Producer and emcee Black Spade played host to a who’s-who of underground talent in St. Louis for Friday’s show at the Gramophone. Prior to the concert, the room bustled with handshakes and hugs, as artists and DJs made the rounds to socialize, network and promote their latest projects. The atmosphere was unmistakably hip-hop, with DJs such as Agile 1 and Needles providing a mix of national and local tracks in the background.
When Black Spade took the stage around 11 p.m., the crowd had grown to near capacity as smokers filed in from the outdoor patio. Spade acted as master of ceremonies, introducing each act from the back of the stage. First to perform was Teresajenee, who sang an up-tempo R&B number and wasted no time in getting the audience to participate. The show proceeded with a mix of deejays and rappers including Family Affair, Plan B, Trackstar and Illspitta, among others. Each act played a short set (usually two or three songs), which gave the set a “mixtape” vibe, with a variety of different styles on display.
Although the material was strong throughout, there were a couple of standout performances – including one by Rockwell Knuckles, runner-up in the Koch Madness contest. Knuckle’s insightful rhymes and raw lyricism are second to none. Gotta Be Karim and Vandalyzm (fresh off a Vintage Vinyl appearance) brought highly contagious charisma to the stage, and Jada Avenue offered a change of pace with her strong, sultry vocals.
Spade closed out the set with a selection of tracks from his album To Serve With Love. His “grown-up” style of hip-hop capped off the night perfectly. Spade is obviously one who enjoys sharing the spotlight, as most of the songs he performed were collaborations with other artists in attendance. Most notable were the tracks he performed with Tef Poe (Spade’s younger brother) and Wafeek. Black Spade deserves a lot of credit for bringing such a lineup together (for a $5 cover, no less) and giving St. Louisans reason to take pride in their local talent.
-- Calvin Cox