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Vegas hip-hop veterans pay homage to the genre’s golden greats

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Photo: Bill Hughes
Damon Hodge

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For more information on The Kings of Rock LV visit kingsofrocknv.com

Clad in black jeans and black sweaters, with black hats and inch-thick gold chains, longtime Vegas rappers James Allen (Spoaty Mac) and Daniel Ware (Dirty Red) are bounding around the LVCS on a Tuesday night, drinking in the love after ripping up a short set.

None of the songs drawing applause from family, friends and Hip Hop Roots night regulars can be found on the pair’s extensive 20-year street-hop catalog, however. Six months ago, Allen and Ware temporarily shelved their recording careers to form The Kings of Rock LV, a Run-D.M.C. tribute group. They saw it as a way to boost their own music’s profile while tapping into an unexplored niche.

In a town that has elevated impersonation to a lucrative art form, Kings of Rock LV members say it was only a matter of time before nostalgia came knocking at hip-hop’s door. “People still love old-school hip-hop,” says Allen, who booked the group’s first gig at November’s Hip Hop Legends concert at the Boulevard Theater.

Allen plays lead vocalist Joseph Simmons (Rev Run). Ware, his longtime friend and hip-hop cohort, channels gruff-voiced sidekick Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.). And Michael Chambers holds down the role of Jam Master Jay, Run-D.M.C.’s deceased DJ.

At LVCS, another Vegas veteran, A.J. Jones, takes the stage—for his maiden performance as LL Cool J. “At first it felt weird,” Jones says of covering another artist’s material. “But people really dig it. You can see Michael [Jackson] and Madonna and 40 different Elvises. But until recently, you couldn’t see your favorite old-school rapper. The time is right for this.”

The market for rapper-cum-impersonators might be even larger than they imagined. Allen says the group has earned as much as $500 for 13-minute sets and received offers to perform as far away as Houston. Chambers says that interest validates their decision.

“All of us are artists with history in the local hip-hop game and our own followings,” says Chambers, who encouraged Kings of Rock LV members to study Run-D.M.C., from the physical touchstones to the musical interplay. “But this is another avenue for creative expression.”

As other local artists take the Hip Hop Roots stage, Kings of Rock LV members wax poetic about their plans. Allen, who hopes to add Salt-n-Pepa impersonators to the lineup, sounds thrilled by the chance to pay homage to rappers he grew up idolizing. “This is just another way to do what I love, which is give people good music.”

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