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Banks bare of beats, Scarlet Pub hosts hip-hop night for New Brunswick community

New Brunswick needs more hip-hop music. In this wonderful college town, you can take a trip on a Thursday night and find yourself in a basement show or some sort of indie/punk show, but despite there being a clear interest in hip-hop music, sometimes it’s hard to find shows.

But despite the difficulty of finding hip-hop shows in Rutgers’ back yard, they are definitely there — and boy, are they fun. The Scarlet Pub hosted an all-rap show last Sunday with four charming rappers: Chad Bussa, Wade Wilson, Murdock and AD, who are all New Jersey natives. 

The entire show took place in front of a filled bar on a Sunday in February that felt like spring. Everyone sipped drinks and talked among themselves, as they waited for the show to start. Despite the small number of rap shows in New Brunswick, you could tell these rappers were a part of a tight community — the alternative to the already-alternative underground music scene.

The stage was essentially two big speakers set up to a mixer in the middle of the bar. There were no bells or whistles there, but the simplicity created a deliberate intimacy between the performer and the crowd.

All of these rappers were soaked in charm, and even by themselves, were incredibly enjoyable to watch. Each song became a story, and all these stories had backgrounds and additional information that took the songs to a whole new level. Combined with each artist's performance, every set started to resemble crazy stories being exchanged between friends.

First up, Chad Bussa had the ability to pull in a crowd with catchy songs and a big smile. He started off with an a capella verse and had the audience completely engrossed. It’s not often you can get a crowd to dance without a beat, but it happened naturally for him.

He went through his next couple of songs, all drenched in their own "trappy" goodness, but soon he stopped all of the music. He abruptly looked up to the bar and asked if they had any water. Of course they said yes, but he specifies, “Do you have Aquafina? I don’t drink anything else.”

“No, we have tap, that’s it,” the bar attendant answered back.

And as the crowd looked up at him, thinking that he was a special sort of spoiled, the beat kicked back in. What followed was an entire trap song about a preference for Aquafina and the lifestyle it entails. That moment perfectly summed up a show experience for an first-time Chad Bussa viewer.

Wade Wilson was the next act that went up — no word on whether his name is related to the infamous antihero dead pool. Wade Wilson was a cool guy who really seemed to love old-school beats and talking about his experiences.

He came up to the stage wearing ripped jean shorts and with what seemed like band buttons on his shirt. He looked like the culmination of DIY punk and early 2000s hip-hop, and his sound mirrored it. He rapped over beats that were reminiscent of 70s jazz records and spoke about the less than wonderful experience of being trapped on the N.J. turnpike.

The next performer, Murdock, was a theatrical show-stopper. A former Montclair University theater student who decided to become a rapper after a rough year post-college. He told a tale of torturous self-discovery that led to his current stage in life through his music.

His album is called "AAAH" (Agoraphobic, Alcoholic, Asshole) and is the deep, fast-spitting story of going through the college party scene while having a quarter-life crisis. His story was tragic and self-critical to no end, but he also prefaced each song with messages of perseverance.

The final act of the night was a friendly guy named AD. AD resembled an artist straight out of the 80s. He had heavy reverb synths with rhymes that had a definite shout out to hip-hop of an older time.

He was an animate listener of rap, and that came off in his beats, and worked in synthesis with his love for freestyles. It was a refreshing way to end the night. It was also great that he brought a singer onto one of his final songs, finally getting away from the one man show that was present throughout the rest of the night.

While hip-hop in New Brunswick is still not spoken about often enough, there is a definite desire for it in the community. It’s only a matter of time until rap shows become a regular occurrence.

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