| Libretto Leads The Crew |
IMAGE: MARK BAUMGARTEN
The music is coming from upstairs, where the Greek's bar, dance floor and DJ booth have been invaded by Fleet Week. A couple dozen uniformed sailors on shore leave have taken over the dance floor, laughing and dry-humping virtually every girl in the place. The higher-ranking officers linger at the corners of the club like teachers at a high-school dance. They maintain their stoic personas, looking over the dance floor with thinly veiled jealousy and disgust. DJ Wicked keeps the sailors moving, switching between underground hip-hop tracks and club anthems without so much as a hiccup in the beat. Wicked, who hosts "Wicked Wednesdays" at the Greek every week, looks unfazed by the whole scene as he warms the room up for the night's main attractions, local emcee Libretto and California emcee Wildchild.
With Wicked still at the tables, two seamen spot a group of dancing girls on the other side of the club who have yet to be "freaked." The sailors share words, tip their hats forward and approach with tactical precision, closing in on the girls from either side. They nod at the girls and, as if on cue, begin the same dance, which involves a lot of thrusting and lip-pursing.
Wicked starts in on a hip-hop remix of the Jackson 5's "ABC," and a circle forms on the dance floor. Sailors jump in tentatively, wiggle a bit, then exit, laughing. A local b-boy cuts in and drops to the floor, spinning furiously on his hands. A regular at contests and clubs in town, this guy is good. The circle goes ape-shit. A couple of Navy take up the challenge before a short, confident sailor drops to the floor and spins with even more intensity than our b-boy. His buddies help him up off the floor, laughing and hugging him before the circle dissipates as a slow groove takes over.
By the time Libretto takes the stage, the room has emptied from about 80 people to 50. If the emcee cares, he certainly doesn't let it show. "This is for all the fallen soldiers," he says over the beat, holding a finger in the air and playing to the crowd. The club takes the bait. "Keep ya ones up! I don't care if it's for your dog who died or a goldfish in a bowl. One love."
Libretto cruises into "Slumfunk," his eyes mostly closed. The emcee has a Southern California smoothness to his voice that is countered by his penchant for punchy freestyles and a relentless social consciousness. "Slumfunk," though, is his "what's my name" track, where he entices the crowd to spell "L-I-B-R-E-T-T-O" along with him. Lib's animated DJ, Rev. Shines (of Lifesavas fame), cuts the volume during the spelling parts, letting the audience hear itself. "Give yourself a hand," the emcee says after the track. "Give it up for hip-hop."
By the time Wildchild takes the stage, the crowd has thinned out. "Who all's drunk right now?" Wildchild asks. The response is unanimous. A sailor in the back raises both hands and spins around, letting out a lengthy "whooo!" And, in the corners, their superiors look on, tight-lipped.