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Words and Photos: Hook / Hu Dat / Jasmine Infiniti / Laaee Uzumak! / Paris Williams / Kemper10k / DJ Alphabeta / DJ Snot at The Bottleneck

Hook at The Bottleneck. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

Date: October 30, 2021

The Bottleneck - Lawrence, KS

For the number of times I was bowled over, forced to plant my hands on the stage to keep upright at Saturday night's show, one might've thought I was attending a hardcore punk or extreme metal gig. Nope. Riverside, California rapper Hook was just making her Lawrence, Kansas debut at The Bottleneck. Though she hasn't reached the same level of mainstream-adjacent success won by some of her contemporaries, Hook's fans spent every minute of her half-hour set grasping towards her, clamoring, "I love you, Hook!" It helps that her social media handle is @ILYHook and that at one point she led the crowd in that chant of "I-L-Y" with her arms, in the style of "YMCA," but the intensity was completely authentic.

It was rare to catch Hook without a smile on her face throughout her performance. Whether shouting her way through bite-sized party tracks like "Wanna Be," singing cloud rap-styled R&B numbers, or rapping to a fan twerking, hands and knees on stage, Hook knew she had the eyes of everyone in the room. That room was only one-half or two-thirds full, but when everyone in it was trying their damnedest to be as close as they could to the stage or just dancing their asses off, it may as well have been a packed house.

Hook entered the stage halfway through her DJ Hu Dat's opening set which began with some dance tracks, but slowly made its way into hip-hop and pop territory. There are few tactics as effective at hyping up a room of hip-hop-savvy teenagers and college kids than serving up back-to-back Soulja Boy hits. Hook's dancing during "Pretty Boy Swag" and "Turn My Swag On" was infectious as the pandemic we're crawling our way out of.

Though highly regarded in underground dance music circles (she's been featured by I-D, RA, and FACT), Jasmine Infiniti's set felt a bit out of place, if not simply underappreciated. Twice the length of any other performer's set that evening, Infiniti let high-BPM techno tracks blast from the club's speakers for at least an hour with little breathing room and no real acknowledgements of the crowd. Plenty attendees danced at some point, but few remained gripped for the entirety of the set. One group of friends standing near me mistook her for another DJ on the bill, likely due to the crowded lineup and the lack of a real introduction.

Though she's performed out at least once or twice before, this was certainly the largest crowd that local rapper Laaee Uzumak! had stood in front of yet. Beads popped out of her hair and were sent rolling across the stage as she vigorously popped and locked between bars, often finishing by flashing her trademark L-for-loser hand sign. Though most of the room was previously unaware of Laaee due to how new she is to the scene, her colorful get-up (which also included bunny ears and a bushy tail; unsure if this was for Halloween or purely for grins), abundant confidence, and natural stage presence clearly won her more than a few fans, receiving the biggest response of anyone that night aside from Hook. She occasionally leaned on her backing track a bit too heavily, but with some honing, Laaee will easily become one of the area's premier performers. She's already a safe bet for any underground hip-hop gig and it wouldn't surprise me if national attention quickly follows.

Paris Williams is a rapper-producer I've been seeing a lot of post-pandemic. His set on Saturday was similar to the one he performed at Deep Space earlier in October, but I'm almost certain I'm the only one who caught both of these shows. With a crowd full of fresh faces, Paris doled out his crisp and colorful pop-rap stylings as heard on his Cocoa EP while making plenty of room for new material like both tracks from his most recent single and a couple unreleased joints. Much of Williams' softer, poppier material didn't gain much traction with an audience that had come ready for a pre-Halloween rager, but a couple tracks late in the set featuring louder drums and distorted guitars managed to get some fans hopping.

The show began with DJ sets from locals Kemper10k, DJ Alphabeta, and DJ Snot. Selections ranged from hard techno to hip-hop and R&B as the crowd filtered in and slowly got to grooving on the dancefloor.

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