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Bang Bang Rock & Roll 

Meet Da Banggaz, the newest Lou hip-hop troupe to sign to a major label; also, a plethora of local shows to fill your weekend

There's never a shortage of St. Louis rap and hip-hop artists signing record deals. But quietly, a quartet known as Da Banggaz — a.k.a. Looney, Rello, Nonna and Iklips — has signed a deal with Atlantic Records.

On a recent afternoon, the four the group and their baby-faced producer, Steve T, lounged in the downtown loft headquarters of the local media company 7Fourteen. The group laughed and teased each other like a close-knit family; Nonna tucked a blanket around her and munched sunflower seeds, while the others sported casual jeans and Cardinals gear. (Speaking of civic pride, Steve T even has a forearm tattoo of the Arch.)

This incarnation of Da Banggaz has only been together for about a year. The original group consisted of Iklips and three other members, all men. Looney was a solo artist and Nonna was one of his backup dancers (a natural talent, she won her first talent show when she was five years old). After the other members of Da Banggaz quit, Iklips added Looney; Nonna then wanted to join — and as Looney puts it, "They was hot, he was hot, she was hot, we just clicked up."

The song that first earned the group buzz was "Calm Down," a tune DJ Cuddy used as his intro music on The Beat (100.3 FM). "Down" was so popular that listeners started calling in and requesting the full-length version. Another Banggaz tune, "Ain't No Bitch in Me," featuring spidery programmed beats, ink-dark production and hungover-sounding background vocal oh's, soon rose to the top of the Beat's countdown charts and caught the ear of Atlantic, which offered the group a deal the very next day after seeing them perform at The Arena in late February.

A full-length is scheduled for this summer (the group hopes July). Meanwhile, keep an ear out for the upcoming understated club jam "Diddy Bop"; its declarations of dance individuality ("I got my own moves!") and playful male-female verse trade-offs embody what Da Banggaz are about.

"When I first met Da Banggaz, what I saw was a lot of energy and creativity," says Steve T. "Looney, he kind of reminded me of myself the way he put songs together. Nonna, she got a lot of energy, it's just crazy. She got lyrics, too. The energy between me and Da Banggaz is a perfect marriage."

In light of the recent inaugural KDHX (88.1 FM) music awards, many in town have been asking what happened to the RFT's annual music awards, which usually take place in the coming month or so. Have they disappeared? Fear not: Because we feel change is a good thing, the all-Loop showcase gigs are now slated for Sunday, September 10, with the announcement of the award winners coming soon after. Consider the gig one last summer bash before the harsh reality of winter sets in.

Once in a while, A to Z regrets not attending a show that turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don't make that mistake this week. First up is Ludo's return to the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; 314-726-6161) on Friday, May 5, where the zippy rockers are encouraging — nay, demanding — that attendees celebrate Cinco de Moustache (no, not Mayo) by growing (or sporting) facial hair. The band members themselves have been growing their own 'staches, so don't be left out of the follicular splendor.

Lost Parade are calling it a day on Saturday, May 6, with one final show at Mississippi Nights (914 North First Street; 314-621-3853). But returning to the stage as an opening act for the 'Parade after a short hiatus are meticulous indie-rockers Ghost in Light. Drummer Shae Moseley reports that the group recently spent time in Maplewood at Smith Lee Productions tracking more songs and will have "almost twenty tunes to choose from" for their next release.

That same night, ex-St. Louis resident/ Nukes bassist Chuck Lindo and the American Professionals return to town at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room (6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-4444). With them will be more St. Louis ex-pats: Paul Weller-esque soul-rockers the Great Crusades, a.k.a. the project of Suede Chain members Brian Krumm and Brian Hunt.

Finally, math-rock noiseniks Airport Elementary School (featuring RFT layout editor Jack Lane) are also playing Saturday, May 6, at Radio Cherokee (3227 Cherokee Street). Get your feedback on. — Annie Zaleski

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