Photobook & Live Review: The Road to Paid Dues Tour at DC9, Feb. 21

Photos and review by: Tommy Dingus

The Road to Paid Dues Tour, headlined by Living Legend Murs, is a traveling independent hip hop dream team. The only place you can hear this level of intricate beats and relevant lyrics is at the Paid Dues Festival at the end of this tour. RTPD Tour hit DC9, and for half of the acts, it was their first time in the nation’s capital. (Check their twitter feeds and instagrams for their pre-show photo safari of DC!)

New to DC and newest on the scene was independent label Black Cloud Music, represented by partners in rhyme Curtiss King and Noa James. These Californians took turns spitting about family, friends, love and the struggles of young rappers trying to make it in the game. King’s track “Ohmygod” even alludes to Murs’ reaching out to young talent, and how it’s made him “a bigger fan of miracles.” King and “Young Orca” wore genuine smiles and in “Baby Sinbad” King’s case, a hi-top fade while making the crowd think and reflect, something Black Cloud thinks is paramount in relatable hip hop.

Fresno’s Fashawn was next up and took the crowd with him on his trip back through time. From his youth, when “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough,” to his adulthood, where he’s “heard it all before.”

Things got weird when Prof, the Minneapolis representative of independent label Stophouse Group hit the stage. There was mic-stand-riding, Prof rapping at an empty stage from the crowd and more jumping than any one man should be capable of. His DJ, Fundo, kept the scratches coming throughout the antics and the back-and-forth between the two kept things light-hearted, even during “The Season,” Prof’s lone depressing song from the set. He quickly brought the spirit back up and sweat covered with the crowd-assisted “Yeah Buddy” to wrap up the rambunctious set.

Murs, who seems to have had his hand in every independent movement in the genre, brought an unrivaled library of songs to his live show. His customary greeting, “Whatuptho,” turned seamlessly into “L.A.” for all the introduction you need for the man. 13 years is a long time to be performing and his timing, flow and ability to interact while staying on track are all honed to perfection. Performing 3,000 miles from home has become so second-nature to Murs, it’s almost as if he didn’t even take a breath during his set.

Fashawn reemerged to join Murs to round out the night with some songs off of their current collaboration, This Generation. The two gave and take seamlessly, finishing each others sentences and getting as close to battling as possible without the trash talk. If you can’t make the Paid Dues Festival in San Bernardino, make it a point to catch this tour leading up to it if you want to feel music instead of just hearing it.

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