The Doll Hut
Last Friday night, the Doll Hut caught fire. Luckily, all the heat was strictly lyrical. When OC's designated punk rock dive bar chose to go off script and host a hip-hop show featuring a certified Juice County dragon like Aliso Black, we expected his bars to burn. The night before Halloween brought in a small but sturdy crew of hip-hop heads that turned up to vibe out with the Costa Mesa emcee in honor of his latest EP Little Fever.
What we got was something more akin to what a hip-hop show should be when you take away the fancy venue, the spotlight, the VIP section and swaths of fickle blog rap fans who are with you one day and gone the next. It was about real friends, cheap beer, and blunts in the parking lot. In this world, true credibility means kicking your first 16 bars acapella to open your set so people know before the beat drops that's there's true passion and your pen game. Opening acts–including the fresh, Frank Ocean-esque rhymes and R&B crooning from emcee Dave Allen and the trap boss swagger of Kevin Parx–set the tone for the night, each displaying their own creative takes on lyricism. It was almost midnight when when the headliner took the stage.
Pulling the mic close to his two front teeth, capped with a pair of glinting, gold fronts, Aliso's rhymes illustrated his trials as a lifelong hustler. Even the title of his latest recording is based a standard term in a craps game, where rolling a five is referred to as a little fever. "I called it Little Fever cuz there's five tracks on there, everybody knows a little fever if you're swift with the dice, five I'm nice," he said to the crowd before launching into the EP's first song, "Bellicose."
There was also little doubt of Aliso's skills as he ripped through his set, throwing some extra dirt on his vocals as heads bobbed to beats by OC producer Phaizrok, DJ'ed by Prime Meridian. As he paced around the stage, a white towel dangling on his head under a baseball cap, the weight of his rhymes matched his husky 6'3 frame. Every bar seemed based in fact and every hook had a story to tell. The jaw-grinding frustration in Aliso's voice on "Hard Cheese" sounded representative of a guy who has paid his dues in OC's hip-hop scene for years, though others have continuously come and gone. But in Aliso's world, the idea of fame doesn't hold much appeal if it's going to be just another word for conforming to current hip-hop radio. He'd rather rap about getting stranded in Venice Beach for 10 days, a true story apparently.
"I went to Venice and got captivated with all the weird shit, I was on acid and all types of shit and my family had to come get me. I wrote a song about that shit," he said before spitting the woozy weirdness of "10th Day At Venice." But for a guy who laughs and shows off those gold teeth as much as Aliso does, no set is really complete unless he uses his underground tools as an emcee to bring us something uplifting, which was the ethos behind his last and strongest joints of the night–the bouncy, low-rider jam "Citrus Money" and the lead track on Little Fever called "Blue Grits."
"Somebody told me that you can't always dwell in the negative, sometimes when shit is fucked up, you gotta just talk good shit into existence," he said. "So [Blue Grits] was kinda like that to me."
He rapped good shit into existence for the crowd as the verses slapped in unison with the gangsta melange of 808s and horns that knocked around the walls of the Hut as the late night audience whooped and hollered in between lyrics that bragged of a brighter future for a rapper ready to thrive outside the local grind. For now, since it appears he's run out of hip-hop spots to kill, there's a good chance you might see him at another punk rock venue near you as his Little Fever starts to spread.