Review By: David Mingus
Photos By: Randy Ponikvar
Walking up to Subterranean on a beautiful November night, five minutes to the listed show start time, there were still about fifteen people lined up outside the doors of Subterranean, eager to get in. "Nobody else has this shirt on, when Ill Bill sees this, he's gonna flip!" I overhear from a patron with a unique La Coka Nostra shirt, blended in with talks amongst groups in line about Ill Bill and the range of groups he has been in.
Upon walking up the steps to the dim lit main room, already two-thirds full but still spaced out enough to be manageable navigating. No acts had started but anticipation for the night and the DJ were keeping the crowd vibing with 1990s and early 2000s boom bap and classics from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Wu tang, The Pharcyde, Atmosphere and Gangstarr with bits of scratch sessions to further keep the crowd satisfied.
There was no doubt that this was a Hip Hop show. But one thing stood out from what one would expect at a Hip Hop show. If you were to take away the music and just walk through the crowd you may not be able to guess what type of event you were there for that night. Attire ranged from ripped jeans and t-shirts, to hoodies and sweats, camouflage pants and jackets, and even a few full tracksuits. But even still one thing stood out more than the wide range of attire was that worn. Only about five percent of the crowd was African American. Showing the unique following of Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz, known together as the Heavy Metal Kings
As the first act Apollo Brown from Detroit, MI made his way to stage, he came equipped with laptop and MIDI controllers. The crowd seemed unsure what to expect. Promoting his album Dice Game with fellow Detroit native Guilty Simpson. He began his instrumental set with banging kicks, smooth horns and choppy samples which quickly grabbed the crowds’ attention, only to loose slightly more than half once they realized there would be no rapping for this performance. Causing a large majority to resume their conversations that were taking place during the previous DJ set. Brown continued on moving between his hard hitting soulful beats the likes that Detroit is known for thanks to greats like J. Dilla. The minority of the crowd still bouncing along to the beats fully enjoying the producers set. Many throwing hands in the air, or like brown himself entranced by the smooth samples, snappy snare, and heavy bass lines. Nodding and swaying like a charmed snake. Excellently executed production accompanied by a well flowing and smoothly mixed set left me intrigued to hear more from the Producer.
Chicago’s own Verbal Kent opened up by immediately showing love to the crowd and expressing his excitement and gratitude with the attendance. Subterranean was nearly 300 full at that point. With an early Marshall Mathers style delivery and witty punch lines backed by solid production Verbal Kent caught some attention from the crowd. He performed with energy to spare spitting tongue twisting rhymes and bouncing around stage. Ending with a juggling & scratching routine from his DJ that was a highlight of the night.
By the time Chicago natives and battle rap favorite Matlock & Moodswangz took to the stage they had a packed house. Rocking together with their off kilter style grabbing the crowds attention and the energy of their fans. Following up with a song from Matlock sampling rocky. Followed by a surprisingly well done redo of Watch the Throne’s “Niggas in Paris” titled “Crackers in Haterville” chanting "Balls so large mother fuckers wanna ride me, that shit gay." from Matlok’s 2012 mixtape MatlockLand. With a break Moodswangz took a chance to dedicate the nights set to a friend who passed earlier in the year. Dropping into his single “50/50” looking to create a Chi-Town anthem rapping "I’m from the Windy City bang bang pop pop, your chance of living’s fifty-fifty if your block's hot" reflecting on their take of growing up, surviving and succeeding within the violence of Chicago. There was however a visible difference in the crowd from Matlock’s songs to those from Moodswangz. The performance seemed to loose the interest of most of the crowd about 15 minutes in, aside from the die-hard supporters in the first few rows. More from a lack of familiarity with the artist, than a lack of talent, it seemed. This Prompted Moodswangz to go into a powerfully delivered a cappella that the crowd received well, responding with a much-deserved applause.
With an eruption from the crowd after an introduction from the host, Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz take a moment to get situated making sure their microphones are perfectly dialed in, a sort of last minute sound check. Before returning back up the small spiral stairs at the back of the stage to the green room. Meanwhile their DJ warmed up, mixing jazzy instrumentals for the crowd keeping them calm and grooving.
Suddenly there was a declaration over the speakers from a jacked microphone, a female voice stating, "Ill Bill is a woman abuser. He hits women." Followed by the Heavy Metal Kings’ return to stage.
