DJ Trackstar reported some sad news via text message the other day:
"Hi-Pointe, Integrity, Halo Bar. Another institution has fallen. Thanks for your support over three-plus years. Now I get to go out on Fridays. Or sleep."
In other words, his long-standing Halo Bar hip-hop spin on Friday nights -- which was always fantastic -- is effectively over. That this happened isn't a huge surprise; Keegan Hamilton reported on the problems local hip-hop nights have faced in his September 5, 2007 story "Battle of the Beats" -- including a section examining the Halo Bar:
Early this year, Friday nights at the Halo began to attract an element altogether unlike its tight-knit group of underground hip-hop devotees. Drawn by the Southern rap Trackstar played, the crowd and mood of the night began to resemble a large, clamorous, hip-hop dance club. The change caused several guests to say they felt unsafe, prompting management to demand a change in format.
"I had people come up to me and say, 'It's getting kind of tense in here, a little uncomfortable,' so I started toning down the Southern aspects of the music," Trackstar says. The problem, he adds, was compounded by the closing of the some of the city's larger nightclubs, and the fact that there is no cover charge at Halo, making it an easy stop on a night of club-hopping.
"But I didn't do it fast enough. People were feeling uncomfortable," he recalls. "What it was put to me is [that] people who weren't members of the hip-hop community weren't feeling welcome because of the crowd that was there requesting T-Pain and Lil' Boosie every week."
In early June, Trackstar says the Halo Bar's manager approached him and made it clear that he either needed to change the music or find another place to play. To save his job, Trackstar relented and started mixing soul, rock and jazz in with his usual playlist. Attendance plummeted."
And indeed, Trackstar says attendance prompted the night's shuttering. But all is not lost, in terms of those wanting to hear hip-hop at night...
There's no shortage of high-profile CD release shows coming up in the next few weeks. Nite Owl is hosting a show with 40 'Til 5, Plan B, James Cristos, and more at the Duck Room on April 25, while Scripts ’N Screwz (May 2, 7 p.m.) and Family Affair (May 16, 7 p.m.) are having CD release shows at Vintage Vinyl. The former duo, which hails from East St. Louis, is releasing The New Noise, while the latter is set to release Daily Situations.
Plus, Gotta Be Karim is also holding a show at Vintage Vinyl at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 9, in celebration of his new EP, Bean Pie. Vandalyzm, Coultrain and Black Spade will be joining him to perform.
-- Annie Zaleski