Every month, Scion AV hosts a hip-hop showcase in Williamsburg called Open Mic Night. The show is totally free, and its audience members are selected through a sweepstakes on Twitter and Instagram—250 from each. Last night, I saw April’s Open Mic, which featured emerging Chicago rapper Julian Malone, rising hip-hop Queens collective World’s Fair and Maybach Music Group signee Rockie Fresh. Despite a not-quite-full house—at one point, I was in an audience of maybe 35—all three acts performed like they had something to prove.
Malone went first, and though the 20-year-old up-and-comer is largely unknown outside of his native Chicago, that’s likely to change soon with his recent signing to L.A. tastemaker label Stones Throw. In spite of the small audience, Malone performed solidly, running through tracks from his forthcoming mixtape, Diff.Rnt. Blending lazy beats, choice samples and an agile flow, singles like “7 Milli” and “Give A Eff” are instantly likable and highlight Malone’s burgeoning talent. As he finished his set, he thanked the audience, saying, “I know y’all don’t know me…” We’ll see how much longer he gets to say that.
After Malone’s set, I spoke with some of the members of World’s Fair, the 10-person collective from Queens. In recent months they’ve gained a following in New York with shows at the Knitting Factory and Santos Party House. They confirmed that their debut record, Bastards Of The Party, is wrapped and set to release soon along with a video for their first single, “96 Knicks.” Oh yeah, and DJ Thoth also called me “a homie,” which is, no question, my highest journalistic achievement to date.
The Queens crew performed a mix of old and new, collective and solo tracks. Favorites like Children Of The Night’s “Kids From Queens” and Remy Banks’s “GLDCHN” were paired with forthcoming singles like “96 Knicks” and “Bastards Of The Party.” The new record’s title track in particular garnered an energetic response. With a crew so large, World’s Fair pretty much bring the party anywhere they go. “We’re at your party screaming, ‘Fuck your party!’” they chanted, climbing on speakers and pounding the stage, as they closed their set.
Last up was Chicago’s Rockie Fresh, who released his fifth mixtape, Electric Highway, earlier this year and is associated with big timers Rick Ross, Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Of the Open Mic performers, Fresh’s sound is the most mainstream accessible, a hazy and familiar mix of the familiar rap tropes (girls, drugs, not-so-humble brags). Lots of blunts lit up during hits like “The Future” and “You A Lie.” With his sleepy voice and fluid rhymes, Fresh makes rapping look effortless. His set was so smooth that before anybody knew what had happened, it was over.