones.
Reyes "Angel" Renkert has been hosting rap battles and shows in his Barber Shop for a year now, and with the help of hip-hop artist Tony "Nova" Olmos, he's been able to gather performers from all over the city to perform. It's part of the festering Tucson underground hip-hop scene that one has to go out and find. Tonight, artists offer up a variety of songs that hit on rap subgenres, from trap to classic hip-hop.
Von and Edge open. The pair handily matches slow tempo trap beats with fast-paced raps. Then the 9 Boys pick up the pace, rapping back-to-back. The group's samples and beats are influenced by classic hip-hop from the '80s. Next, TXM. Their sound is more modern, straddling the trap and hip-hop line, and its beats refresh. Roman Rhymes closes out the show. The crowd, which had been scattered the entire night, crams into the performance area for the finale, and they feeds off of Rhymes' high energy.
Although the event was a party, they kept the lights in the room on while the artists performed. It created intimacy between the artist and the audience that you can't get in the dark with a few stage lights. The artists were able to see when the crowd was in the palm of their hands, and when they tuned out. At some points in the night, artists were performing and many cleared the room. Learning to keep a crowd invested in a performance take real skill, and is sometimes not easily learned. Whole night uplifted—Tucson rappers have another outlet to express themselves.
Editor's note: This post has been updated with the proper spelling of Roman Rhymes' name.