Apollo Music Café’s The New Class concert featured Likwuid along with fresh young underground talent served up in a classy speak-easy setting. It has a VIP environment with a black backdrop, similar to a small black box theatre. Some of my favorite performers for the night were: Cuzimdope, which were the skate boarding-attired duo that reminded me of the backpacker crowd that would pepper the audience back in the day when Likwuid and I would perform at the Bowery Poetry Club. One of the performers from the group donned an afro and looked like a young MJ. They performed three fun and highly energetic new cuts, “The Cable,” “We Get High,” and “Cold Cut Gyoza.” On stage they look like two kids on the playroom floor beating sticks on pots and pans, creating music for the first time. Their music harkened back to simplicity of the bass, kick and snare of early hip hop. The Cranberry Show was another duo that brought out the carefree youngster in all of us, having us bounce around the floor during their Indian influenced “Slumdog Millionaire Bollywood Flow.” This stream of consciousness came from Milwaukee from all places, where apparently black men sound like white boys when they talk. A real mind opener it was. That’s the not the only taste of internationality we got that night, Rich P was a lone rapper who was very nicely dressed in Denim from Paris. It was radio ready music that would fit right in with the harder production of say, someone like Rick Ross’ music. I liked it because it was current. The true throwback of the night was Justine Sky. Her lithe 17 year old frame was clothed a basketball player embossed t-shirt and yellow biker shorts with tall socks and sneakers. Her pressed and curled hair swung about as she goofily introduced herself. But when the music came on, she reminded me of Brandy, music that I grew up on. I was immediately proud. She had that naivety about her that made you want to protect her but the potential that made you want to sell her out to the highest bidder because you know you’d make a killing off of this double threat. (She wasn’t much of a dancer, but who is these days?) I don’t remember ever feeling as vivrant as her though; blending the perfect mix of innocence and sexuality may be something reserved for younger souls, but I’ve got an old one. She explodes with attitude when singing and her voice is solid enough. She takes it as serious as a heart attack but when the music is off she’s back to being a teen girl, reminding us to keep at least a bit of ourselves young forever.
The part of the night I was most excited for because it was why I had come was Likwuid commanding the stage. With her androgynous swag and trademark afro I screamed until my voice cracked for fellow South Carolinian. The first song she performed, “Queendom Anthem,” spoke of the struggle for women to regain their original power. It was fitting, because Likwuid strikes me as a feminist even while having a boyish flavor. Her conscious flow is sick, the beat was hard, and her lyrics are spiritual…and relatable. On the second song she performed with more heart than I had ever seen, and why wouldn’t she… “Give the Drummer Some” was her sliver of the story of her journey to being committed to being a music artist. As she stood up on the shakey table with one leg, I could imagine the house manager cringing, but all I could do was smile inside and squint my eyes in disbelief. My mouth was agape. I was proud more than anything else, because Likwuid has been in this game for a while, and I’ve seen from the outside looking in her many hustles to be free of the chains of the “man.” It worked. She now flourishes as a DJ and lyricist in New York City, one of the toughest cities to make it in.
There was one more group that started out with a doo-wop acapella type of vibe. As soon as I heard it I liked it. It’s worth mentioning because of it’s Sweet Home Alabama/rock n roll tinge along with a healthy heaping spoonful of hip hop. As a bonus, the girl on the guitar looked like me and I wanted to kiss her– I’m in love with myself like that.
As the cherry on top, Amanda Seale was the hilarious host for the concert, or should I say “class.” She spoke of preserving hip hop and talking about it intellectually in order to raise it to the level of Jazz, where it could be studied in Universities and such. It truly is a national treasure that we should take more seriously as a possible catalyst for change rather than just a way to make money and an excuse to make a fool of ourselves. But we should still have fun. Yes, I think Amanda Seale is right about that PSA she made that night. I’ve got my pen and pad ready to take notes. I hope I see someone from the New Class there. They’re sure to bring a new level of understanding to hip hop to the world once they graduate.