L.A. outfit King Fantastic brings West Coast rap to Greylock

Here are some places I do not usually go on Friday nights: Sawyer, Schow, gangster rap concerts.

King Fantastic
Killer Reese One and his beatmaker DJ Troublemaker, of the upcoming rap group King Fantastic, harangued the expectant crowd on Friday with their fiery lyrics.

And while I vow to never, ever do the first or second, I can happily say that my streak of no-gangster-rap was broken this past Friday night at the King Fantastic concert in Greylock. Technically speaking, the Los Angeles rap duo classifies its sound as “Westcoastsynthesizerbeachbumgangstermusic” on its website, but really, who’s counting?

While the event suffered a lack of publicity, the small crowd was loud and enthusiastic by the time I arrived. The concert was organized by Will Weiss ’12 and co-sponsored by the Neighborhood boards, All-Campus Entertainment and the Financial Committee. The first noticeable aspect of King Fantastic, made up of rapper Killer Reese One and DJ Troublemaker, was that it seemed to have a penchant for shirtlessness. This is certainly true in the popular music video for its song “Why? Where? What?” which ignores the questions posed in its title altogether by featuring a topless cleaning lady writhing in a shower. And it was also true on Friday, when Killer Reese One tore off his shirt in front of the cheering crowd. “Wait, what does the tattoo on his torso say?” I asked my friend next to me.

“I think it says … sout? Oh wait, no. Southern Cali.”

“He also has Jimi Hendrix on his arm,” Weiss later confirmed. “My friend thought it was Frederick Douglass, but I’m pretty sure it was Jimi.”

King Fantastic has built up a following since its formation in 2010, mostly through the online release of its album Finger Snaps and Gun Claps and its EP Death of a Summer.

Weiss, who first heard the duo’s tracks last summer, admitted he originally didn’t think it would be feasible to get them on campus. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think of it as a possibility until I heard some of the neighborhoods were going to be generous with funding, and it worked out. So I just want to give them a lot of thanks for that,” he said.

While the Williams turnout was small, a group of UMass students reportedly traveled to Williamstown to attend the concert. And this past February, when Killer Reese One was arrested in L.A. (for crimes he has been coy enough not to let slip), enough money was raised through an online “Free Reese” campaign to post bail. That, if anything, seems like a thorough measure of one’s fan base.

On Friday, King Fantastic blazed through several tracks off Finger Snaps and Gun Claps and a remix of Bassnectar’s “Bass Head.” After a closing, thoroughly enjoyable rendition of “Why? Where? What?” Killer Reese One shook hands with audience members. When asked for an interview, he seemed thrilled at the prospect. “But,” he said, “wait for me by the door. I gotta get my money first.” I never saw him again. Really. I waited, and I have no idea how he got out of the building. I’ll chalk it up to some gangster maneuver.

The other half of King Fantastic, DJ Troublemaker (“Call me ‘Josh,’” he sheepishly told me) confirmed the elusive nature of Killer Reese One. “I first met him when I was doing remixes of Peter, Bjorn and John, and there were a bunch of rappers at this one show in L.A. I saw [Killer] Reese One perform and I knew I wanted to work with him. It took me six months to track him down, but my roommate finally got his number. And then it was happily ever after.”

Weiss described the duo as “a study of contrasts. Josh is a pretty normal guy that you can carry on a conversation with, but [Killer Reese One] is insane,” he said. “Every other word was some sort of expletive. Within two minutes of me being in his hotel room, he had his shirt off.” Somehow I was not surprised.

After the show, Troublemaker/Josh seemed energized by the Williams crowd. “I love doing college shows,” he said. “When you’re at a club, it’s like everyone paid to be there, they’re not really paying attention. But college shows are just fun, everyone is there to have a good time.” I pointed to a group of students who were still banging on tables and rapping to their own beats in a circle, even after the music had been turned off and the lights on. “Yeah! Like those guys! See, that’s so great.”