Nightworks Ep 4
By Alex P80Parks
Recent discussion around Boston area hip hop has focused around defining what a scene is in New England. By definition, a scene can be a place of an occurrence or action and a sphere of activity. While not necessarily derogatory, these definitions are void of the ideas and creativity present in the regional music, with both omitting the human element that is an integral part. To credit legendary producer Dibia$e for more appropriately defining it, community is probably a better word to describe the current New England hip hop climate. This community just happens to be bubbling on a hot stove, overflowing with talent.
Nightworks, a series of performances on Newbury St in Boston has attracted the likes of local DJ’s, producers and beatmakers, providing them a platform to display their art. But it’s also become a showcase of some serious talent from elsewhere. The last episode of Nightworks back in March featured the aforementioned Dibia$e, helping create a night for hip hop history and one for Boston. On this night, House Shoes was set to headline a cast of locals who continue to contribute to the blossoming hip hop and beat community.
Part art gallery, part intimate concert venue, the space on the 3rd floor at 338 Newbury St. evokes a feeling of creativity. All in attendance are immersed in a full sensory experience. The hypnotic visuals projected on the wall are complimentary to the beats, causing incessant head-nodding. One can easily zone out with the psychedelic vibe in the spot. A cypher can pop up at any moment with cats jumping in to spit off-top rhymes to the beats. These artists and performers want to share their creations and engage with one another to elevate their art and improve their skills.
The conductor for Nightworks is Rah Zen. He puts on a great show with passion, overseeing all the technical and logistical aspects with ease. He troubleshoots issues with pride and efficiency. Going back to the early days of rockin in the park, DJ’s have had to deal with a myriad of technical issues. Rah Zen handles these with grace. The Master of Ceremonies and the host for the night, Kadeem, is magnanimous and engaging. Kadeem is a true party-rocking emcee who is always enthusiastic and energetic, smiling and keeping the crowd entertained the whole night. Kadeem is one of those old souls who is extremely comfortable behind the mic, maintaining the energy for all. Introspektah provided the sounds between sets and did a good job of keeping our heads nodding throughout the night. Samo provided the visuals to complete the experience.
Grubby Pawz, erupted first with some hard, heavy-hitting beats. You can tell he is a perfectionist, crafting a sound that has become familiar in his work. He’s one of the producers that create a feeling of delicately balanced tension, regardless of his choice of samples. There is always a slightly ominous mood to his beats, without feeling too dark. He doesn’t overproduce his tracks either, though his beats are well-polished and mixed perfectly. As a highly respected and appreciated producer, he’s recorded countless tracks and released several high quality albums with some of Boston’s most talented emcees. Grubby Pawz received significant critical acclaim from last year’s release with Haze, After The Glory. Pawz and Haze have recorded multiple albums together and make quite a dynamic duo. The same can also be said with Pawz and SPNDA, releasing their newest album only 2 weeks ago, Holographic, following up from last year’s Steel Sharpens Steel. Grubby Pawz also contributed to multiple tracks off the La Tripleta EP from Estee Nack, Haze and Paranom which released only 3 weeks ago. He was absolutely a genuine and chill guy. He chopped it up here and there with fans and his peers but generally preferred to observe and soak it all in.
Had never heard of dude before this show, but he left an impression on the crowd. An affiliate of Street Corner Music, he had a unique variety of sounds creating his own atmospheric vibe. House Shoes himself has described Wowflower as “Blissful downtempo escapism.” He even had some of his custom made visual artwork on display for the show. His debut LP Balloons was released last July on Street Corner Music.
Manip came in with some really dope tracks full of energy and some hard deep bass grooves to rattle your chest. He flexed some sick scratching and brought an edginess and incorporated some futuristic sounds like those off his newest album from Feb 2018, The Synth Tapes. He was warming the crowd up nicely for House Shoes, increasing he energy level. He was a very humble guy who appreciated the support from all the fans. He provided support to all the artists once his own set was done, kicking back and watching the epic night unfold. Manipulator is another great warrior in the Boston army of hip hop talent. Community is a great word to use, though another term that could be used to describe the movement and collective of individuals in the region is ‘family.’ All these hip hop artists work together and help one another like a family. Fitting that on this night the family has an uncle stop by for a special visit and an epic set.
Everybody’s got that crazy Uncle
This crazy uncle just happens to be an insane DJ and producer. A peer and dear friend of the late icon J Dilla, House Shoes has become a legend in his own right. Although he makes LA his home now, Shoes represents his hometown of Detroit and has admirably maintained Dilla’s legacy. House Shoes is very respectful and protective of his Dilla material, in a way that holds the music as sacred and not to be exploited. He could’ve cashed in and sold some of the material he has from Dilla years ago but he’s a stand-up guy and was a personal friend of Dilla himself. That shit just wouldn’t be right. Shoes has also created his own imprint and doesn’t rely on Dilla’s legacy to cement his status in hip hop. He has crafted beats for years, recorded several albums and has worked with hip hop artists from around the world. In LA he founded the successful record label Street Corner Music, which is home to several high-caliber musicians and beatmakers, specializing in vinyl.
