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At sundown, Aliso Black and his crew meet at a dim back patio at Classic Q's in Newport Beach. Squeezed around a tiny cocktail island, the five full-grown men hardly resemble nobility as they huddle over spirits and ashtrays of smoldering cigarette butts. Playful arguments and liquor-soaked enthusiasm fill the air as they discuss Sound Asylum, their new quarterly event at Detroit Bar. Meanwhile, clusters of starched, off-duty businessmen shake their heads and migrate inside to watch high-definition sports in peace. Realizing they're completely alone, Santa Ana rapper Kevin Parx has something to get off his chest.
"Sound Asylum will never be about status," he says. "As rappers out here, we're all getting fucked over. Because of where we're from and where we represent, we gotta fight harder—not just a little bit harder, but a lot harder."
Right now, their battle centers on the party that Aliso (born Aaron Williams) and fellow MC/business partner Suvivo (a.k.a. Demetrius Rachel) have dreamed about since November 2011. The mission was simple: deliver an ego-free, hip-hop club night that doubles as a curated showcase of four rotating, OC-bred MCs. Outsiders from LA or elsewhere need not apply.
Finally kicking things off this past July, the first Sound Asylum attracted a near-capacity crowd of boom bap fans in minimal clothing, sweat rolling down their faces and their hands in the air.
Aliso, a prolific South County rapper repping Aliso Viejo (hence the moniker), says OC's dire need for a hip-hop epicenter inspired him and Suvivo to start an event with a "for-us, by-us" mentality.
"I don't need to go nowhere else. I could bring everything here—the cameras, the fucking press, whatever—because we're so live," he says, his voice booming with preacher passion. "We're so nasty. And we've barely even started."
Inspired by the historical impact of Abstract Workshop and such renowned LA club nights as Boom Box and the Do-Over, Aliso parlayed his credibility as a resident MC for promoters such as Club Mercy (who works with Detroit Bar) into negotiating a slot for this new pet project at the Costa Mesa venue. He used his gig as host of Sound Science, a monthly DJ staple at the Crosby, to tap influential crate diggers including Salam Wreck, who's spun for artists like DJ Quik, Obie Trice and Tha Dogg Pound.
Instead of being focused on rapping, the night has to be about creating a party vibe that makes his prized MCs the cherries on top.
"No one wants to sit there watching nine fuckin' rappers," he says. "I'm bringing four of the best. We're getting people in so they can drink and dance. They don't even know they're getting blessed with a dope performance."
Aliso's dream team for the second installment includes himself, Kadillak Kaz, C4mula, Kevin Parx, and guest hosts Big Till and rapper Ashley Dominique. These lyrical mercenaries are all accomplished, battle-tested wordsmiths in their own right. Gathered at the table, they represent multiple generations of OC hip-hop. Kaz, whose gritty, tongue-lashing delivery comes direct from the streets of Santa Ana, says that what they're doing pays homage to '80s OC hip-hop legends such as H.B.O. and KMC Kru.
"We represent a small portion of what we call the New West," he says. "There are a lot of people out here doing their thing. And there's a history to it."
Though these artists have either known of one another or worked together in some fashion, building hype to promote this month's event brought them closer in ways they never would've expected. On a recent morning, Aliso and Kadillak hopped into Kadillak's red Nissan sedan and slapped fliers on every liquor-store window, hair salon and telephone pole in central OC. It's that kind of old-school bonding that Aliso believes will bring solidarity among local MCs chosen to represent the round table.
"I'm not doing that 'Hey, you're on the bill; just retweet the event page.' Nah, fuck that," he says. "Y'all are coming out to the bar, we're getting a beer, we've having a barbecue. If you're with Sound Asylum and your date is coming up, you're gonna see these other three fuckin' MCs and sit with them before the show."
This article appeared in print as "Rappers of the Round Table: The OC-bred rappers of Sound Asylum are creating a hub for a new West Coast hip-hop scene."