he hip-hop battle against Bush (see the story next door) isn't the only musical potshot being taken at Dubya. Last week saw the Hip-Hop Summit roll into town, with rap mogul Russell Simmons bringing in a slew of talkers and performers coming together to push aside their bling and get people to the polls. Simmons was listed in Rolling Stone last week as an enemy of Bill O'Reilly, who said of the Def Jam owner: "He's groomed many a rapper and makes no apologies for the vulgar and promiscuous lifestyle that's glorified in many of their songs."
Well, duh. Simmons' wife (and St. Louis native) Kimora Lee Simmons recently got busted for pot, which suggests that Simmons may not be a big wet blanket on the party circuit. If your wife is holding the sticky-icky, you're a little more likely to kick it with Ludacris than Sean Hannity. (Russell has also led massive protests against New York City drug laws.) Which helps explain why the hot ticket last weekend wasn't to the summit itself, or even the D12 and Twista show, but instead the official afterparty. Sure, politics are great and all, but these guys are still musicians.
Before the swank event, I sat down with St. Louis producer Tarboy of the producing duo (and owners of a Def Jam subsidiary) the Trackboyz. The 'Boyz jumped on the chance to help promote the late-night Champagne jam.
"We're doing it to support the Hip-Hop Summit and honor St. Louis," explains Tarboy. "I thought it was important that somebody from St. Louis host the official party. If we didn't jump on it, somebody from LA and New York would."
Yeah, and those places suck. St. Louis is not only a hip-hop mecca but a swing state as well, which gives Simmons and his parties a little more weight than your average after-show drink-fest. And Tarboy sees this as a chance to burnish the image of the musicians he works with.
"When you hear the words hip-hop, people think 'thuggish.' We got to keep it upper class and show where hip-hop is going now."
Tarboy should know where the music is heading: The 'Boyz are working about every angle they can in the music biz.
"We do more with Def Jam than just deliver artists," he explains. "We sit in on A&R meetings. We work for Def Jam and we have our label, and they're different things." So while they're doing work for Eminem, they're also keeping their ears to the ground.
"I love to hear the new Nelly or new Chingy, because that's us. But I'm into anybody who's new; I'm a new artist kind of guy," says Tarboy.
Say hello to Jess Minnen, the new clubs editor here at the RFT. Jess has been a freelancer at the paper for a while, but from now on she's the source for the concert scene in St. Louis. From the stankiest dives to the loftiest VIP rooms, Jess is prepped to be the encyclopedia of fun here in the Lou. Take advantage.
To get Jess acclimated to the work environment of music writing, I took her to Sub Zero, the latest bar to spring into existence in the Central West End. The vodka bar to end all vodka bars, Sub Zero had enough clear liquor to blind the troops of Stalingrad. And the bartenders know how to mix the booze; my Grey Goose and soda was just the right kind of alcohol-tinged blandness that that kind of cocktail demands. Jess was a bit of a spoilsport and ordered a gin-powered Tom Collins, but I think she's going to work out anyway. Clubs in St. Louis come (hello, Drunken Fish) and go (goodbye, Tangerine) and change (you can catch blues diva Renee Smith at the usually DJ-run 609 these days) so often that you need a road map to keep them all straight. And that's where Jess comes in. In the car that is nightlife, Jess is sitting shotgun. But she can't do it alone. If you've got a club with anything from trance to bluegrass (or both of them together, if you book the Swedish one-hit-wonders the Rednex), Jess needs to know. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, River Splash, we hardly knew thee. It's hard not to mourn the passing of the best summer music festival this city has seen in years, a free party that brought acts such as B.B. King, Liz Phair and Paul Oakenfold to our fair city. After all, unless River Splash resurrects itself next year, we're back to Kansas and the Little River Band.
But don't despair just yet, because there's still one doozy of a free concert in the works: The Lot, a massive gathering of local talent at the Schlafly Tap Room this Saturday evening. Outside in the Tap Room's massive parking lot, you can catch local rock including the pirate-roots mania of the Whole Sick Crew, the poppy Maxtone Four and the primitive-yet-sophisticated groove of the Hot House Sessions. Inside local DJs Marty Evans and Dysfunktion will sling their wax into your ears. The flyer for the event touts "fire by Greta Ganter," which is intriguing; the flyer also mentions that the outdoor shows will happen "under the stars," which, given that the Tap Room is downtown, isn't too accurate. And even though you'll be paying Schlafly prices for those beers, compared to the ballpark prices for Bud at River Splash, it's a real bargain.