Sensory Overload: Real ’Em In

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From the June 27, 2013 edition

This rap group Real ’Em In has a monthly hip-hop night at Circus called Wordplay Thursday. After watching the Spurs let the Heat get to them, I stopped by last week around the stroke of midnight.

Not sure if the rest of the crowd had to get home before their carriages turned into pumpkins, but it was deserted in there. (A) Blame it on Game 7 or (B) blame it on the talent? Phizz Ed, a competent but unremarkable rap crew including one guy in medical scrubs, was on stage doing little to dissuade me from option B.

Next up was our headliner, a trio of white rappers backed by DJ Ed Hardy. Just kidding, his name is DJ Koncept, and he did some actual scratching, which is more than most of today’s laptop slingers can say.

So, three MCs and one DJ, but Beastie Boys they were not, although the way they gathered together at the front of the stage, consistently posing, shuffling and reassembling, flashed me back to the Hello Nasty era in a positive way. I’m guessing these guys spent a lot of time with that record back in middle school.

In keeping with their name, Real ’Em In captured my attention up front with a song built on a sample from The xx’s “Intro.” I shouldn’t be so easily amused by rappers sampling indie rock songs, but there it is. Not so charmed, though, by the constant mantra “Remain relevant!” being shouted down my ear.

It’s not a motto this group takes to heart. Nothing about Real ’Em In’s set suggested they are popping wheelies on the zeitgeist. It was more of a compendium of white rappers past, another link on the Eminem-Yelawolf-MGK chain but with less fire and more Vanilla Ice.

Technically, they can rap fast and stay on beat, but the delivery was cripplingly monotone, the sound of attic superstars fizzling under the stage lights. No hooks, either, save for closing number “Mardi Gras,” which has gotten some radio play around the U.S. and sounds like something you might actually hear at a party, albeit a party in Crazytown.