This coming Saturday, the 7th of April, is the day before Easter. To those that hold the Christian faith close to their hearts, Easter marks the day that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven. Fittingly the 7th will be the day one of the greatest hip-hop festivals in the country, Paid Dues, will come to San Bernardino, CA in an attempt to resurrect the spirits of a city hit hard by economic hardships even before the national nosedive.
However, to celebrate the impending madness that will take over next weekend underground hip-hop linchpin Murs and Guerilla Union threw a pre-party at the House of Blues on Sunset in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Loose-limbed in its execution, it truly did feel like a house party, albeit one at the legendary House of Blues.
The lineup consisted of Noa James (2011 Paid Dues alumni), 4TWO7, and Reverie, among others. It was clear from the level of intensity emanating from the stage that everyone came to show why he or she deserved to be on the Paid Dues stage in the past or in the future.
Noa James kicked things off with a furious, concise set with songs old and new. If you’re unaware of James, he’s almost single-handedly put the Inland Empire on the map as one of underground hip-hop’s best breeding grounds. James secured his way onto last year’s Paid Dues bill the same way as Curtiss King did: by petitioning and campaigning to eventually be voted on. It’s clear that James works just as hard onstage as he does to snag a spot in one of the largest hip-hop festivals.
One of the jaw-dropping surprises of the night came with Reverie. A petite young woman who looked like she might have fallen out of an early 90’s hip-hop music video, she owned every bit of the stage during her 25-minute set. Relying on straightforward but thundering beats, Reverie spit a flow that emphasized a syllable-gymnastic style, so much so that there were times I got lost. Believe me, that’s a compliment.
It was a lighthearted night with all of the artists consistently thanking the crowd for showing support and championing a workhouse ethic. Perhaps the moment that summed up the night came during the end of James’ set when he discussed how he wished his grandfather were there to see him take the stage at such a world-renowned venue. James stopped in the middle of his sentence, and in a moment of speechlessness, threw a huge, childlike smile to the crowd
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