Photograph by Charles Steck
The local hip-hop open mic scene has long served as an incubator for burgeoning talent. For fledgling rappers, these venues can be an important place to showcase their music and gain valuable experience performing in front of sometimes unforgiving live audiences. Keyz 2 Tha City, an entertainment company that consists of Sleep, ELWay S.E., and DJ Audio AJ is currently dominating D.C.’s open mics: They have the only weekly events—“Mixtape Monday” and “Keys 2 Tha City Wednesday”—both of which take place at the Red Lounge. A slew of promising artists have come through the Red Lounge this year: Chelly The MC, Shabazz, Bali Baby, Top Dolla Sweizy, and WillThaRapper have all made appearances. And you never know who may pop up at Keyz: Sleep is member of Bricksquad Monopoly and usually brings Waka Flocka Flame and Frenchie around when they’re in town. If you’re an aspiring lyricist, get there early because the list fills up quickly.