MIKE, Andre Altrez, VertexPro, and Osagie round-out an Everybody Hits' hip-hop spectacular
By Peter Ferris
I was in the middle of complaining about a typo published in a magazine article when the room got dark. Through the artificial yellow haze of the flimsy Christmas lights hovering eight feet off the ground, I could make out a shadowy figure fixated on the glow of their computer screen. I saw this guy floating around earlier, fiddling with the EQ and the microphones, and assumed he was nothing more than the event organizer. The shrieks and squeals of compressed synthesizers blowing off the scraps of Chinese food left on my table, leaving no room for casual conversation nor any musical indication to dance, told me otherwise. There was no way I was getting up.
The person behind the decks goes by the name of VertexPro. His musical background is just as elusive as his stage presence. Having just one tape to his name and virtually no social media presence (besides a mostly-bare Facebook page), I had no idea what to expect from his set. His Bandcamp tags indicated that his music was techno, trap, house, and power electronics, which means absolutely nothing at all when thrown together. “This is supposed to be a rap show,” I thought. My girlfriend looked just as confused. A few abstract drones soon morphed into a semblance of a beat, pounding through the small room with urgency, but without tenacity. I moved closer, hoping I might be able to save his set from being so hollow and disconnected by encouraging a great migration from the tables to the swath of empty space meant for the audience. It didn’t work.
As I stood six inches away from the speakers, alone, I wondered if I was too tired for this. I know too well at this point how draining noisy music can be, especially music like VertexPro’s; the kind that’s meant more for the background of poorly-edited vintage footage compilations than a live performance in a batting cage. While thinking this, I heard him announce there was one more song in his set, and I was struck by the fact that there had been more than one song performed. I made a silly face to my girlfriend, who was still sitting with everyone else at the benches, thinking it might bring some charm to the room and maybe convince her to join me. This, too, did not work.
Perhaps VertexPro’s set would have benefitted more from a visual component, or better yet, more coherent song structures. At the very least, a greater emphasis on the atmosphere of the performance would’ve made it more penetrable, more concrete, and a hell of a lot easier to write about.
During Osagie’s in-between DJ set, my girlfriend and I both felt worn out and unsure of where the show was going. All I knew was there was supposed to be a dope headliner. I was willing to stick it out, but wasn’t sure how much more noise I could handle. Luckily, the night was quickly saved by a young MC by the name of Andre Altrez. I heard lots of buzz surrounding his music on Facebook and Bandcamp months prior to this evening, and enjoyed his banger-filled tape, No Come Down. Again, however, the recordings couldn’t necessarily indicate how the music would translate to the stage.
But the man was ready to engage the crowd, running in circles as far outside the stage as the mic cable would allow, injecting fiery intent into the lines that were nonconfrontationally delivered on his recordings. Most of his songs are tight and short, perhaps influenced by contemporary trends in cloud rap and trap, but certainly showcasing greater lyrical dexterity than many of his peers (a brief a cappella freestyle midway through his set solidified my observations further). All the while, he told tales of his grind in Philadelphia, his old roommates, and his dedication to his craft. It’s hard to call someone who’s performing in front of twenty people as if they were having the best night ever disingenuous.
Andre’s down-to-earth demeanor and engaging stage presence clearly left a strong mark on the evening, changing the course of the show significantly (even if it was also getting delayed by an hour). Following his set, DJ Delish spun a mixture of heavy techno and modern trap hits, hyping the crowd up for the show’s headliner, MIKE. He’s an up-and-coming New York MC from the sLUms crew who’s received in-depth coverage from the likes of Pitchfork, Noisey, and Bandcamp, and is known for honest rhymes and lo-fi production. I, however, did not know that he was tall. Very tall, in fact. It became almost impossible to discern what was going on musically, or whatever he was even saying, but it was equally impossible to ignore his imposing figure, his razor-sharp voice, his quick lyrical attacks. MIKE also struck me as an inclusive, thoughtful person, a guy anyone could get down with. He gave a shoutout to his sister in the audience, set aside stage time for fellow crew member, sixpress, and gave out free records to some attendees. Though I was freezing cold and had sore feet, I didn’t want to leave; MIKE’s gift for storytelling and kind behavior were notable takeaways despite the less-than-ideal conditions. This dude and Andre both deserve bigger stages, bigger crowds, bigger press. Honesty and resilience in the face of constant bullshit is rarely made this apparent, and appears this genuine, in the game today. Here’s to these two paving their own ways.
Pictures of MIKE, Osagie, and Andre Altrez (in order of apperence) by Peter Ferris