On the town with ProTown

Hip-hop heads fill the Bucket
By CHRIS CONTI  |  September 29, 2009


B-BOY FRIAR The ProTown logo.

Every week we remind (and implore) you to get off the couch and/or laptop and hit a show or two around town. Last Friday, a hip-hop showcase courtesy of upstart label ProTown Records, founded by Provy rap vets Romen Rok and DJ Al Bums (among others), invaded the Grant Building in Pawtucket, and the showcase was a rousing success. And for those who doubt that any sort of "community" or "scene" exists 'round here should have moseyed on over to Main Street, where ProTown Records celebrated their first release, a vinyl-only compilation that caught the attention of 100 or so heads in attendance, while artists such as Chachi and Romen Rok had the crowd amped straight till midnight.

"Hey, sorry we gotta go, but the good news is the bars in Providence are still open!" showcase organizer Romen Rok declared after the crowd received a sick, climactic surprise in MPC beatmeister and newly-blessed Dipset producer Araab Musik. He grew up in Providence and "came through on the fly within a couple hours notice," according to Romen, who was snapping pics all night while sporting a kelly green ProTown shirt (the logo is a B-Boy take on the PC Friar -- real hot). It was incredible to see Araab perform, his hands tapping and wailing on his effects processor, looping and creating sinister beats on the fly. Pretty impressive, especially considering the weighty, ultra-chunky bracelet he was sporting. The night was underscored by a tremendous show of local support: spotting Labeless Illtelligence wordsmiths Esh the Monolith and CasUno posting up in the Strange Famous gift shop, shooting the shit with Poorly Drawn People's Storm Davis. Big City Bumpus was cruising the grounds, and folks were gobbling up copies of the new Swann Notty CD, Right and Exact, and placing bids on custom art vinyl sleeves of the new ProTown release in a silent auction while mowing down homemade overstuffed $1 empanandas and rocking out to lyricists Chachi, InfoMite and J Strest, and Romen Rok, who always delivers a vividly entertaining set. Rok isn't afraid to smile and have fun while dishing out clever bars on the mic. In fact, he closed his set with a new joint called "Laughter," which will appear by year's end on his ridiculously-overdue full-length release. "There's no known side effects, it's a harmless addiction/In fact it's been proven to boost your immune system" was a memorable quote from the new track, as Rok approached the elbow-to-elbow crowd and disarmed a bearded sourpuss up front. By the end the entire room was smiling and nodding in appreciation. I've been to a few hundred rap shows in my day, and never saw anything like that.

ProTown is the definition of a community startup project, as recollected by former Funkbunker Fleet lyricist Rok. The new compilation is gathered from tracks Al Bums had on file, and prove to define "timeless hip-hop," with booming beats and a score of lyricists ripping the mic.

"At that time a bunch of us were spinning hip-hop at Blake's Tavern, and we decided to take the money that we made each week from Blake's and put it away until we had enough cash to put out a record as a collective," Rok recalled. "The idea for this record was initially supposed to be a 45, but when we started to dig up material for it, we realized that we had enough dope music to release a full-length."

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