Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Art of War.

A few years ago a group by the name of Lotus Tribe created an annual event called The Art of War, a hip-hop exhibition that has grown into an all-weekend festival celebrating every aspect of hip hop. The four elements are properly represented throughout an entire weekend through battles and performances. The Art of War is essentially an expanded version of Elementals (also created by Lotus Tribe), if you were here for that golden point in time here in San Antonio hip hop. Each year the crew of Lotus Tribe tries to outdo the previous year's event. This year was no exception when the announcement was given that the legendary Ghostface Killah would be performing. Word spread quick and I was on my way.

Upon arriving to the venue, I was immediately greeted by beautiful faces of all ages. Hip hop can be a very unifying thing and it was awesome to see kids, parents, fresh dudes, and fly ladies all coming together for the love of hip hop. I wasted no time and began snapping away, starting with the b-boy battles.

No fear.

Youngblood came correct.

With so much going on simultaneously, it can be difficult to keep up. Your eyes and ears become overloaded with so much freshness and you can't help but smile as you take it all in. As the b-boy battles were going down, the beat battle known as Beat Alert was also on and poppin'. I had gotten wind the night before that my boy Caspo Since 1984 won the MC battle, of which the grand prize was an opening set for Ghostface. What I didn't know prior to arriving is that he was also in the beat battle. Hip hop is a diverse culture and you will often see one individual with knowledge of all elements expressing their soul through every outlet. So it was no surprise to see him in front of an MPC surrounded by some of San Antonio's elite producers like Kizer and Progeny. I took a walk around the venue and caught up with more homies. With all the creative avenues I've found myself in over the years, I've met and became friends with some pretty amazing people.

COMP x Face.

Kizer Soze, reigning Beat Alert Champion.

Gudetar holding his own in the later rounds of the Beat Alert tourney.

One thing I love about The Art of War is that there is always something new to discover. You can know every performer or promoter but you will still find something new. For me, it was the Mighty Zulu Kings. With an entire crew on stage doing more than popping bottles or rolling phatties, these cats came correct. With one MC at the helm on the mic, the entire crew performed behind him as acollective, expressing b-boy skills in many, many different ways. It's a pleasure to see a crew perform and was a definite moment in the night that let the audience know what The Art of War is about--HIP HOP.

The Mighty Zulu Kings.

After being blown away by MZK, it was time for the homie Caspo to hit the stage and he brought his fellow Green Jacket Mic Masters cohort, The Almighty 8INFINITE8 Supreme, with him to show everyone why he won the MC battle. About two songs in, the DJ started having trouble and the music stopped playing. Where an ordinary rapper would stop, complain, and delay the evening by sorting out the issue, these two decided to dig deep and keep composure by rocking acapella with beatbox rhythms. It a truly special thing to witness two talented people think on the fly to keep the party moving. With 8INFINITE8 rocking the beatbox, Caspo held it down and performed with the steeze of a seasoned vet. The music started and after another slip-up with the music, the two decided to finish out their set in the same beatbox/acapella fashion. There's no fading raw hip hop.

 Caspo Since 1984.

Green Jacket Mic Masters, Tru Sku Universal.

Whuddup Caspo!

There was no shortage of talent this evening and Texas was definitely in the house. The homie Evolve came up from McAllen to put on another solid performance with Progeny, collectively known as Ghost Palace. I met Evolve a few years ago here in town and was immediately impressed with his skill and stature. A true mic commander, Evolve blessed the crowd with raw vocals over the moody beats laid down by Progeny. These two are one of my favorite Texan acts to catch and it is always a pleasure to shoot these two.

Evovle brings the emotional content with punch.

Sparking fire on the mic.

Progeny lacing the beats.

McAllen's finest.

I definitely needed a break after all of that and decided to walk around while they prepared the final rounds of Beat Alert. Being out in the hill country makes for some great views and cool air. I love this time of year when Summer fades and the short Fall shows up in Texas. I took some time to soak it in and catch up with Comp painting this rad Iron Man piece. We chopped it up briefly before I made my way back to the stage to get back to work.

Nothing beats a moonlit sky in the country away from the lights. 

COMP x Tony Starks.

The crowd waits in anticipation of the Beat Alert final rounds followed by GFK.

The final rounds of Beat Alert went down. It was a heated battle throughout the night and I must say, every one of these I attend gets better and better. San Antonio has so much musical talent and does not get the recognition that they deserve. I urge any MC looking for beats to get at these cats and make some magic happen. There truly is no shortage of producers here. The battle went on and emerging victorious once again was Kizer Soze.

Eous flexin' in the final round of Beat Alert

Two-time Champ, Kizer Soze. Raw talent.

The crowd settled and then grew a bit restless. The event had been going on since about 2 p.m. and everyone was on edge with excitement. You really could feel it in the air, as cliche as it may sound. The night carried on and the time came for the infamous Ghostface Killah to come out to bless the people with some Wu Tang flavor. The crowd erupted and got hype as soon as they announced his name. Well after midnight, GFK swaggered out and proceeded to set the stage ablaze alongside Sheek Louch of The Lox. These two came prepared to decimate San Antonio. I had yet to see GFK live yet, every time I came close, something came up and thwarted my chance. Tonight was the night though and it was well worth it. Ghost is easily in my Top 3 of the Wu (right up there with GZA and ODB, RIP) and is by far one of my favorite story-tellers in all of hip hop.

Attacking the mic in true MC fashion.

There's a reason he's one of the best.

East Coast Lifestyle meets Third Coast Environment.

It was a huge honor to be able to capture Ghostface in his live element and watch a legend bless our city. I was able to shoot GZA last year when he came through, so my Top 3 Wu is technically complete, until Bobby gets his Delorean to actually transcend time and space so I can travel back to at least 2004. The night continued and as the waves of sonic energy travelled throughout my body I was taken back to that day in class when my homie Aaron (Sneaks Up) loaned me Supreme Clientele and put me on this path of hip hop. That record literally changed my life. I was always a fan of rap growing up but hip hop is much different. Hip hop is a lifestyle, a culture, a way of life that cannot be matched. I've met so many people and created so much work because of hip hop and skateboarding that I am forever indebted to both. I will always use my voice, whether visual or auditory, to give light to things that matter.

The Lox x Theodore Unit.

Ghost splittin' the megahertz.

1-7-1-8-9-1-1-Low battery, damn.

Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthing ta fuck wit.

S/O to Mark of Lotus Tribe, it's been many years that I've been watching him do his thing for the love of hip hop. From The Burning Spear, to Elementals, to mad house parties, to S.E.L.F., and now The Art of War. The Art of War is an annual reminder that hip hop is very much alive in San Antonio and we have MAD talent here. When cats venture out from here and expand, it is a true testament to the talent that breeds here. Much respect to Mark, the AOW crew, Caspo, Ghost Palace, all the beat battlers, b-boys and girls, and all hip hop heads near and far. Cheers.

High-five Mark! Another solid weekend of hip hop.

Ghostface Killah. Thanks, G!

Keep Pushin' Forward,

No comments:

Post a Comment