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Shawn Harris and Full Release, Big Meridox, WHSK, Mr. Head's, Jan. 7

Live, Big Meridox is the "beast" he calls himself in rhyme, tense and confrontational as he roams the crowd and delivers lines with urgency and, at times, an edgy growl. Joined by DJ Bonus on turntables and a MacBook, Meridox performed 12 songs, produced by Gunky Knuckles.

Sweating and swaggering like a boxer, Meridox gives a physical performance, stalking around the crowd to get in people's faces. On a performance and video shoot for his new "Whiskey Breath" single, Meridox hopped onto tables to bring the crowd in closer around him, holding court as he un-spooled lines above their heads.

Meridox doesn't shy away from bravado in his lyrics, but his songs take any number of surprising turns. He spits references from the limitless well of a trivia ace—a cultural mash-up of subject matter that he stitches together on the fly.

Poetic but harsh, Big Ox raps smart, but not sensitive: "Too evil to go emo," he raps on "Brutus." Knowledge is his game, but the perspective tends to come from the Hobbes school of "nasty, brutish and short."

Open barely a year, Mr. Head's, the art bar adjacent to a glass-blowing studio/shop, has become perhaps Tucson's top spot for hip hop, with an ever-changing spray-painted mural covering one wall of the spacious patio.

The TAMMIES reigning hip-hop champion Shaun Harris and his band, Full Release, closed the show. The four-piece band—bass, drums, guitar and trombone—combined with DJ Bonus on a blend of soul, funk and spacey psychedelic rock. A fluid performer, Harris rhymes fast and furious when called for, and he can sing the hooks too.

Harris can write songs loaded with geek humor—one is about Ewoks—but he's best on the honest, personal stuff. Rapping about the shitty economy, his diabetes struggle and his little brother being sentenced to 25 years in prison, Harris is full of the same sort of honest desperation that brought hip hop into its own as an art form.

Opening was the duo WHSK, with heady, stream-of-consciousness rhymes, some offbeat flourishes—one backing track was made by beat-boxing into a didgeridoo—and a finish-each-others-sentences freestyle.

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