Crown rules a domain in need of hip-hop leadership
By Michael Aushenker
As Westside L.A.’s music scene continues to struggle, Venice (or the entire west side, for that matter) is not exactly known for its hip hop.
Outside of Evidence from Dilated Peoples, there’s been a paucity of rap riches from this hood. Adding to this dearth, Dr. Geek, who for 25 years entertained countless tourists ad-libbing rhymes on the boardwalks, passed away on Nov. 29.
Out of this void emerges Crown, a Brooklyn transplant returning to the WitZend next Thursday to rock its bells.
“Big man on campus, born to be a leader/Hail from the county of Kings, nice to meetcha” the rapper declares on “All Hail Now” over an unsampled brass section and a chorus interpolating presidential fanfare “Hail to the Chief.”
Crown spits autobiographical verse over live instrumentation from his group M.O.B. (a.k.a. “Message of the Blues”). Since he arrived in Venice, New Amsterdam Vodka has incorporated three Crown tracks into its national branding campaign.
Born Wilfredo Williams, Crown grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section but also attended school in Watertown, New York.
In Venice he finds a balance of the urban atmosphere that exposed him to Eric B. and Rakim, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Nas and Jay-Z and the Ace of Bass and Hootie and the Blowfish he was digging while in upstate New York.
“It’s kind of my balance. In Brooklyn everything’s happening at once, and then Venice, it’s the complete opposite. The material I write, you can tell it’s from the street but the content isn’t that dark,” said Crown, who for a year has enjoyed a monthly residency at WitZend and who also plays Hal’s Bar and Grill on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Harvelle’s in Santa Monica.
Now living in Carson, the former New Yorker loves Venice, even recording his upcoming album, “All Rise,” (due in March) at Bleeker Street Studios. He’s played the Key Club and House of Blues, but regarding the artificiality of the Hollywood scene he says don’t believe the hype.
“The west side of town is a little more open and accepting to new stuff. As opposed to Hollywood, which pretty much goes to what’s trendy,” he said.
Preceded by another L.A. rapper, Habit, Crown’s engagement promises to leave not a dry garment in the house after attendees dance up a sweat.
“In our style of music, we have a blend of genres in one,” Crown said. “You can just call us ‘music.’ When you bring so many cultures and races and age groups to the mix, I kind of bridge that gap.”
Crown performs at 9 p.m. on Jan. 29 at WitZend, 1717 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. $10. Call (310) 305-4792 or visit crownandthemob.com.