By Lindsay Toler
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By Kelsey McClure
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There's a constant back-and-forth between the main room and where the drinks are served, a human tributary that floods the space. Follow the current, and it'll send you straight into the ocean, the eighteen-and-over room. It's 2 a.m., and the lights have come up a bit during a break. You can see what the club looks like.
"There's not really much you could fuck up in that place," says Wes Allmond (a.k.a. DJ Solo), who runs the St. Louis office of Ch'rewd Marketing, a promotions company that pushes rap and R&B. "Everything's made out of steel or brick or plywood. And I think it's the griminess -- it's like you're going to a house party when you go to the Mono. There's this rawness, not a lot of fancy stuff. You're in the club, there's a concrete floor.... If you drop a crunk record in a nice club and you start getting crunk at a nice club, someone's going to come and tell you, 'Hey, you can't be doing that in here. You might break the lights or fuck the carpet up.' But at a crunk club, you can get as crazy as you want to and jump around, and nothing's going to get fucked up. With that feeling, you can just let it all out."
When Kaos plays "Left Right," the transformation takes place. It's as though the first bell has rung in a championship bout: The crowd pushes out of the front third of the room -- about 50 yards of emptiness where, moments before, were a few hundred people -- and fills with dancers.
Voodoo's onstage, his shoulder-length dreadlocks waving every which way. He hunches over, stomps one foot and then the other, and draws the mic to his mouth. "Ahh," he breaths, then pauses. He then stands straight up, his eyes staring into space. He looks at the crowd and screams, "Here we go!" just as the chorus kicks in, a military march barked by what sounds like the angriest drill sergeant in the army: "Left, left, left, left, left, right, left. Get on up, get on up, get on up, right, left. Left, left, left, left, left, right, left. Get on up, get on up, get on up."
And when that chorus arrives, the crowd moves all the way to the left of the club -- not a few steps, but all the way, and it's as though the Monastery is a ship listing in a ferocious storm, throwing the crew all the way right, then left, then right, then left for the duration of the chorus. People push; a few people fall to the floor as they trip over their neighbor -- they're quickly helped to their feet by whomever's closest -- and the whole group is bouncing as they're slamming. A big guy -- orange hoodie, orange knit cap, a little Band-Aid on his cheek, Nelly-style -- is stomping the floor like Yosemite Sam. Then the chorus ends, and everybody stops and does a little touchdown move, a stationary wobble-crouch that lasts the entire verse. Sipp's in the middle with the mic. He's wearing a Duke Blue Devils jersey -- number one, of course -- and he, too, is going low, chanting and chatting while the rhymes flow:
1 up and 2 my troops listen
3 grenade my .45 still a bustin'
6 rounds cause I'm trill with this
7 more for the busta in the blue suit
Sipp's screaming into the mic: "To the girls' bathroom! We're going to the girls' bathroom!" and immediately anyone near the bathroom scurries for cover. The rhyming continues:
8 choppers in the field with troops
9 seconds before you lose ya life
10 automatic firing weapons
Now get on up get on up get on up!
And then, once again, the chorus, and Sipp screams, "To the girls' bathroom!" and the dancers bounce their way to the bathroom door -- everybody's laughing; a few people hop on one foot while moving left. Then the room tips to the right, and everyone bounces back into the center. The people are going crazy, and the room is on fire.
"We had to stop doing the Left Right for a while because people were getting hurt," says Mississippi. "We had one of our own security guys slip and fall and hurt his leg from getting crunk. One time, some girls wanted to get involved, and a girl got a gash across her eye. But she still kept on jumping; no harm done." He laughs: "Get some ice and some napkins and keep the party going -- and to me, that's what crunk is, just nonstop, keep on jumping until you can't jump no more."
Kaos -- red skull cap on his head, which, unlike everyone else's, is motionless with concentration -- is clearly in control. To his left, a section of chain-link fence separates him from an elevated dance floor. This is every DJ's dream: He's surrounded by 1,500. A few fans stand on the other side of the fence, their fingers weaving through its wire diamonds. They're getting schooled by St. Louis' king of crunk. In front, huge pockets of the crowd explode like a crazy Roman candle, popping off in beat -- jumping to the left, bouncing to the right, an organism that morphs into something new with every track he plays.