Concert review: Big Cliff Watkins at Lola’s

Big Cliff Watkins

Saturday, May 3

Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W. Sixth St., Fort Worth

* * * * 

Posted 8:39am on Tuesday, May. 06, 2014

Saturday was the Global Marijuana March, with protesters meeting at Mambo’s in downtown Fort Worth for a march to the courthouse steps. No matter your feeling on the legalization issue, marijuana and good music follow each other around, and the march party included performances by local favorites such as Panic Volcanic, Spoonfed Tribe and the ever-so-mighty Effinays.

But I had my sights set on the after-party for my sonic fix: a hip-hop show at Lola’s Saloon.

When I got to there, Doug Funnie was just getting ready to take the stage, and Dre Edmonson was in the sound booth. DJ Mike B was spinning and playing rap videos on a projector in time with the beat. A small but enthusiastic crowd was wandering about and enjoying the music. On the back deck, more music lovers were playing a Jenga-ish game with two-by-fours. It was a typical weekend show at Lola’s — just a bit more mellow.

Funnie was amazing, as usual, putting out nerdcore rhymes with animé video playing behind him. We told you about Funnie in a review of his show at the Grotto in March, and, stoned or not, you can’t have a bad time when he’s on the mic.

Up next was Big Cliff Watkins, the freestyle king of Fort Worth. Watkins improvises his performance, never doing the same rap the same way twice, and he likes to perform with a full band rather than just canned music. On this night, his band showed up, but only his bass player (fellow D-Snacks alumni Justin Baisden) brought his gear. No matter, he improvised and put on a rhythmic freestyle set with just words, bass and DJ.

Watkins seems dedicated to breaking some of the rapper stereotypes.

“I want the listeners to be conscious enough to know that what they’re hearing right now isn’t all true,” Watkins says. “Certain radio songs, things of that nature, that there are real artists making real music about real life. … I think that’s all I want.”

He performs with rock bands such as Four Corners, D-Snacks and Rabbit’s Got the Gun. Although this usually serves to win over new fans (and venues) to hip-hop — it’s not always successful. Once, at a D-Snacks show, the club owners wouldn’t let him take the stage.

“Showed up to a club that’s playing hip-hop, rap music and people are dancing,” said Cliff, “[D-Snacks is] playing, I’m getting ready to rap and it’s like ‘we don’t allow rappers.’ 

But in general, Fort Worth is opening up to the hip-hop community. Lola’s is having success with a weekly hip-hop show put on by promoter Callie Dee, and soon Callie and Cliff with be co-hosting a hip-hop radio show on John Rody’s Pirate Radio.

Following Big Cliff, Buffalo Black took the stage to finish out the night. The Dallas artist has been getting some attention as of late, and one of his songs will be in Spike Lee’s next film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. Onstage, the man puts everything into his rap; his performance was intense and emotive.

Bottom line is that if you think hip-hop can be reduced soley to its cruder stereotypes, you’ve missed out on a lot of creative and honest music. Promoters like Callie Dee and performers like Cliff Watkins are trying to show Funkytown that there is more to it.

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