Killer Mike on stage at the studio at Webster Hall. (Photo: Dan Rys)
With CMJ in full swing, the studio at Webster Hall played host to a hip hop showcase put on by a suite of MTV's digital entities -- MTV Hive, mtvU, the recently-launched MTV Jams, Artists.MTV, and the O Music Awards -- which brought Southern-based rappers Big K.R.I.T. and Killer Mike together with the NYC-based Mr. Muthaf---in' eXquire, Le1f, and Flatbush Zombies.
The early start to the show (a little after 6 pm) meant that there was a low turnout in the beginning, but that was remedied quickly as Killer Mike hit the stage, fresh off a stint at his hometown of Atlanta's A3C Festival last weekend and with a bass that was so thunderous it knocked water bottles off his DJ's table. While this was his first CMJ, it wasn't Mike's first stint at A3C, which has started to gain national attention after garnering a lot of underground buzz since its debut in 2005.
Killer Mike hangs out backstage before the show. (Photo: Dan Rys)
"A3C really blew up this year; when people in New York are talking about it, you know it's big," Mike said backstage before the show, where he was also discussing two of his life-long loves -- the game of basketball and the Atlanta Braves. "This is my first CMJ, but I love festivals like this because I get to see a lot of people I keep missing. K.R.I.T. and I had been missing each other for a month." He'll also be headed back into the studio later this year to record again with Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P, with whom he collaborated on both his R.A.P. Music and El-P's Cancer 4 Cure albums this year.
Mike's friend eXquire -- who announced at SXSW this year that he'd signed a deal with Universal Republic -- said his life had changed a lot since signing his major label deal, but that he's at least "got a belly" now. And after his participation at a panel on social media and engagement at SXSW, he mentioned he'd like to get more into the industry side of things this year.
Brenna Ehrlich, left, and Jessica Robertson from the O Music Awards and MTV Hive, respectively. (Photo: Dan Rys)
Speaking of panels, MTV Hive's director of content Jessica Robertson took part in one at CMJ this past Tuesday (Oct. 16) alongside Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, former Village Voice music editor Maura Johnston, and Spin.com editor-in-chief Caryn Ganz, titled "Music Journalism Exploded." She, along with O Music Awards senior editor Brenna Ehrlich, talked about the last iteration of the Award show, which involved spending 24 hours straight on a bus with the Flaming Lips and the cast from Jackass while traveling through the South and also breaking the Guinness World Record for most live shows in different cities within a 24-hour period, a feat which required a lot of sitting through increasingly-funky buses.
"We're going to do some weird things [the next time]," Ehrlich said, mentioning that the next installment of the Awards is in the planning stages, with a date not yet set. "We're going to see how long we can stay awake and how many hours straight we can go without showering."
Le1f in the green room before the show. (Photo: Dan Rys)
While the night was relatively light on industry, it was heavy on energy, with first Killer Mike, then Mr. Muthaf---in' Exquire, then Big K.R.I.T. all performing in the middle of the crowd, which gave the performances an extra edge. Killer Mike shouted out his new record label -- Williams Street Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, which put out R.A.P. Music -- saying, "I had a few record deals and didn't get it right until this one." Le1f's manager was also in the crowd, though he requested to remain nameless, and mentioned how, as a kid, while others would leaf through Maxim magazines, he'd pick up Billboard and pore over the charts.
Big K.R.I.T. hit the stage to perform a number of tracks off his major label debut Live From The Underground (Photo: Brendan Tobin/MTV)
With CMJ first on everyone's lips -- who are you going to see, which upcoming showcases will be worth it, which venues never are -- the showcase served as an appetizer for the night for most, as much of the crowd filed out afterward to head to other events that were extending late into the night.
CMJ continues through Saturday, Oct. 20.