It was a rainy night in Austin on Friday, making it the perfect time to stay indoors, off of the 6th Street melee and hang with a stacked lineup of Philly hip-hop and R&B musicians. The party at Old School Bar – thrown by promoters What Scene? and record label / artist development upstart RECPhilly – mixed up-and-comers with established names, and kept the room packed with an enthusiastic crowd across the night.
Opening the show with a sort of label showcase for RECPhilly, bluesy power trio Ill Fated Natives got things under way with a set of Hendrix and Santana-influenced jams. Eclectic soul singer Milton previewed his new record, which has a definite Blackstreet vibe, then handed the set off to hard-hitting rapper Voss, climbing up on a riser to sing the hooks.
Chill Moody was the first featured performer to hit the stage, and he worked the room with the warm humor and charisma that he’s become known for. “Dr. Hook” was a crowd favorite, as well as his closing “Philly Vs Everybody,” a local spin on the Eminem / Royce Da 5’9″ / Danny Brown hit.
What Scene? interjected a mini-showcase of their own, beginning with downbeat electro soul singer Anyee Wright. Adam Chancellor followed, with a Drake-esque delivery of pointed rhymes over a melodic trap backing.
“We at SXSW, this is a beautiful thing!” exclaimed rapper Marv Mack during his slot. “I never thought I’d play out of West Philly.”
Gravelly voiced rapper Sincerely Tahj brought Wright out to sing hooks on his song, based heavily around old soul samples. The irreverent Champs followed, doing cosmic raps to a funky live band Wavelengths.
The next featured set came from Ground Up, who has come a long way since founding at Temple and playing at Broad Street Music Group’s first show a few years back. They packed the house and rocked a fierce set of new jams and fan faves like “Let’s Ride” and “No Thanks,” and had Mic Stew jump onstage for a track.
The energy was kept at peak level for Moosh and Twist, who Ground Up have been on tour with, and who brought their trade mark blend of pop hooks and charismatic rhymes; by the time they were done, we were all sweaty and needed to step on the balcony in the breezy night air.
The night began to wind down after that one-two punch, but a short / sweet performance was turned in by Tunji Ine (pronounced “Toon-gee ee-jay”), whose clubby singly “Day2Day” was an easy standout. Newcomer Lil Uzi Vert kept the vibe similar but with a gripping edge; he was backed by DJ Drama, and between those two, it didn’t take much to bring in those catching a smoke on the balcony. Rich Quick also played a few songs to warm up for the final headliner.
In a way, Freeway was the perfect artist to bring the night to a close. He’s tasted break out success in his time with State Property and his collaborations with Jay-Z, but he keeps his roots close as well. Taking the stage around 1:15, Free oozed Philly pride, shouting out the other performers who had hit the stage throughout the night, bringing up Jakk Frost for a couple tracks and keeping the energy high even though the hour was late.
All told: an incredible event, and cheers to What Scene? and RECPhilly for pulling it off without a hitch. Here’s hoping the Philly-in-the-center-of-the-action showcase becomes a regular thing at SXSW.Chill Moody, Freeway, Ground Up, Ill Fated Natives, Milton, Moosh and Twist, RECPhilly, SXSW2015, What Scene?