After Nearly Five Years, Hip-Hop Showcase Ends Its Run

bondfire2EMA Photography/Elizabeth Allen. TastyKeish and Bronx Uber Villain

For almost five years, Bondfire has served as a monthly family reunion for New York’s hip-hop scene, but the open mic will end its run tomorrow night at the Bowery Poetry Club.

After starting the event in 2007, musician Ausar Paumam’ki handed the reigns to current co-host Tony Walker, a veteran of hip-hop open mic circuits better know as The Bronx Über Villain. “We made Bondfire warm,” said Mr. Walker. “An inviting, but still no nonsense place where one takes pride in being on our stage. We’re actually a listening, encouraging, true community.”

Co-host TastyKeish (born Keisha Datés) was asked to become a permanent fixture after hosting the first annual all-female Bondfire. She said that the monthly’s non-judgmental vibe meant that it was more diverse than most. “Anyone can come through and rock, and you won’t be scared to come back,” she said, “but you will get some criticism.”

bondfireEMA Photography/Elizabeth Allen.

As a result of the open invitation, regulars came from as far away as Massachusetts and Connecticut and no two shows were alike. Bondfire featured everything from the occasional comedian to a Japanese tourist who, after professing his “love and respect of black music,” spontaneously led the club in a rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

The crowd once got a surprise from DJ Kool Herc, the living legend largely credited with creating hip-hop in 1974. “He went on stage and gave some real world advice and told the whole audience that he was enjoying himself,” Ms. Datés recalled, “and then he said something about birds.”

But more than who was on stage, Bondfire was about the community. Among the most fondly remembered events was the fund-raiser for fellow rap artist Coole High, whose family lost their home to a fire.

Mr. Walker said that Bondfire had become something bigger than “just a show,” and that he wanted to focus on using the name to help the artists involved reach their goals as well as for community outreach. “Lots of thought and love go into what we presented for our audience, who over four plus years have become family, not only to us, but to one another,” he said. “You build a community by actually being one from the start.”

Those looking for hip-hop near the East Village can still find it at the Pyramid Club‘s End of the Weak; Bowery Poetry Club’s The Coffee Grind, Doin’ Alright and Fire Your Boss; and Freestyle Mondays, which has relocated from Sin Sin to 116 MacDougal.

Chaz Kangas has performed at Bondfire and contributes pieces on the hip hop music scene and pop culture to LA Weekly and at his blog.