House Shoes is first and foremost, from the era where DJs and beatmakers had to be able to rock the party. Shoes doesn’t disappoint when it comes to a live performance. In front of a crowd, his magic comes from his ability to sequence and play only the finest beat and song selections. He’s got that DJ’s 6th sense of knowing his audience and satisfying even the most discerning of hip hop connoisseurs. He flipped samples in ways that come from a lifetime of being immersed in sound. Shoes balances tracks from across genres and blends seamlessly to create some unique vibes from a variety of material. Shoes’ versatility in his sourcing/sampling is another hallmark of a true party- rockin DJ. He has his laptop to play some of his own beats and tracks he has, but most importantly he spins vinyl with precision and accuracy. Yeah, of course lots of DJ’s can play records and can even blend well. But to do it perfectly and without a hiccup, murmur, or detraction from the continued vibe, now that’s a legendary DJ.
In a Shoes show, there are bound to be Dilla gems, hits and some rarities. He played vintage Jay Dee from Slum village to solo stuff to the Jaylib material. But it’s Shoes’ treasure chest of unreleased material that is well known as a mysterious vault that hip hop fans would savor over hearing. He asks that you put your phones away when those come on. Later in the night he sprinkles in a few more never heard before joints. Uncle Shoes is carrying on the tradition of hip hop but he’s also an ambassador to the new generation and the new wave of DJ’s producers and emcees. His collaborations, productions and co-signs mean you’ve made it. You’re in. Unca Shoes is feelin it?? Hip hop accepts you. His good nature and easy going attitude in a show make him easy to work with.
Hang Glidin with Divino
The surprise of the night came from the homie Al Divino swooping in through the window to perform. With Shoes on the ones and twos for Divino, this was some shit to see. A legend rocking with one of the best of this generation. The excitement and energy of organic collaborations like these are really what hip hop is all about. Shoes provided some support behind the tables for Divino to rock the mic accordingly. He ran thru a few joints with some serious energy. The crowd was feeling the show. With Divino on the mic, you know Estee Nack had to come thru and help his brother out on a couple tracks. Their chemistry is undeniable. They play off one another and they set each other up like beach volleyball, spiking the track with the next verse.
Seeing Uncle Shoes rock the 1’s and 2’s for Divino and also play some mind- blowing shit are a testament to his technical skill, ear and versatility. Shoes played for about 3 hours following the Divino and Nack surprise collabo and would’ve played longer if not for venue limitations and city ordinances. The crowd wouldn’t have minded regardless. Even as some fans left and drifted off into the night, Shoes kept playing. He knew that the last die-hard hip hop heads of the night were there for a treat, so he made those perfect choices, providing one seemingly endless night of hip hop.
On this night, strong local support came from some real heavy hitters yet again. DJ Deadeye, a stalwart in New England area hip hop was showing love. Having worked with elite talent, he has a tremendous ear for quality hip hop and shows respect to those that continue to add on for the culture. Like House Shoes, Deadeye is a true performance DJ. He makes beats and produces but he’s also a touring DJ who performs before monster crowds all over the world. Even when pretty much everybody else is gone, Deadeye is there showing support, vibing out to the perfectly selected beats.
The homies Vinyl Villain and Jon glass came thru checking out the vinyl and tape section sale, possibly looking for the next hidden gem to flip into a beat. Villain and Glass have truly become beatmaking pillars, foundations of this generation of the New England hip hop family. Chronic Tone came thru showing love, introducing himself and supporting all of the acts on the nights bill. It was dope to meet Tone. As an ill emcee, Tone most recently released two bangers, one with Divino and one with Nack. He’s a true pro and an important part of the community. The homie P-nom was also there showing his support. Dude might be the nicest, most chill, easy to talk to cat. P-Nom was just doing his thing, maintaining and enjoying the show. The big homie, Boston’s legendary Dart Adams was in the house showing love too. If Dart is showing support for a hip hop show or artist, it’s gonna be legit. He was the source for Celtics score updates during the show. Certainly an honor and pleasure to meet and build with the man.
There is no hip hop scene in Boston. That much is true. It’s far greater than that in actuality. It’s a community that has embraced hip hop culture immensely. The talent of the individuals is unmatched, yet it’s the collective that have created this organic family where the talent exponentially increases. Together these cats have generated a community where music and art and ideas are flourishing. This new art movement occurring in the region has infectiously inspired each single entity to grow and continue elevating their crafts.
This is one chapter..
The saga continues…