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An occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.
Every Tuesday night for at least the last four months, D.C. funk (go-go), rock, and soul band Mambo Sauce and area hip-hop giants Gods’llla have been heading a much-needed open mic night centered on D.C. culture, “Up and Up,” at Liv Nightclub. For $5, you can catch some of the city’s finest upcoming and well-established artists—singers, rappers, comedians, musicians, and poets—in action. The atmosphere is conscious and sexy—which I most certainly am a fan of. Brothers greet each other with pounds and hugs. The sisters are always looking empowered and fly. There is good action going on in several areas of the club that make the night enjoyable.
The band on stage, Mambo Sauce (who muscled its way to the attention of the indie music world with the Chocolate City monster jams “Miracles” and “Welcome to DC”), is always on point, providing the background music for singers, rappers, and other performers. The comfort at which these cats improvise is the hallmark of professionals. The hosts, Black Boo of Mambo Sauce and Vick (brother of True from Gods’llla) have an extremely good working rhythm, showcasing the intelligence and wit of D.C. area natives. These brothers play off one another expertly, giving encouragement and priming crowd support for all artists coming to the stage.
Facing the stage and to the right is the DJ station. At least every time I’ve been there, D.C. hip-hop legends RBI and Jav are always on the decks as part of the Mambo Sauce groove armada. The area around the DJ station also serves as a staging area where the next open mic performer waits to hit the stage. Local indie music VIPs often stop by to perform. The last time I attended, I saw noted and exceptionally gifted African singer, dancer, storyteller, actor, and poet Anna Mwalagho in the house. One thing I’ve noticed over many years of going to these types of events is that lots of good sister energy in the house usually means the quality of the event is better, and the artistic content is on point—which naturally raises the bar on patrons’ entertainment value. It’s the kind of place where you may hear poetry from a 6-foot-4 brother on the critical need for our society to respect and understand that a woman’s power is the secret to healing our “man”-kind—the kind of poem you wouldn’t expect to come out his mouth if you’re the type of person who gets caught up on looks.
Of course, the bar appears to enjoy steady activity, and as folks get their drinks they filter out to either the couch seats or one of two small open-floor spaces. Everyone is friendly and attentively watching whomever is next at bat on the mic or playing along with the band. I saw a sister up in there one night getting busy as funk on the violin. She was swinging that bow right and tight in the classic Chocolate City funk pocket groove provided by Mambo Sauce’s drummer, Sister “Twink.” There are no gimmicks, just that good authentic D.C. funk and soul expression that naturally pours out of Chocolate City but, in recent years, has received little love from the D.C. indie music establishment. Yes, at this Tuesday Night open mic on U Street, there is a Black Broadway vibe that is definitely alive!
The Up And Up open mic takes place at 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Liv Nightclub, 11th and U Streets NW. $5.