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Showcase Highlights Region’s Hip-Hop Scene

  • Street Religion performs during the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Diamond Bruso, of Manchester, N.H., dances to a performance by Street Religion on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Doug Hammond, also known as Fresh, of Manchester, N.H., shoots a Facebook Live video during the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tommy Warren holds his dog, Ebony, as Diamond Bruso, of Manchester, N.H., takes a photo for social media on before the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tommy Warren holds his dog, Ebony, as Diamond Bruso, of Manchester, N.H., takes a photo for social media on before the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Street Religion performs during the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Yung Breeze, center, interacts with fellow Street Religion member, Fresh, left, while performing at the Upper Valley Hip-Hop Showcase on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction, Vt. "We don't care about making it big," Breeze said. "We just want to be heard." (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Yung Breeze, also known as Christopher Brown, takes a minute to relax with his girlfriend, Brittany Allard, of Brattleboro, Vt. before performing at The Engine Room on Saturday, June 17, 2017, in White River Junction. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Saturday, July 01, 2017

White River Junction — If you were walking down South Main Street in White River Junction that Saturday night, June 17, you probably heard it: a syncopated, bass-heavy thump-a-thump-a that could not be contained by the walls of The Engine Room.

It was a sound one doesn’t usually hear in the Upper Valley, unless one is unusually with it: that of live hip-hop, and good live hip-hop at that.

Inside, a showcase of 24 artists from around New England was in full swing. It was loud and it was dark, as these things are, but the atmosphere was bright with celebratory, unspeakable joy.

Behind a dance floor that ebbed and flowed with movement, V.I.P. couches were lined with artists and guests of honor. Some of them had their sweethearts curled up in their laps, some were working through a shared bottle of Hennessy, all of them were grinning madly from ear to ear.

It was roughly one year after Cassondra Tibbits, of Lebanon, founded her music management company, Legit Lioness. It was also her first showcase of all the talent she’s corralled over the past year, and she whizzed around the venue like a pro, schmoozing with promoters, chatting up guests and checking in with her artists, who were visibly bursting with excitement to perform.

Among these artists was ABstylez, aka Adrian Belnavis, of Augusta, Maine, who expressed a quirky sensibility through a button-down shirt embroidered with pineapples; Gho$t, aka Christopher Elcock, of Claremont, who easily charmed the crowd with his youthful joie de vivre; and Jun Fargo, of Springfield, Vt., who crooned in smooth, syrupy tones that hinted at a vulnerability most people are not brave enough to tap into.

Watching the antics of Yung Breeze, aka Christopher Brown, of Springfield, Vt., was a particular treat: A natural performer, Breeze — who owns the independent record label Street Religion, to which the aforementioned artists are signed — carved out a special presence for himself both onstage and off.

He spent the better part of the night leaping into the air, or breaking down the barrier between artist and audience by running around on the floor, ad-libbing into the microphone. At one point, in what seemed to be a spur-of-the-moment move, he peeled off his shirt and started wheeling around, arms outstretched, half-naked and laughing like a kid.

This energy was not limited to Breeze, though; in fact, it proved highly infectious. The approximately 100 people in attendance gathered close to the stage to be near the action, and gladly jumped into the more interactive, call-and-response numbers.

They couldn’t get enough: Even at 1 a.m., when The Engine Room was set to close, the artists had little choice but to cave to demands for one more song.

Most palpable, however, was the sense of camaraderie among the artists.

Though Tibbits had mentioned in a prior interview that the performances were largely unrehearsed, that rough-around-the-edges factor lent a refreshingly authentic quality to the night, as if it were not a performance so much as something the artists would be doing with their Saturday night anyway.

They were attuned to, and amplified, each other’s talents, jumped in and out of choruses together, and bobbed up and down in celebration of a common vision: to share what they loved with people who loved it, too.

Which is all just to say: A night at Applebee’s it was not.

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at eholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.