It's never too early to make it rain.
Cash Image looks good. He's covered in jewelry and tattoos. He's wearing his sunglasses at night, with a black-and-gold bandanna around his neck and a winged-skull belt buckle so shiny, it could burn a hole in the ceiling. In one hand, a microphone and a bottle of Moët. From the other hand comes a spray of dollar bills.
The bills land at our feet and soak on the wet asphalt. There's probably only $20, maybe $30, on the ground, but nothing quite matches the sight of flying money. People wait, playing it cool, pretending to ignore the cash. Then they bend down, almost in orderly fashion, and pick up the bills. I slowly snatch up a wad and tell myself I'll make it my next tip at the bar.
The stage Cash shares with seven other members of the Van Brunt Entertainment crew, including his co-frontman, D-Locc da Chop, is under a big white tent adjacent to the two-story club Moda Mansion on Kansas Avenue, near Seventh Street Trafficway in KCK. It's been pissing rain all day. It's a little after 10 p.m., and the club closes at 2.
It will be a night of excess and hunger.
Rushin Roolet (brother of Rich the Factor), with help from Sliccs Gotcha and the crew at Major Factor Records — which, full disclosure, insisted on buying me drinks — put this show together. They flew their headliner in all the way from Atlanta: Shawty Lo, pint-sized founder of the "Laffy Taffy"-singing, snap-music-making group D4L. Lo has a solo album out and songs enough on the radio to warrant a $40 ticket for the night, and lots of people have come expressly to see him. But even more are here to see some of the dozen or so local acts opening for him.
That's where the hunger comes in. It's no wonder the stage tonight will see more foot traffic than a vat of Cabernet grapes. From Cash and his champagne and money to rookies who clearly don't have the budget for rainmaking, everyone is positively starving to get onstage and shout their rhymes over a loud, loud beat.
Of course, with this style of hip-hop, those rhymes tend to be about a limited array of subjects: money, liquor, women, hustlin', badassery, descriptions of cars. What sets the likes of Major Factor and Van Brunt rappers apart from lesser crews is the artistry of their flow, the quality of their beats and their ghetto-king demeanor. Not everyone can pick up a mic, put on shades and a dookie rope and look cool.
But what they all have in common is being kept underground in their hometown and largely misunderstood by white folks, the media and the Man. That "media" does not, however, include KPRS 103.3 DJs Kenny Diamonds and Tony G, on hand doing call-ins (Tony) and keeping the crowd warm between acts (Kenny).
Just as I did a couple of weeks ago, my first time at Moda, tonight I relish not only the music but also getting to meet so many interesting locals. First, there's DJ Fresh, upon whose turntables so much of the Kansas City hip-hop sound was forged. Tonight, Fresh is playing all-time quarterback spinning for all the local acts.
There's also Felix Mitchell, aka Fee tha Billionaire, a spry gent with a sharp jawline and jeweled fronts who dances down front for every group all night. When it's his turn, he takes the stage and leads the crowd in recitals of his own lyrics, which many of them already know.
There's a cadre of white dudes working the party, among them 7th Heaven employees Adam Fichman and Kevin Sweeney, who exposed me to the inner circle, introducing me to Rush and Sliccs and everyone else. They're every bit as nerdy (no offense) as the dudes who post up at indie-rock shows; they just happen to make a living off a deeper, more gangsta Kansas City tradition.
There's up-and-comer TaNeisha Iyonna, a 26-year-old Topeka rapper, R&B singer and musician (guitar, sax, piano) who rocked it hard at 9:30, despite a mostly empty house and sketchy sound.
There's Grey Goose, Patrón, and Moet straight from the bottle. There are women who look like strippers and women who look like women. There are cops whose services aren't required and bartenders whose services are in great demand. There's even a bathroom attendant.
Yep, life's rich at Moda Mansion.
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