"You can't predict what's going to happen at a Chop Shop," Bilger says.
It's hard for Bilger, known as Tommylift within Kansas City's hip-hop community, to guess what will come of his creation, because it's not in his hands. About every three months, Bilger chooses four local hip-hop producers to mix whatever beats they've been cooking with a stew of local talent, including live instrumentalists and MCs. Bilger can't guarantee how it will turn out, but he can say that it will be like nothing anyone's ever tasted.
"People going to hip-hop shows want to hear the DJ spin the new Jay-Z instrumental, and then guys get up and rhyme over it," Bilger explains. At hip-hop shows, he says, the attention usually is on the MC and the DJ. "No one ever talks about the producer that much, even though he's the person who makes the beats that the DJ is spinning."
That's not true at Chop Shops. Bilger, a knob twister himself, places the emphasis on the producers, with the hope that they will hook up with musicians and MCs who like what they hear. With this partnership between the Monday-night Essence crowd (which Bilger characterizes as older, more gangster, MC-like veterans of the scene) and the Kabal crowd (which Bilger says is younger, more "artsy" and open to experimentation), Bilger is excited to see what will happen between two scenes that rarely intersect socially or stylistically.
"I just mix it up and force people," Bilger says. "We'll have eight crews represented there, and they'll have nothing in common, and it's just, like, deal with it. Just check it out."