Raw City Rukus, D’Opus & Roshambo, MonkeyKat, Onetalk @ ANU Bar, Canberra (10/02/2012)

When you’re in a band and you’ve played gig after gig after gig, sometimes you never know if you’re going to actually get anywhere. The constant performing can wear you down. Eventually you need that release, of laying tracks down, to feel free and ready to move forward.

In the case of Raw City Rukus, after a couple years of gigs and building a solid fan base in Canberra, they have finally released their debut EP, Genesis. It’s a seven track ‘mini-album’ that feels like it’s an explosion of raw energy that has been dying to get out.

On a Friday evening at the ANU Bar, a collection of talented hip-hop artists came together for a tiny $12 entry fee, to celebrate the launch of the EP that will launch Raw City Rukus to unsuspecting public.

The growing crowd were warmed up by the antics of Onetalk, who looked more like a couple of grunge guitarists than a smooth DJ duo. It was a perfect start to the night. The vibe of the venue was growing as MonkeyKat hit the stage.

Local poet, lyricist and rapper Omar Musa is no stranger to Canberra audiences. He is as well known for his poetry recitals as he is his hip-hop performances and has shared the stage with the elite of the Australian hip-hop scene. MoneyKat is the combination of Omar and Mighty Joe from California. A seemingly unlikely pair at first glance, but it doesn’t take long to realise that these two have something unique going on.

Backed by the smooth and solid beats of Ishu on the buttons and Chad on the drums, the vibe of MoneyKat is undeniably tight and almost hypnotic. Joe and Omar work together like a well-oiled machine, owning the stage and having a ball at the same time. The crowd reaction was well deserved as the room swelled before the beautiful Candice Monique was introduced for a performance of Nothing is Safe. MoneyKat banged through the tracks from their soon to be released debut album, to be distributed by Obese Records. If their performance is anything to go by, their long awaited debut will be something special.

Local hip-hop has been built on artists like D’Opus & Roshambo. The pair have been pioneers of hip-hop in Canberra for some time and their live performance can never be faulted. It was a shame the crowd were mostly hanging outside and at the bar rather than listening to a tight and solid set from the duo. The small group that stuck around got to see how it is done as the boys ripped through tracks from their 2011 record, Past Time as well as some oldies. The crowd was a little disappointing, but the performance was professional and honest.

It was with much anticipation that Raw City Rukus took to the stage. First up there was a brotherly feel as Roshambo shared the stage for the opening track from an EP that was produced by D’Opus. With a different sound to the other artists of the night, Raw City Rukus treated the audience to a full band. Six members filled the stage with bass, guitar, keys, drums and two MC’s. The music they made ranged from funk, to rock, to jazz and everything in between. They played a mix of hip-hop and jazzed up music that harks back to the 90’s when Swoop, DIG and Skunkhour ruled the Aussie Funk scene.

Imogen Spong stood out as not only the only female on stage, but as an exceptional talent – mixing soulful lyrics and keyboard skills with ease. MC’s Rob and AJ nailed it, bouncing off each other with energy of youth but the expertise of MC’s years older. The band was tight and the vibe grew throughout the night with tracks from Genesis. Ain’t We Funkin’ and Bones were highlights from a short but solid set and from the crowd reaction it was obvious that there is a lot of love out there for the band. This EP could be the start of big things for the Canberra collective. Here’s hoping they can break it on a national level and give Canberra another reason to be respected.

This isn’t an EP review, but buy it if you can. As Raw City Rukus would say, “Breathe in, push play”.