HMK started their set off a little differently than expected. An explanation that they had just had an altercation in the green room with an un-named previous act, referred to simply as “those guys before us.” Matlock and Moodswangz. Explaining the incident occurred because the previous act was in and out of the green room and it disturbed them. Who as the situation escalated then "put two women in front of us throwing drinks at us" stated Ill Bill. Including “Thank god this wasn’t 10 years ago… I woulda punched a bitch in the face tonight, and for sure I woulda broke her fucking face. And missed my flight to Vegas tomorrow. I got four days off in Vegas.” With a response of cheer from the anxious crowd HMK went into a faux finalization of the rant with a explanation that they will be “above it” and that although the few involved in the incident “made Chicago look bad” they looked for he crowd to make Chicago look good again. Followed with a continued rant about the incident which the duo stated involved threats of violence against the them and all too typical statements heard around Chicago of "waiting for them outside…" But Ill Bill just instigated with statements like “if they were real they’d jump up on mother fucking stage and shut me down.” Followed with an ignorant invitation by HMK to come on stage and fight or get the gun that was mentioned.
The Blatant encouragement of violence and ignorance with how the situation was handled by the Headliner in addition to the existence of the altercation in the first place put a sour taste in my mouth for any performance to come. As well as tainted the rest of the night that had preceded the incident.
The crowd responded positively however, with everyone seeming to want to move on with the show. With the crowd full of energy the two began to rock the show with the first song “Keeper of the Seven Keys” from their recent project together Heavy Metal Kings. With their incredibly strong stage presence and unique vocals the crowd was eating up every word. As they finish a performance of “Overkill” from Ill Bill’s 2004 debut album What’s Wrong with Bill, Vinnie Paz continues to instigate, stating he’s still on stage and no one came at him yet. But all eyes were on stage, this was what the crowd of over 300 was here for. Two underground rap veterans with discographies in the double digits. After a night of openers, and not even knowing if there would be a performance after the incident previous. The whole crowd was alive. But then suddenly lights were turned on and main speakers cut. The performance was stopped. The show was over.
With previous mention from HMK of threats of violence against them and the possibility of a gun, there was little question why. Immediately the crowd became abuzz with rumors of cops shutting the show down. But with no official announcement, the crowd grew incredibly irritable. With sporadic chants of “Fuck that Shit!” to attempt to verbalize their discontent with how the evening had unfolded.
That was until a young woman worked her way on stage. Who, from what I over heard as her and her associates had pushed past. Was a part of the earlier altercation, and may have been the mystery voice on the microphone. Instantly she began instigating further, ultimately resulting in a right hook from her to Ill Bills fitted cap. Spinning it around almost as if rehearsed. What she failed to account for was the massive crowd in support of their beloved performers. A drink thrown from the crowd initiates the return of her drink. Followed by a barrage of drinks from the crowd, as she hurled full, sealed water bottles back into the crowd before security intervened. Pulling her to the side while chased by a patron from the crowd attempting to assault her with more water. She was then escorted off stage to a chant of “Fuck that Bitch!” from the angry crowd, a twist on their earlier chant of the night.
But now the mob had gotten what they wanted. Chaos. Ill Bill attempted to appease the crowd by interacting as much as he could with those at the front, as a large amount of the attendants still had not vacated the venue. Even with assistance from Vinnie Paz he was unable to keep control as the crowd went from cheers to panic as a fight broke out that quickly spread to a mosh pit like riot. Many jumping in to fight after being accidentally elbowed, stomped, kicked or punched by another. Even more getting caught in mob mentality and joining in to punch and kick whoever seemed to be the currently loosing target. Looking to prove their masculinity or street cred to themselves. The fighting continued until one attendant pulled out an extendable baton and made an attack. Security then made it to the scene and grabbed those they could. Including the one now wildly wailing his baton. The fight continued some but became mostly focused on one victim until the crowd itself brought it to a halt. Some fans using the chaos as a chance to get on stage to try and talk to or get autographs and pictures from the Headliners before a long overdue announcement that the show was over and to exit the venue.
The show should have been a three or four star show but due to the events that unfolded and how it was all handled it is hardly deserving of one. My condolence the artists that did not take part in any of the negative incidents of the night and had to have their show tarnished by the rest of the events.
See exactly how it went down here: