Before Rose.Rabbit.Lie. parted ways with unorthodox vaudeville show Vegas Nocturne, Rasar Amani’s job was to carry the midnight act’s fever-dream energy into the early hours of the morning. “All I had to do was show up, rap one or two songs and dance with people,” Amani says. It was a gig he landed with the help of longtime friend, singer and beatboxing sorceress Butterscotch, who also performed full-time at RRL.
“She’s the reason I’m even in Vegas,” Amani adds. “I would have never imagined that I would be living here under any circumstances. I didn’t even know you could live in Vegas.”
The 29-year-old Sacramento native, who’s been rapping since 1999, has jumped at every chance to perform. He’s toured Europe and Taiwan with Butterscotch, laying down spiritualized, stripped-down lines against her larger-than-life beats, delivered a Ted Talk through spoken-word poetry and performed at jazz festivals with numerous bands.
But when the Cosmopolitan ended Nocturne in 2014, Amani didn’t just find himself without a job, he was without a creative outlet. “I was really confused about what the hell I was going to do,” he says.
Encouraged by local musicians CoCo Jenkins (Rhyme N Rhythm) and Cameron Calloway, Amani started going to open-mic nights. Soon he was preparing for a new project: The Lique.
Dreamed up by guitarist Sean Carbone, the four-piece (it’s pronounced “leak”) fuses hip-hop and jazz, with Amani as MC, Nick Schmitt on stand-up bass and Jeremy Klewicki on drums. “We freestyled, and that solidified it,” Amani says of their first practice. “I’ve been in three or four bands, and it was one of the most serene, obvious situations. It felt like we had known each other for years.”
Comparisons to The Roots are unavoidable—they play originals and perform covers, improvise riffs and throw in humor for comedic relief. It’s an old-Vegas-style concept that’s finally coming back, and it’s landed them an upcoming Beauty Bar show opening for Kendrick Lamar-associated singer/producer JMSN.
“We’re working for it and being proactive, getting gigs that actually mean something,” Amani says. “I’m not looking to struggle out here. I’ve already done that for years.”