DJ Afterthought

About Last Night: Hip-Hop at Mr. Smalls by Alex Young

Choo Jackson

Choo Jackson

Energy was good inside a concert theatre, formerly an 18th century Catholic church, known to people in Pittsburgh, Pa. and the national music community as Mr. Smalls Funhouse.

Local artistry, as well as legend, on display at the venue moved Pittsburgh community members to support and attend a May 13 rap show.

The atmosphere became particularly festive when Taylor Gang's own, DJ Motor Mane, one of the hosts of the concert along with DJ Afterthought, played a knocking song by Carnage, "WDYW," featuring studs A$AP Ferg, Lil Uzi Vert, and Rich The Kid. Attendees started to dance in the middle section of the crowd and wallflowers and standstills throughout began to loosen up.

Soon after, Jimmy Wopo, a rapper native to the 'burgh streets, hit the stage energetically. Notably, he rattled off a catchy chant, "woponese, woponese, woponese," he said in his last song before leaving the stage.

Via rbfaresh Snapchat

Via rbfaresh Snapchat

A surprise party came from Chevy Woods, another Taylor Gang member. He stepped on stage, stunna shades in tact, and slid over top a beat, "I just made a play on ya bitch she in love with my watch, yeah, yeah, ooh."  The lyrics open Chevy's newest song, "Forever," which was released and performed Friday the 13th to celebrate the rapper's birthday.

Fans met thorough enthusiasm when local rock star, Foreverkool Records honcho, and signee to Mac Miller's Remember® music label, Choo Jackson began his set. Gold Miller High Life can in his right hand and microphone in his left hand, Choo split one of his jean pant legs down the seam, and his inner thigh showed on stage. Playing through his catalogue, he encouraged the crowd, "before this next song drops, I need everybody to say 'Hell Fucking Yeah, Nigga!'" Many complied and amidst the yelling, the rapper's new anthem, "Back From Texas," a song about getting head while driving and other important things, rained down. In between songs, Choo engaged with the crowd, "I just want to say happy birthday to RB (owner of Pittsburgh lifestyle clothier farESH Brand)." An audience member chimed in, "put titties in RB's face!" "Titties in RB's face," Choo shouted to everyone.

However, despite the merry-making, female attendees started roaring for the next performer in the lineup, "Hardo, Hardo, Hardo, Hardo," they screamed as Choo finished his last two songs. The girls essentially encored the biggest trap star in Pittsburgh onto the stage, and their hearts skipped a beat when he entered. Hardo and his DJ, Christo, also known as Bounceman, had heads nodding as the rapper narrated his Wilkinsburg, Pa. neighborhood experiences to his hometown comrades.

Hardo's new school, gangster sound appropriately warmed the crowd for the night's headliner, Cam'ron, leader of Dipset, proud representative of Harlem, N.Y., and Rico from the movie Paid In Full. The hip-hop legend performed popular jams like "Down and Out," "Hey Ma," and "Oh Boy." Killa Cam thanked the Pittsburgh crowd on numerous occasions for their era long support. He even let an excited, burly man "rock out" with him on stage.

From the fanfare, to the festivities, it was a pleasure to see youth and old heads intermingle and show appreciation for various styles and genuine forms of hip-hop. It is nice to experience and know the purest forms of popular culture can thrive in Pittsburgh.

 

Pittsburgh Influence Felt at SXSW by Alex Young

Photo by Brennan Peirson

Photo by Brennan Peirson

SXSW Music festival wrapped as the sun went down on March 20, 2016, however, coverage continues on to shed light on the Pittsburgh, Pa. area artists who left their mark in Austin, Texas.

From March 15-20, the live music capital of the world hosted many well-known artists like Rae Sremmurd, Kehlani, Drake, Aluna George, Vince Staples, Anderson.Paak, and more at house parties, day parties, branded events, and concert venues. Crowds flocked to showcases such as 40oz Bounce mansion party, House of Vans, or The FADER FORT Presented by Converse, then enjoyed the festival's atmosphere walking the streets with the very artists who performed.

PK Delay via Jasano Brooks

PK Delay via Jasano Brooks

Pittsburgh native photographer Jasano Brooks and Chambersburg, Pa. raised visual artist Brennan Peirson were on hand to document the eclectic experiences of South by Southwest. In their pictures, viewers see individuals whose musical and creative endeavors stem from the 412, as well as the flavors of the festival.

