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Breaking Out

Skarr Akbar, Ogun, and Tha Plague, Oct. 1, the Vault

Steve McDonald
Catchy: Tha Plague spreads at The Vault.

Posted 10/6/2004

Real on Purpose Entertainment was in full swing at the Vault this weekend. And with the exception of “Lyrical Madman” El Pinoy sidelined by a bad wisdom tooth, there weren’t many disappointments from the team home to Ogun, Profound, and Ammo. DJ Face, 5 Seasons’ resident Monday night party starter, kept things bopping as he spun the Ogun and Profound collaboration Oil and Water, and early birds caught a brief open-mic session with XO, Quest, and Tonto stepping up big to warm up the crowd.

The gal-power poster girls in Tha Plague—Larceny, Symphony, and Nina Ross—provided a hot set. Either the word is getting out about this crew or it has a lot of friends, because there were plenty of girls in the crowd singing along to every word, especially the shiny, hard-hitting “Throw It Up.” With its catchy hook and infectious beat, the joint has as much chance of being an underground hit as Tha Plague has of being a breakout act, combining a girl-next-door cuteness with girl-from-group-home grittiness.

Representing Carnigie Records/Street Dreams, EJ, Big Stee, and Tony Bosco kicked it up a level and kept the microphone hot for the Real on Purpose linchpins Ogun, Profound, and 15-year-old dynamo Ammo (aka Spider on HBO’s The Wire). They proceeded to tear what was left of the stage apart. Queens, N.Y., native Profound punctuated his silky flow with witty metaphors, while one-man gang Ogun’s vibe was part lyrical wordsmith and part I’ll-battle-anybody-in-here-right-now dare. Ammo is a high-octane, impressive raw talent and clearly a student of the two.

The set ended with an a cappella freestyle introducing headliner Skarr Akbar, who, despite play on nationally released mix tapes from Big Mike and DJ L, a very loyal fan base, and a big-ass billboard (not a poster) on the corner of North and Maryland avenues, still somehow eludes major success. Whatever the reason—rumors abound about street-beefs with local playlist makers and string-pullers—the kid is official. Akbar hit hard and fast, showing versatility, a good voice, crowd control, and varying subject matter. He ran the gamut of emotions from pain to bravado with ease and sincerity. And he left many wandering around the club afterward searching for a promo, a demo, a mix tape, a something to take home and play for friends, because Akbar spit too much too hard to remember. And all you could say to friends back home was, like, “Yo, he said . . . man, he just said it, you know?

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