In March, Atlanta hip-hop mainstay D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik revived the World Famous Mic Club MC battles at XS Ultra Lounge after a five-year absence. Soon after, the club hired him as general manager and he's since renamed the venue the 3rd Street Armory, where he continues fighting "Atlanta's culture war" one battle at a time. This Tuesday, one of the most skilled MCs of all time, Kool G Rap, makes his way from Queens to headline Mic Club's True Masters concert series. As D.R.E.S. explains, it's all about fostering a stronger underground hip-hop scene in Atlanta.
What facilitated Mic Club's return?
I received about 20-25 questions about it through Facebook, Twitter ... people had asked about it during our absence, but it was really intense this one particular day. I asked what people thought via my social media presence and I got an overwhelming response. Petey Franklin, who owned Club Mecca, said, "I have the perfect space." When I walked into XS I fell in love.
Why bring it back after five years?
I want to see a better underground scene. Not that the artists representing this red clay aren't good, but there's a lot of untapped resources here. I call World Famous Mic Club a vocal gym in the environment of dinner theater. We train MCs, producers, and DJs to be better at their craft. What happens if an MC is performing and the DJ has technical issues? Suddenly, it's just an MC and a crowd. What are you gonna do? At Mic Club you learn the skills to master your ceremony.
What's the True Masters Concert Series that Kool G Rap is playing?
We bring in masters of their craft who have the catalogue to back it up. We've done Jungle Brothers, Q-Tip, Little Brother, and several others. It's a legacy within the Mic Club Legacy.
XS Ultra Lounge has been a gay club for years. Did they want to rebrand?
The owners wanted to be as accommodating as possible, and they'd had a situation with a promoter that rubbed them the wrong way. They saw the need to move in a new direction. We agreed that I need creative license not just to sustain Mic Club, but to sustain the building. It's a black-owned business — one of the few black-owned businesses on Spring St. — so there's a weight on my shoulders, but I wear it with pride. The owners are good people, which makes me want to fight harder. We changed the name to 3rd Street Armory because Atlanta is literally in a culture war. It's a city made up of natives and transplants, and we're all looking for a piece to call our own. The problem is that there's no balance, and we need to find balance by any means necessary. There's room for a Mighty High Coup and a Waka Flocka to coexist from a media standpoint to a simple billing standpoint, but in 2013 there aren't enough brave souls fighting for it.
I've worked in nightclubs since I was 14 — before I could be there legally — and I've done every job possible — bartender, bouncer, bar back — to learn how to take the next step: ownership. I recognize that I have to proverbially take off one hat to wear another. By taking the job I resolve that. I'm ready to develop Atlanta's next generation of J Carters, Jason Orrs, and Randy Castellos. I want to have a hand in developing talent that makes our city proud. I've wanted to manage a space since I moved here in 1995 and started 4Kings Entertainment in '97. Sixteen some years later, here we are. In my head and in my heart I'm jumping for joy!
How has 3rd Street been received?
Crowds have been receptive. There are some misconceptions about the space but they disappear once you're inside. Some people come in thinking, "Oh, it's a gay club ... I don't get down like that." It's a lot of unnecessary stigma. Come with your preconceived notions and let me address them one battle at a time.