Truely AP, Drew, and KH of Mo'$crill Hotel, with Hardo via Jasano Brooks

Truely AP, Drew, and KH of Mo'$crill Hotel, with Hardo via Jasano Brooks

Jasano said in an email to ITR, "I expected to see tumble weeds and such," on his first trip to Texas, but instead he saw his hometown comrades all at a national stage. Members from rap collective The Company Only Joel Kellem and PK Delay had performances at Pittsburgh based music blog Daily Loud's private showcase, and Team Epic's lake-house function headlined by Norman Dean. Local streetwear clothier and event promoters Daily Bread sponsored acts Choo Jackson, Hardo, DJ Afterthought, and Christo for a show as well.

SXSW via Brennan Peirson

SXSW via Brennan Peirson

Brennan attended House of Vans at Mohawk, a multi-purpose venue, and caught another performance by rapper Hardo and DJ-producer Christo there also. The photographer's artist pass, courtesy of Atlanta rappers J.I.D and EarthGang, gave him access to major events, backstage, free food, and power outlets to charge his phone.

Specifically, Jasano, or "sano2fly" on Instagram, attended SXSW to capture the artists of Mo'$crill Hotel, KH and Truely AP, two more Pittsburgh ambassadors.

"You don't go to SXSW to see the big acts, you go to see the up and coming," said Brennan over the phone. 

iLL Chris via Jasano Brooks

iLL Chris via Jasano Brooks

People attend SXSW to support the artists on the brink of success and popularity. The creative atmosphere breeds socializing and collaboration. "Anyone that wasn't really big, I got so many of their business cards, CDs, phone numbers, and texts asking for photos," said Brennan. He discovered a Minnesota hip-hop artist called rajítheone. Beyond the music listening and culture, SXSW proves to be valuable for its networking experience. Jasano linked with a fashionable artist from Seattle, Wash., iLL Chris, and took some photos for him.

DJ Afterthought via Jasano Brooks

DJ Afterthought via Jasano Brooks

Much of SXSW's foot traffic patrolled on Sixth Street, described by Jasano as a bigger and much livelier East Carson Street. With Sixth blocked off, entourages belonging to major talents flashed by and intermingled with the public. "I saw Rae Sremmurd walking down the street 20 deep at least. The more crew members artists had the more official they were," Jasano said. He noted rappers Lil Uzi Vert and Migos passing by too.

Additionally, Brennan bumped into star studded faces like DRAM, Rome Fortune, and Lil Uzi on the Austin streets and shared their portraits on both of his IG accounts, "ForgetBrennan," and his namesake.

"You just run into some crazy stuff you didn't plan on seeing," said Brennan. On his walk home one night, he came across a Downtown Boys punk rock show held on a bridge.

Now, all the artists who attended and participated in SXSW hope to build on the connections they made and create new experiences to reach their desired successes. 

Strip District Music Fest Daily Bread x Taylor Gang Stage with Knuccleheadz by Alex Young

Good Kelly and Heem of Knuccleheadz via Alex Young

Good Kelly and Heem of Knuccleheadz via Alex Young

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the Daily Bread x Taylor Gang stage at Pittsburgh, Pa.'s Strip District Music Fest this past weekend was the numerous outdoor space heaters positioned in the crowd and on the stage. Temperatures were at freezing level Saturday, forcing artists, like Chevy Woods, to acknowledge once they stepped on the stage, "It's cold as fuck out here!" However, the music, as well as the artificial heaters, kept people warm as they "milly rocked" and danced to local Pittsburgh hip-hop acts throughout the night.

While Strip Music Fest featured established artists Motor Mane, DJ Afterthought, and headlining Chevy Woods, the festival was a Super Bowl of sorts for up and coming local rappers Tairey, Pk Delay, Joel Kellem, JKJ, Knuccleheadz, and more. The roster showcased the next wave of hip-hop talent primed to make names for themselves outside of The Burgh.

"This is the best show of my life," said Tairey to attendees, which included his old college roommates, fans, and social media influencers who promoted and shared the festival's highlights to their audiences.

For rap group Knuccleheadz, they hope Saturday's Strip Music Fest was a hometown kickoff to eventful 2016. Natives of Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood, Good Kelly, Jiggy Cee, and Heem of Knuccleheadz are on the cusp of signing a record deal with Taylor Gang Records.

Inside a McDonald's, conveniently located one parking lot over from the Daily Bread x Taylor Gang stage, the Knuccleheadz and myself got warm and fed our hunger with french fries, chicken McNuggets, and McDouble burgers. Good Kelly sat with me and explained the future of Knuccleheadz. "We're about to be big," he said. When one of his friends, Kali, became upset with the number of chicken nuggets in front of him, Kelly said, "In a year, we're about to be arguing about Corvettes, cuh."

At the show, Knuccleheadz was due on stage at 10:10 p.m., three slots away from Chevy Woods' finale performance. With friends like Chuck Global and Wreckaz Gang affiliates COOP and fly class weirdo Kyle Branson, Knuccleheadz gathered adjacent to the stage stairs, smoked weed, and talked amongst themselves about their upcoming performance.

