Illvibe Collective's new monthly party launches at MilkBoy
S.T.S. at the Illvibe Collective party | Photo by John Vettese

“The Philly hip-hop scene needs something fresh,” Hezekiah told the audience at MilkBoy. The Philly MC was in literal master of ceremonies mode at the center city venue last night, hosting the launch of a new party organized by Illvibe Collective that had clever wordsmith S.T.S. (Sugar Tongue Slim) in the headlining spot. Hezekiah explained to the crowd that their goal was a new showcase of the city’s emerging talent that also celebrated its established names on a planned monthly basis. Last night’s kickoff was modestly attended – decent for a Wednesday night though – but the people who went were pumped to be there. “We’re family,” Hezekiah and DJ PHSH said throughout the night, and indeed there was a warm and engaged vibe among the people on the floor, and the talent on stage did not disappoint.

After an opening DJ set by PHSH and Mr Sonny James, the performance got under way in impressively rapid fashion. An unannounced set from Avant Garde kicked the performances off; the Newark native currently based in Philly does introspective rhymes over hazy jazz-tinged beats and backgrounds. It was a mellow opening, but showcased his undeniable talent and unique sound. Hezekiah was the wake-up bomb: he stormed the stage with a fierce rhythm and fiery delivery on “Put Your Toys Away” – maybe a call to the audience to stop dicking around on their smart phones and pay attention? They heeded the call in any case, and Hez spent the rest of the night on stage or in the wings, introducing the other MCs and sometimes joining them.

Fatnice had him hold up cards spelling out the letters of his name on the super-catchy “You Know The Name” from last year’s It’s Nice To Meet You; later, he helped him toss 45s of the rousing single “Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun” into the audience. During Matt Ford‘s set, Hezekiah stood to the side and smiled, watching the charismatic rapper at work.

S.T.S. easily had the biggest crowd of the night, and his performance was a winner. His performance was on point, his banter was hysterical; he shouted out a friend in the front row who was celebrating a birthday and instructed the crowd to buy him drinks. “He’ll take them,” Slim said, and both of them cracked up. “Hell Wrong” from the new EP We Can Talk Politics and World Affairs was great, and the song that the new EP took its name from – 2011’s “WWW” – was huge with its irresistible hook, “All’s I know is women, weed and what to wear.” He smirked sheepishly at the crowd’s enthused reaction and said “It’s cool, that’s the jam, I know.” Slim also gave shoutouts to two other MCs on the bill, Ford and The Bul Bey, embracing them and saying “I never even heard them before tonight!”

If S.T.S. was the big draw, The Bul Bey was the bigger surprise. The up-and-coming MC has released a few catch tracks on Illvibe’s imprint, but on stage he’s a force of nature – dancing, rhyming, getting the whole room to join in soul-clap style. Bey played an early set and returned at the end, closing the night with an outstanding performance his crazy catchy single “Where I’m From,” and it was a perfect encapsulation of the party’s mission.

“We’re trying to mix the new with the old, the old with the new,” Hezekiah said. “It’s timeless.”

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