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Living Up to the Hype: Local Talent Flourishes Alongside Underground Phenom in Massachusetts Debut

by Julian Mendoza

The past couple of years have been quiet for former Pro Era affiliate Uno Hype.

Since releasing his 2021 album SOL GLO, the independent rapper has not released a single song on digital streaming platforms, save for a handful of collaborations. His live performances were virtually as infrequent. As time passed, it began to look like the star who once rocked stages with Common, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller and Logic might never return.

Sometimes, though, all you need to do is ask. And that’s just what rapper Mikey DZZZ of Massachusetts hip-hop collective “PH Imbalance” did to get him on stage at Lowell’s Taffeta music venue.

PH Imbalance begins their set

Uno Hype, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time … and I’d just been telling him for a while, ‘you make amazing stuff,” he explained in an interview with Turntable Teachers prior to Saturday night’s show. “We just kept it cordial and just kept a back-and-forth. Then, I was just asking him one day if he would ever come out, and he said he would.”

The resulting event was a night full of milestones. For PH Imbalance, this was a once-in-a-blue-moon affair for the group’s stars to align.

“A lot of our members will just kind of go off and play their own shows,” Mikey DZZZ said of PHI, which hosted the concert. “Very rarely, we get a whole PHI unit show. We thought it would be a great idea to kind of pack the house out with PHI coming out.”

Briefcvse performs unreleased tracks

“These guys are my best friends,” PHI’s Stevie Cash, surrounded by his groupmates, said in the green room following their performance. “We grew up together. We’ve been doing this together for a long time. It’s been a long time coming trying to put this all together and I think everyone showed up and everyone did their job.”

For Uno Hype, a Maryland native now based in Los Angeles, this was a first-ever visit to Massachusetts. While his mutual mission was to “pack the house,” he made clear that it meant more to him than the money. During each of the other five sets, the headliner was no different from everybody else: bobbing his head in the audience, feeding off the vibes and soaking up the music.

“It’s amazing to be able to work with people who … give you good energy that isn’t on no phony shit, you know?” Mikey DZZZ said after Uno Hype’s set. “It’s really dope to see.”

Nahli singing her hit single "D n D"

Mikey DZZZ said he approached organizing the show with “a mindstate of an old wrestling promoter,” curating a high-energy bill with “as much diversity as possible” stylistically in the lineup. The evening started at around 8 p.m., running through short sets from grungy experimental hip-hop artist Briefcvse, R&B powerhouse Nahli, PH Imbalance, soul fusionist Liz Raki and captivating lyrical emcee Nate Nics.

Nate Nics delivers an emotional acapella

The crowd’s energy — and its size — swelled with each act until it was time for Uno Hype to take the stage. By this time, Taffeta was packed with dozens, including some “deywun” fans.

“It’s cool to see I’ve got support from Mass. I came all the way out from the other coast to come here and perform, and people knowing the words [to my songs] is a beautiful thing to see,” Uno Hype said, adding that he aims to return to the Bay State toward the end of the year, even if it’s just to spend some quality time in the area.

Liz Raki performing alongside her band

“The love tonight was immense,” PHI’s MC KYM said of the show. “The performances tonight were rocking the house. Everybody was getting loud, everyone was getting live and having a great time.”

For PH Imbalance and company, seeing so many entranced was, ironically, balance restored in a world off-kilter with distractions.

“I wanted to see a community … of people who are here to enjoy the in-the-moment energy,” said TEN$TRIP, who DJed for PHI during the show. “There was a lot of authenticity. … Everyone had their phones down and they were just appreciating the moment, and that’s really something you don’t see a lot nowadays.”

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