There’s something of a local hip-hop renaissance going on right now, and Stack Boyz are at the heart of it. Whether the crowds at a Stack Boyz gig will let that heart keep pumping is another matter.
Southern takeover: Stack Boyz (featuring DJ Millz, left, and Bandana Money) conquered a wild Is crowd on Friday before a fight ended the night.
But an audience member would do well to let the beats build. This collection of hometown emcees are at a sort of creative peak: In the last year, Stack Boyz released a swarm of mixtapes and tracks that range from middling to monstrous. One of the finest, the unofficial Charlottesville rap anthem “900 Block,” throws the boasts of emcees Gangsta Gill and Bandana Money into a hyper-local setting, casts them as lyrical prizefighters in the landscape they roam every day.
And other local rap acts see them as such. “Stack Boyz in the building!” shouted lanky emcee Yung VA as his crew, Treez Production, tore into “Take Ova” before a crowd of roughly 200 people during last Friday’s hip-hop show at Is Venue. Despite the late hour and the nearly two-hour dance party that started the evening, Treez let rip with a manic physical energy that occasionally synched up with their lyrics. A few emcees—namely, Yung VA and a braided beast of rhymes named J Willa—tapped into that hyperkinetic rhyming known as flow, and tracks like “L.O.,” which recalled the homonym chorus of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” (“L.O.” seems to become “Hello!” as you listen) suggested Treez could potentially overwhelm the room.
Instead, the room waited for Stack Boyz, who took the Is stage near 1am and left it far too early. Halfway through the first track, lights in the venue came on and one audience member was booted from the room, while one of the Stack emcees pleaded with the audience to “chill the fuck out” and another asked for any non-performers to get off the stage.
Stack Boyz only managed a few more tunes before a borderless brawl sent the audience scurrying for the door. The tracks they finished, however—a ripping song that choruses in a burly “Got money” chant, and Bandana Money’s vicious stroll through “900 Block”—opened a strong set that begged to see its proper end. Instead, a reckless audience bled the energy out of the Stack Boyz set and the room, out onto West Main Street, where a dozen or so Charlottesville Police Department vehicles arrived to monitor the scene. At least one officer flushed pepper spray from his eyes while tears poured down his cheeks.
At times during its set, Stack Boyz showed its youth (occasional emcee cronyism, too many friends onstage, etc.), and the show suffered a little, showed an amateurish side. But I want to make this crystal-clear: Stack Boyz represents a vital voice in the Charlottesville music community, one that ought to command the respect of its audience and any serious fans of local hip-hop. And until an audience gives the Stack Boyz their due, shows like this will limit a group of wickedly talented rappers. No, not “rappers.” Young artists.