We’re family,” says Rhyme N Rhythm co-manager William Price over the howl of trombone, drums and bass in the next-door studio. “That doesn’t stop.”
Neither does his group’s ambition. After landing gigs opening for top-tier headliners—Three 6 Mafia and Ghostface, Snoop Dogg, Mya, Flobots and, next week in Primm, LL Cool J—Rhyme N Rhythm is looking to do something on its own: turn Vegas into a hip-hop town.
Rhyme N Rhythm aka RNR
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The group certainly has the pieces to make it happen. Like The Roots, Rhyme N Rhythm (or RNR) is a live-instrument-based hip-hop band (“a hip-hop/funk/soul collective,” as co-manager Shawn Denard explains), so its size varies from eight to 12 on any given night. There are four MCs—Allan “A1” Turner (aka “Moseye”), Jerry Walker, Freddy Tiff (aka “The Golden Child”) and Dominick Jackson (aka “Bob Cane”). There’s a bass player (Courtney “Coco Jenkins” Thomas), a drummer (Renaldo “Tadow” Elliott), a guitarist (Ryan Mappala), and a keyboardist (Zach Porter, aka “K-Nyce”). And when RNR is joined by its conga and horns section, it really does become, as Price says, one very large “family.”
“There is no hip-hop scene for Vegas,” says turntablist Jolani Childs. “But we tryin’ to blow up.”
Although Rhyme N Rhythm, as it’s currently constructed, has only been together about a year, the band’s roots run deep. Many of the musicians met while attending UNLV, and Walker and Mappala went to the same high school in Alaska. Turner, who was born in Chicago but raised in California, remembers how he used to stay in his parents’ bedroom and “fall asleep to smooth jazz” each night. Jackson, who grew up in Louisiana, recalls hearing LL’s Walking With a Panther for the first time, and trying to rap in front of the mirror that day. When the topic turns to opening for his idol, his eyes grow wide. “LL’s one of the reasons I started rapping,” he says.
“Fuck all that superstar shit,” Childs says. “[You] gotta be with the people.”
At a recent House of Blues courtyard show, Rhyme N Rhythm is just that. The group flows seamlessly from song to song, allowing no silence between cuts, while Walker beseeches the casual dining audience for its participation. “We need your help! We need your help for this one!” he shouts. “We need you to follow us!”
A few tourists join friends of the band to form a small clique by the stage. The crowd grows, but Price knows there’s still work to be done. “Hip-hop gets a bad rap,” he says, “But it’s not something to be afraid of. Vegas is just as much of a hip-hop town as any metropolitan city. It’s gonna be legit.” Or, as RNR’s four MCs announce on “Hello Groove,” the title track from their soon-to-be-released debut LP, “It’s been a long road, and we paid our dues.”