DRIP DROPS of HIP-HOP from CHATTANOOGA
By Julian Cuebas
Julian is a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who is interning with Tha Milk Drop this semester. Here's his next installment!
Editor's note: This is the first installment of a two part series. Julian covered two events in two nights and is doing blog write ups of each one. This one is from C-Grimey's open Mic at Ziggy's Music Box.
“New clothes, found my sunglasses, and I’m wearing the same worn pair of mid-top Converse… The ones my girlfriend got me for my birthday. Yeah, the ones that are faded and look acid washed. Yeah, I know. I know Chrissy. I’ll tell Laura you said hello.” I hung up the phone and stared at my ceiling. I managed to nap until two hours before the show. I think it was a food coma, but I can’t be sure. Stress has cluttered my mind and it’s not as easy to see clearly when my path is so foggy.
I stretch my arms and back. Slide the comforter off me and press my feet against the cold of the floor. After making my bed I change into the clothes I bought from a clearance rack at the mall hours before. A tan long-sleeve t-shirt that left much of my neck and collarbone exposed. It’s loose fitting and eases the tension in my shoulders. The blue acid-wash trim of the shirt will look great with my Converse.
Out of my apartment, my head rattles. I probably could’ve slept through the night. Deep sleep doesn’t come often anymore. This is my last semester and the workload keeps me up. I meet up with Chrissy outside of her apartment, she’s carrying her camera.
“Yass! Concert photos.” I said loudly.
“You know it,” she said. “I have the settings on my camera and it’s ready to go.”
We waited a few minutes for a Lyft and headed to Ziggy’s Music Box. On the way I stared blankly through the window, I pondered on my nerves hoping the contemplation would be clarity. Enveloped by the rabbit hole, the Lyft driver pulls me back to coherence. “Here you guys are,” he said. I shook off my head space, thanked him, and walked inside.
We were Ied and greeted by the bouncer. The air was thick. Heavy with cigarette smoke and the smell of beer. My eyes traced the room seeing a covered pool table and stone walls covered densely with stickers of performers from nights and years past. I look around and set eyes on the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, C-Grimey. It’d been too long since I had seen him last. His beard had grown, his hair long and twisted, with a bandana wrapped around his head, and a vibrant shirt labeled “TRIPSTER” in liquid letters.
“What’s up man?” Grimey said extending an arm. We shook up, then I responded.
“Ready to play some music tonight man.” He smiled.
“We’re still waiting on some people to show up but we will start in about fifteen.”
I nodded to him and smiled. He caught sight of another artist, nodded at me, and went their direction. Chrissy and I had a seat as we watched a band named CBD jam out on stage. They were a four piece: keys, congas, bass, and drums. Their rhythm and improvised sessions over the DJs tracks were synced in a way that expressed prowess and passion.
The music was loud and I found it difficult to talk. More moments passed and I saw artists start to trickle in: A young man with blonde-tipped dreads, tied in a top knot. Another performer with hair flowing down past his shoulders. Wearing all black, with the logo “SC” on his shirt. He passed by me and I read “Stack Chasers” around the circle.
My feet shifted awkwardly and before I started to worry about who I knew, Reas and Artikulit of YKC Nation came through the door. I grinned and stumbled from my chair. We walked up to each other, greeted each other like it had been years since we’d linked up (it had only been a couple months), then we found our places in the bar. It’s always difficult to have a dialogue at a concert or an open mic. I find myself quieter than usual at them, talking over a speaker is a losing battle.
The rapper with blonde-tipped dreads, named King Delane, was up first. I wasn’t familiar with him in the scene but his first words on stage were: “I’m about to take you higher and higher.” In a tone that offered electric energy to match. His raspy hook resonated with me, “I’ma take you higher and higher… I can take you higher and higher.” The vibrations from the 808s and his cutting flows solidified his performance. By the end of the set I couldn’t get the hook out of my head.
After Delane, C-Grimey welcomed Stack Chaser Tre to grace the stage. For the next two songs I was immersed in bar after bar. Tres flows are very dexterous and he does not have a hard time spitting them at all. The energy he saved knowing every lyric routed to his stage presence, particularly his transitions were incredible. Each one gave exponential energy to the changing phases of his music. I screamed loudly after his performance. Man, I had no idea I shared a scene with these guys. I smiled and continued to clap.
My friends from YKC were up next. Reas hopped up on stage in an over-shirt with a black T-shirt underneath. There was a different feel to his stage presence tonight. Once Artikulit stepped up I felt a similar energy. They started with a classic YKC song to get the crowd waving and I was taken away. The energy and vibrations of the two have congealed over the year that I have known them. The no-holds barred lyrics delivered by Reas paired effortlessly with Artikulit’s laissez-faire lifestyle flows. They played a new track from their mixtape “EASTSIDE” called “Drippy”. It had a memorable hook that went something like, “Stop that talkin’ you ain’t poppin’ boy you not that good.” I’ve heard the hook on wax but never brought to life, I thought about the lyrics and just how solid of a song structure the piece had.
“Now coming to the stage,” Grimey said in a raspy voice. “A good friend of mine, we went all the way to Texas for South by South West Together, and have been at a lot of shows and events the last year. Everyone welcome, Kid Cuebas to the stage.” He passed me the mic and shook up with me, I smiled and asked the DJ to spin the track. I zoned through They Can’t. Warming up, finding how I felt this evening, dancing during the choruses, and focusing on the difficult points of each verse. At the end of the first song the crowd gave some shouts of thrill: I thanked them and moved to the next song, Loner.
“Loner is a song about, well, being alone. And how it’s not the worst thing to be alone. There are a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable being alone and I am someone who has mixed feelings about it.”
The synth riser started and gave way to a hazy jazz kit with a synth line whizzing above it. My lyrics and groove resonated with the audience and I could feel them swaying with me. When I started to ask “What’s the Point? I could feel the audience ask me the same question. When I answered, “Points is these joints is anointin’ a passion…” The audience jeered with me validating that the songs I create resonate with them. That moment everything skewed and I was lost in the moment with the room and the people within.
After the performance Artikulit said, “Bro, that song sounds killer live. I haven’t gotten to hear it yet.” I smiled. “Thanks man, those kicks just hit on systems like this.” Shortly after, Reas came up to me and said, “Bro, I get it.” I laughed and said “What do you mean?”
“Your songs man, I get it. You have achieved Sad Boy God status.” I laughed again. He knows I am the kid that wears all black, listens to XXXTentacion, and probably writes ‘woe is me’ on a paper several times a week. “Thanks man. I love those songs.”
“Well man, that’s all the artists.” Reas said. “What’s the move tonight?”
“Man the move is I’m going home and passing out.” He laughed. “That sounds like a plan man.”
Tha Milk Drop is a site focused on highlighting the hip-hop culture in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but also taps into hip-hop worldwide. Each week we drop exclusive and new content from artists. Also catch the profiles and interviews of hip-hop artists and creatives.
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