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The Turntable Club Turns Its Camera On

By Al Shipley | Posted 3/5/2008

A few years ago, the big novelty in the touring industry was instant live albums, CD recordings of a concert that were available almost immediately after the show was over. And it would make sense that instant concert DVDs would follow, but surprisingly, the first we've ever heard of anyone taking on the enterprising idea was a small Baltimore hip-hop venue, the Turntable Club. The east-side space's 15 Minutes of Fame open mic, which has fallen on the last Thursday of every month since late last year, promises pretty much the cheapest possible way for a local artist to get one of his or her performances filmed on DVD. There's a $5 cover charge for performers and audience members alike, and just $10 more gets footage of your set burned to a disc at the end of the night. And in an era when any self-respecting unsigned rapper has a street DVD, or at least a YouTube account, the club's providing a pretty helpful service.

As with any open mic, last Thursday's was sparsely populated by anyone other than performers and their friends. But the Turntable Club is a pretty narrow room, and those in attendance crowded around the stage and gave off enough energy that it probably looked like a hoppin' show from the vantage point of the camera hanging from the ceiling in the back. The host, Shaka Pitts, kept the night's proceedings moving briskly, with the same wit and easygoing nature that's made his internet radio show so popular in local hip-hop circles as of late. Despite the name of the night, 15 Minutes of Fame allotted each artist only 10 minutes. And more often than not, that time limit ran out in the middle of a song, at which point the DJ merely faded out the beat as the artist was in the middle of the verse, leading to many awkward, anti-climactic endings. In the future, the event organizers might be wise to instead give each performer three or four full songs, or at least give him a warning when his next song will be his last.

Many of the night's performers were affiliated with each other, including multiple members of same crew or label that bought up consecutive performing slots, and acted as each other's hypemen during their respective performances. The first two slots of the night both belonged to acts from the local label South Paw Entertainment, beginning with the group Lost Soulz. Kadar and Kashon of Lost Soulz are by far the most active representatives of South Paw, appearing on more bills than any other MCs on the label's large roster. But their performance came off a bit ill-rehearsed, or at least low on energy. B.O.M.B. is another rapper who grinds so much on the local hip-hop club circuit that we can't seem to go a month without reviewing one of his performances in this space. But on Thursday, he was there as support for another act on his label, Money in the Bank, including Shy and Jimmy Beamz, only occasionally taking the spotlight for an energetic guest verse.

Out of more than a dozen sets in the course of the night, only a few were genuinely amateurish performers, or had material weak enough that we were secretly counting down the minutes for their music to get faded out. But the clear standout was Rip the Ruler, who lived up to his name and completely ripped his performance without even using his whole 10 minutes, which worked to his advantage, in leaving the audience wanting more. With a commanding stage presence, the colorfully dressed rapper got the whole room shouting along to the choruses of both of his brief songs, and then abruptly finished up. A few more MCs took the stage after him, and some stayed past 2 a.m. to wait for their DVDs to get burned, but the night had clearly peaked.

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Tags: Hip Hop, turntable club

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