She’s crushing the drums relentlessly, not smashed in the back behind the amps, but on the front line. Accompanied by a guitar or two (Pat Boyce and Bill Grasley), bass (Brandon Domer), and sometime keys (Domer), Nichole Rae concusses the tension out of her drum heads while vocally exhuming all manners of their collective innards, thusly The Traveling Suitcase. For the Eastside Music Tour they made their 5:00p slot feel like headliner, that’s a pretty good sign of gnarl even if day drinking is involved. Something cool from Madison for a change.
The Traveling Suitcase, Carry Out Show via Brandon Domer on YouTube
Give them shades from other bands of now, or the future, and their eyes will blaze through those tinted lenses and burn your face off. The Traveling Suitcase rallies harmonic, desperate, and mercurial spirits. Spreading themselves as thin as artistically possible, they’re getting around the Midwest for live shows, keeping their edges tattered.
Slated to return to Milwaukee for Raw Artist Showcase in May, it wouldn’t surprise if The Traveling Suitcase finds time to squeeze in a couple of shows around here in the meantime.
MC Mikal lumbered in the BBC upper room, tall, gangly, vibrating above it all. The scene, relatively modest by hip-hop standards, dropped like an ember that starts a wild brush fire. A performative charge present, highly concentrated energy burned the anticipatory material around it, not caring to be seen.
In a benefit for Men of Tomorrow, one of the older youth programs in Milwaukee, MC Mikal ripped the mic to beats cued by local music producer Moses. Showing mastery of the chambers of emceeing, deviating from prepared material, Mikal enthusiastically took liberty to casually experiment with increasingly poetic streams of mind over rhythm.
Lyrically, MC Mikal readily latches on to various wavelengths, mostly intelligent, conscious of today’s struggles to avoid snares in the web of crap that is American society. In other moments, he gets down right hedonist, encouraging the niceties of life in the moment, social mischief and pleasures of the flesh. Oddly the “Mr. Hyde” MC Mikal, allows you to take his profound lyrical repertoire more seriously, there are no more saints, and he doesn’t pretend to be one. When he’s on, he’s a force on the mic.
Running with Knives
Milwaukee rap conglomerate H.E.R. held the flank, delivering tracks with beats tailor-fit for trunks with subs, riding on rims in their mid-20’s and candy coated paint. Thank Moses, as one of the producers of H.E.R. he brings plenty of heat.
Words peppering the crowd, Jermaine Event led H.E.R, twisting traditional battle style Milwaukee flavored hip-hop banter, an easy combination for people to get lost in. Rarely seen in the contemporary era of hip-hop, H.E.R. prominently featured a hype-man on back-up vocals and 2 guest MC’s. That’s an old formula that usually works, and H.E.R. put it to use rather effectively.
Sean Smart pushed his flows for H.E.R., packing visions of rugged-living, slick talking in a notable mic voice. Expanding on H.E.R.’s lessons, Myke Deezy kept the pace of the show well above resting with his additional vocals and general stage presence.
Quietly, emerging from its chrysalis, we see new hip-hop fauna flashing its oversized moth wings in the likes of MC Mikal, mysterious white dots marking the wings looking like eyes, giving music explorers something new to find. MC Mikal might be considered more appropriately as an artist that emees, so catching a performance from him is a gem.
Some avian raptor varieties of the hip-hop kingdom still stalk the streets, evolving like H.E.R., hanging on resiliently not likely to parish with the Jurassic era of the genre, giving fans from the original depths of the boombap something to vibe to. The subtle reinventions of the street rap style that H.E.R. brings to the stage, although clearly drawing off classic underground gangster rap legends, makes H.E.R. an intriguing example of how each style contributes to the rap picture. All are needed to make the hip-hop eco-system viable, if hip hop is truly to be a voice by which various perspectives on life are amplified through stereo speakers.
Cause for a Cause
In an time when everyone has an idea, notion or feeling of divine right to tell people what to do and how to do it, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt understands that just having a mentor can mean the difference between falling for traps set by bad influences or deciding your own path. He’s the acting Director of Men of Tomorrow, and the proceeds of the MC Mikal with H.E.R show went as a small but meaningful tithe to the Men of Tomorrow youth program. Men of Tomorrow is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that primarily focuses on providing elementary school aged Black youth with mentors and guided activities to assist their transition to adulthood.