Watch the video above. This montage’s only purpose is to set the stage and get you familiar with The Beautiful Cycle. I know… where’s Ghostface Killah & Raekwon? The Wu did their thing after these guys and killed it as you would expect. The crowd was cool, sound was subpar, and the headliners came on late. A hiphop show if there ever was one. Now, if you want to see Theodore or The Chef, you can cop a ticket to a show or dig into their catalogue or whatever because the story of the night was JL, Manifest, and Lyricks forming like Voltron as The Beautiful Cycle.
These three rappers individually honed their skills in Northern Virginia, affectionately called Nova, and some have ventured out of town for different reasons but they all got back together for this night. Each MC sports a different style of rhyme. Lyricks has the ill polished flow and delivery that can go syllable for syllable against your favorite rapper. Manifest has mastered that double time flow and has witty lyrics to back that flow up. The way JL puts rhyme schemes together just ain’t fair. Basically, these dudes can rap.
When I think Virginia, I don’t think rap. And being Asian in Virginia? That’s an uphill battle to get to a larger hill. I didn’t want this story to be about these guys being Asian, and it’s not really, but what happened that night wouldn’t allow me to ignore it.
At the end of the night when we were back in the hotel, our minds gone from drugs and Crown Royal, there was a sobering moment when Lyricks recalled being on stage earlier that evening. He spoke with a drunken mumble about being in front of that Revolution Bar crowd in Centreville, Virginia and recalled seeing a man in the front row with a venomous hatred in his eyes. More visible than his eyes were the middle fingers on his hands, directed at the Cycle. This hate didn’t come from the man’s disdain for TBC’s music, they haven’t even started rapping yet. This hate wasn’t in exclusive anticipation for the Wu Tang set, the Cycle was on time. This hate was all too familiar and Lyricks understood where it was coming from.
He explained there’s a certain divide in Nova. The metropolitan of Washington D.C. is only 20 minutes away and the surrounding suburbs are progressive but after a certain part of town, it’s basically rural, stereotypical Virginia. Let’s keep it funky, the hateful dude was a blatant racist most likely from that other side of town. Never mind that we were at a Wu Tang show, never mind that Lyricks has consistently toured with the Wu and is quite literally their favorite rappers’ favorite rapper, never mind that The Beautiful Cycle has toured the globe from Switzerland to Seoul to Hawaii. At that moment, they were just chinks on stage to that man.
This isn’t amateur hour, though. TBC has shut down many stages before this one and a couple middle fingers can’t stop that train. They won the crowd over with their high energy set and let the music speak for itself but that man served as a reminder that there’s still a fight to be fought. That’s not to say you have to win over that one person. You won’t. While telling the story of that man in the crowd, Lyricks mentioned that he struggled in that moment to not leap off stage and hit him with that Kung Fu that the racist was probably expecting. But at the end of the night he was glad he didn’t because as long as the applause is louder than the appalled, you win.