"We're gonna remind ya'll what hip-hop really is," I heard Heem and Good Kelly say to each other.

The group definitely looked "hip-hop." Kelly and Jiggy wore heavy, blue flannels, and Heem wore black from head to toe. He had on a black trench coat, a black button-up shirt, and a pair of black Levi's denim all completed by a black bowler hat and a pair of black sunglasses. Also, the Knuccleheadz members repped the Crip flag; Jiggy waved the flag in the air, Kelly tied one as a bandana around his head, and Heem hung the blue flag from his left side back pocket, the Crip side.

Knuccleheadz's attire and lyrics promote their gang affiliation. Their "Cripn" credentials are only important because it plays into the style of their music, an ode to '90s hip-hop.

When Motor Mane called the rap group to the stage they began their set by telling the crowd, "Come closer, come closer!" I felt people push me from behind, as the crowd was now reaching out to touch the Knuccleheadz atop the stage.

The music played, and listeners heard Knuccleheadz's East Coast, G-funk, gangsta rap, and boom bap influences, which all symbolize the Golden Age of hip-hop. The rappers' crew hyped the performance with their dancing and celebrations in the background.

Perhaps a foreshadow of Knuccleheadz's forthcoming success was how effortlessly they entertained the Strip Music Fest crowd.

Now, using the festival as a barometer, Knuccleheadz looks to their lifestyle, high energy, and hip-hop flare as an appeal to mass audiences around the country.


A selection of songs by some of the artists who performed at the Strip District Music Fest is available below.

Strip District Music Fest Preview by Alex Young

Illustration by  Red Buffalo Illustration

Illustration by Red Buffalo Illustration

In Pittsburgh, Pa., it is not only football season, as the Steelers work their way to a seventh Super Bowl victory in the NFL playoffs this Sunday, but also festival season.

Tomorrow, Jan. 16, 2016, Pittsburgh's Strip District will host the second annual Strip District Music Fest, a one-day music festival showcasing rock, indie, electronic/dance, and hip-hop music from local artists.

The festival's first year, 2015, saw 9,000 attendees flood Strip District coffee shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, and bars, shattering Josh Bakaitus', Vice President of Drusky Entertainment and creator of the festival, estimation of 1,500 to 2,000 people showing up to view 78 bands in 10 venues.

In year two, presented by Pittsburgh City Paper and Pabst Blue Ribbon, the Strip District Music Fest will feature 170 artists in 21 venues, like Lidia's Pittsburgh, 21st Street Coffee, The BeerHive, Thin Man Sandwich Shop, and Altar Bar.

At Enrico Biscotti Warehouse, folk, metal, and punk rock fans will be pleased to listen to bands such as Tabula Rasa and Creta Bouriza.

Appealing to hip-hop aficionados, the Altar Bar offers an outdoor stage, sponsored by Pittsburgh streetwear clothier Daily Bread and Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang label, dedicated to The Burgh's upcoming and established hip-hop talents. 

Artists like DJ Afterthought, producer and Choo Jackson's DJ, and Chevy Woods, a T.G.O.D. affiliate, headline a group of youthful rappers and other DJs. Festival goers will listen to Joel Kellem, aka Chill God, lyricist and crooner Tairey, new T.G.O.D. representatives Knuccleheadz, as well as others. The bill for the Daily Bread/Taylor Gang Beats Stage at Altar Bar is featured below.

The Strip District Music Fest was originally created as a way to draw people out of their homes in the middle of winter. Now, the festival is the event to discover and appreciate Pittsburgh's best and eclectic musical acts set in one of the city's most historic cultural sectors.

Festivities begin at 12 pm snow or shine, and admission is free, although donations can be made to the individual artists participating here.

Altar Bar

1620 Penn Ave

Pittsburgh, PA 15222


DJ AFTERTHOUGHT (4:00-5:00)


JOEL KELLEM (5:00-5:20)


DEVIN MILES (5:25-5:45)


DJ AFTERTHOUGHT (5:45-6:15)


B. MATTIE (6:15-6:45)


DJ BAMBOO (6:45-7:00)


BEEDIE (7:00-7:30)


DJ BAMBOO (7:30-7:40)


TAIREY (7:45-8:10)


DJ SPILLZ (8:10-8:50)


JKJ (8:50-9:20)


PALERMO STONE (9:20-9:50)


DJ SPILLZ (9:50-10:00)


MOTOR MANE (10:00-10:10)

KNUCCLEHEADZ (10:10-10:20)

BEEFER AND KNOCKOUT (10:20-10:30)
                                                                                                                                                 
KH (10:30-10:40)


CHEVY WOODS (10:40-11:00)