What does it take to really have an impact when an artist grabs a microphone? Not the ticket sales leading up to that moment, not the streams and downloads of the songs about to be performed, but that moment when their hand grasps that boom stick. What does it take? It takes being captivated. An audience is only truly captivated by performers that grab their attention and refuse to let go. If you want a concise and accurate answer its the Emerald Knights, Mega Ran & Bag of Tricks.
If you were at the Monarch Theater on June 22nd, 2018 to see the Phoenix Edition of the Emerald Knights 2 Album Release Tour hosted by IKON Radio then you were privy to some great performances from a multitude of independent artists. 3BReal has shown a lot of growth in their performances, Yung Kooky feels like a star in the making, Rocky Tyraid is a lyrical assassin, & P. Jaye Tha Principal can easily garner comparisons to Meek Mill. They all brought a lot of energy and passion to the stage and really stood out at as great opening acts for the main event. When the time came for that main event, the Emerald Knights were more than prepared to give the audience a truly captivating performance. When the CEO of Respect the Underground decides to perform his intro track from his upcoming album as your lead in, then you know you have people’s attention.
When you listen to just a few songs from Bag of Tricks you understand that he isn’t afraid to be honest and share his hardships with his fans. If you go and see him perform these songs then you will feel his hardships on an entirely different level. He doesn’t just rap to a crowd, he connects with his audience. He searches the crowded venue and makes eye contact with his fans as his most poignant lyrics are being recited, giving all his fans, or as many as possible on any given night, a personal moment with him. To be open and honest in a song is hard enough. To be able to crush performances of upbeat songs about the joys of smoking marijuana and unapologetically call out old school hip-hop heads who are stuck in the past while keeping the respect of the audience is an impressive balancing act. When you add in the brutal truths about his personal struggles that balance could only be accomplished with brutal honesty. It is testament of a great performer who has a clear vision and path for his art.
Mega Ran use to teach but in so many ways he still does. The career he left behind to pursue hip-hop doesn’t feel like it has left him altogether, it has just shifted from classrooms and chalkboards to venues and stages. Using songs like “Get out the 90′s” to push the idea of progression instead of complacency. Questioning the fans about the title of “Airplane Mode” to ensure they are truly paying attention and not just listening. The man is a professor with a mic in his hand. The highlight of the entire night came when Mega Ran requested the audience to hold up anything they had in their pockets and he proceeded to freestyle about these items for over 5 minutes. Full of word play, metaphors, punchlines, as well as true crowd interaction, this freestyle was better than what most artists can do with a rehearsed song.
These two artists can rap with the best of them and somehow that isn’t what you take away from seeing them live. You take with you an experience that makes those songs resonate with you on a deeper level. With the added flair of the Dapper Rapper Ashton Charles playing the Saxophone on “Heat Stroke”, G1 helping out on songs that he produced on the album, & Elluna belting out the chorus on the final song of the night “Love Is Here”, their entire performance was captivating and proved that the Emerald Knights are microphone gold.