We all know what an open mic is. Basically, there’s a mic on stage and anybody- and i mean anybody– can go up and talk into that mic. As a bonus, it may come with audience. Well, I’ve seen (and performed) at a comedy open mics but this was my first time checking out a hip hop open mic. It’s happening every Tuesday at Spider Ballroom starting at 11pm after the Austin Poetry Slam (which I heard was a great event so go check it out). I was quite excited since I heard so much about it. I was even eager to discover some unknown talent.
The first kid up was not older than 16 or at least looked like it. He was delivering some impressive rhymes acapella, full of poetry and imagery. It actually sounded like spoken word. He was even acting it out as he painted a picture of him going to the hospital using an extensive medical lingo about how his words are so “sick”. I was quite impressed with the kid and was getting more excited since he set the bar so high.
Then came these 2 dudes, tall white dude and short black guy. DJ drops a beat and it’s one of those dark beats: all bass, low production value, probably put together by banging on the kitchen table. And if that wasn’t enough, these 2 started screaming into their mics. It took me a minute to figure out that the chorus of their song went as follows: “My big old dick is sooo BIG” screams the white one as he jumps up and down across the stage. Then his black friend would back it up by yelling “Your dick! Your dick!” I was floored; as in I couldn’t help but laugh. They were really into it but anything they said between those lines went over my head (and not just mine) because it simply didn’t matter. Actually some crowd members were into it too and started hopping to it. I was in for an interesting night I thought and that it was.
The next rapper to bless the stage was this big dude wearing one of thise ironic shirts. He had a pony tail and shades on. You know the type of shades that people wear to ski? Yes, those! And here comes the dark beat again. He rambled for a few seconds and just said “I shit on you!” And I thought “ok, there’s a punchline”. But then I realized that was the chorus/song name. And he didn’t sing those words. He said it the creepiest way: almost whispering, like he was really about to pull his pants down and drop a deuce off the stage into the crowd. Like the last ones were, he looked quite serious about his craft. Good for him but a song named “I shit on you” is not going to work for me. The sad part is, if 2Chainz had a song called “I Shit On You“, it would be a hit.
The next group was actually a breath of fresh air. Three young latinos on some boombap beat and with serious things to talk about other than the size of their penis and shitting on people. They talked about the hardships of poverty. The best part is that they had a family member in the crowd rapping along with them; an uncle or something. They even each had different personalities. One of them seemed to be the most animated and vocal as he kept rapping over his friends’ verses. You have to let each member shine when you’re in a group. Hopefully, they’ll learn this with time.
Now, I want you to picture the whitest guy you know. Tall. Fit. Cracks jokes all the time. Kinda corny at times. Definitely alpha-male. Easy going but can be a real douchebag sometimes. Got it? Ok. Now add a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a t-shirt with a mic on it that reads “Come And Take It“. Now give him a mic and let him go off about nothing, anything and everything at the same time. That dude was on stage that night. He had even brought his co-workers to cheer him on. I couldn’t even comprehend what he was talking about. He’d stop in the middle of a sentence and walk around the stage shaking his head as if he was really disappointed with his performance. I don’t know if his friends enjoyed or not but they probably tried to cheer him up when he came down from the stage with his head down.
Now who’s up? There was this one kid who looked like a Kevin (typical high school jock name) that was walking around with his hot girlfriend in booty shorts. Well, Kevin was also a rapper and went up there and did his thing. Hat was turned backwards. Beat was dark. Girlfriend hit the record button on her phone. Mic was so close to his mouth he was almost cheating on her with it. I couldn’t quite keep up with his lyrics so I can’t tell you much about them.
Next up were these two hipster-looking dudes with the skinniest jeans I’ve ever seen. Dressed in all black. Weird haircut. And no socks. They were in front of the stage the whole time but I really didn’t expect them to get on it. And here goes another dark ass beat again. All I caught of their performance was that there was more dick bragging. Also you know when rappers are about to start to rhyme, they say things like “yo” or “huh” or “yeah” or “check it”. Well, one of them looked like he was about drop some deep stuff and prefaced it with the words “here we go“. Not once. But 4 times. Not in a I’m-a-serious-rapper-listen-to-what-I-have-to-say kind of way but more like a I’m-a-happy-Disney-character-
skipping-down-the-road kind of way. Once again, there was no way I could take these guys seriously after hearing that.
Then this young kid went up. Quite shy. Red hoodie on. He wasn’t mingling with the rappers beforehand. He grabbed the mic and said the word “OK“. I had him figured out right then and there. The way he pronounced those 2 universally known letters clicked in my head instantly. He was French. Next thing you know, he’s going off in French on the mic. I had to get closer because I was probably the only one who could understand his words in the whole building. I kept nodding my head. It felt quite refreshing to hear French rapping live. It was nowhere near what I grew up listening to but the fact that I got to hear that, it felt good (especially after “here we go“, “I shit on you” and “my big old dick is so big“). People in the crowd were just nodding to the Pharcyde’s Running beat he had chosen to lay his Frenchness upon. I did talk to that kid after the show and he told he was just here visiting his mother but had plans to move to Austin.
All in all, this hip hop open mic experience was quite amusing. I’ll probably check it out again and see if these guys improve or not. One thing I’ll just say about all of them is that they all really looked like they were enjoying themselves up there. The content of their words didn’t matter, they were having a ball. The crowd, as thin as it got towards the end, was very supportive. I guess that’s what it’s all about. I applaud them all for getting up there. But please, next time, don’t yell into the mic; it’s really not necessary.
Here’s the flyer below. Go check it out and support local artists!!