A loss for local hip hop
You may already know about the shooting outside the AC Lounge last Tuesday. The news reports were pretty straightforward: Miguel Leon-Fregoso left the bar and, outside, exchanged words with a Spring Valley man named David Barron, who reportedly followed Leon into the alley behind the bar, then shot him twice in the face before speeding off. San Diego Police officers eventually apprehended and arrested Barron.
Leon was pronounced dead several hours later at Scripps Mercy Medical Center, according to the county coroner.
What you haven't read in the news is that Leon died while his buddy BEEHIVE beat-boxed at his bedside. Friends say Leon's mother encouraged it—she said he would've wanted it that way because, up until the shots were fired, he'd lived his life for hip-hop.
The 27-year-old's first introduction to hip-hop culture was graffiti art. He went by the name MODER and covered everything from the street to canvasses with his art.
“When he left anything at my house, even a water bottle, there was always a MODER tag on it,” said TRUST ONE, Leon's longtime friend and collaborator in their joint hip-hop project, FORMULA ABSTRACT. “He was always drawing.” (No one CityBeat spoke to for this story wanted their real name used.)
In addition to his art, Leon loved rhyming. Using the pseudonym MODERFIRE, he lent his lyrics as an MC to several hip-hop groups around town—House of Rep, Cyborg Metropolis and Circle Empire, just to name a few.
“His style was like nothing I'd ever heard before,” said Jay Holla, who worked with Leon on a few hip-hop projects. “He was always trying to push the envelope. He was always changing his cadence—Miguel would switch it up. He was known for doing fast delivery, but more recently, he'd been changing it up, doing a slower style. He was onto something, but the bottom line is, his life was taken too early.”
When he died, Leon was in the middle of recording the second FORMULA ABSTRACT EP and working on his first solo album. He was doing it all while working fulltime and supporting his single mother, who's not in good health.
Frustrated by the loss, the local hip-hop scene has already sprung into action. Friends and fans hope to collect enough money to help Leon's mom pay for the funeral. Hip-hop spots like Armory Survival Gear (803 F St., Downtwon.) and Access Music (1537 Garnet Ave.) are taking donations, there's a PayPal account linked to the FORMULA ABSTRACT MySpace page (www.myspace.com/formulaabstract) and at noon on Saturday, Aug. 23, Writerz Blok (5010 Market St. in Lincoln) will be holding a fundraiser featuring Leon's graffiti art and music.—Kinsee Morlan
I met San Diego Reader music writer Ken Leighton for the first time last weekend at the North by North Park Music Conference. The occasion—we were both panelists for the “Music Industry 101: The Basics in 2008” discussion—gave me the opportunity to learn a couple things about Leighton. Namely, he looks more like Steve Forbes than I would have ever guessed, and he's the co-owner of an Oceanside bar called The Royal Dive.
Leighton shared the latter bit of information with the 100 or so folks who'd come to the Lafayette Hotel for the panel.
He mentioned it in the context of discussing effective show promotion (he brought flyers) and to encourage bands to look for music venues outside the usual enclaves. It was also a not-so-subtle plug for his bar.
Afterward, Leighton handed me a yellow flyer for an Aug. 8 show (featuring Zombie Surf Camp and The Minor Keys) at The Royal Dive. I haven't been, but if the comments on Yelp are to be believed, it's a nice little nightspot.
It offers free pool tables, drink specials, 15 different beers on tap, live music and a Tuesday open mic. Sounds like my kind of place.
But there's an obvious conundrum involved when a music writer who critiques local bands also owns a bar where those same bands could potentially play on any given night. So, I asked Leighton if he's concerned about any prospective conflicts of interest.
“I can't write about anything to do with my bar,” Leighton said. “I know without asking.... But just because I write about bands on a part-time basis does not mean I should be forbidden from operating a bar that has live bands.”
He's right. But writing about a band that has played regular shows at your bar—without disclosing the connection to readers of the Reader—could be considered a problem.
Visitors to The Royal Dive's MySpace page (MS/theroyaldive) are greeted by a live version of The Bleeding Irish's “Hunger Strike.” The local Irish punks have also earned a spot among the coveted “Top Friends,” and there's a link to a July 4 story about The Royal Dive in The Coast News, in which Leighton is quoted as saying “Our house band Bleeding Irish was just selected to go on the Warp [sic] Tour.”
This is where things get sticky.
Leighton wrote about The Bleeding Irish in the June 26 issue of the Reader (about TBI taking over The Fabulous Rudies' slot on the Warped Tour) and again in the July 10 issue (about how TBI was forced to drop from the tour after two shows due to a tour bus breakdown). Neither story mentioned that The Bleeding Irish had been the “house band” of an establishment co-owned by Leighton. In a phone conversation, Leighton bristled at the suggestion that he should have disclosed his association with the band.
“When they said they were leaving to go on the Warped Tour, that's when I wrote about them,” Leighton said. “If they were still the house band, maybe, but since they said they were leaving, I saw no reason. What is there to disclose? It was a newsy story that no one else got. I wrote about it in complete good conscience because they said they were leaving.”
The fact that The Bleeding Irish were scheduled to play an Aug. 1 show at The Royal Dive (according to concert listings on the bar's MySpace page) notwithstanding, Leighton steadfastly denies any impropriety.
“I am keenly aware that people like Nathan Dinsdale would bring this up, therefore I make it a point to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest,” Leighton said, before adding, “I'm glad you're here to keep us all honest.”
On a slightly less acerbic note, several local acts celebrate new releases this week. Among them, indie rockers Matt Curreri & The Exfriends (Joy of Life) at The Casbah on Thursday, Aug. 7; the live hip-hop/soul band The Concrete Project (self-titled) at 'Canes on Friday, Aug. 8; jazz vocalist Allison Adams Tucker (Come with Me) at Dizzy's on Sunday, Aug. 10; and country/rocker Laura Roppé (Girl Like This) and singer/songwriter Rob Corona (This is the Life) at the Belly Up on Wednesday, Aug. 13. —Nathan Dinsdale
The Enrique Experience
“It's time for the Mr. Black San Diego 2008 contest, live and in color!” co-founder and hostess Pearli Killens told the packed house congregated inside the Scottish Rite Center's Golden Eagle Auditorium last Saturday. The stage's red-velvet curtains opened, and this year's seven hopefuls strutted their stuff on the runway in a choreographed number set to Snoop Dogg's “Sensual Seduction.”
Part fashion show, part man-pageant, Mr. Black was created in 1975 as a vehicle to showcase and improve the image of African-American males.
André sparkling wine was free flowing at the VIP tables, and there was a buffet with an array of comfort food, including chicken wings and mac 'n' cheese.
“I need a pitcher of water up in here,” one gentleman told me; a woman asked me to stack up more plates. Unbeknownst to me, my outfit matched perfectly with that of the serving staff.
With a perfect score of 45 points, contestant John Peter Robert Jr., a Pisces, took home the best swimwear award thanks to his emerald-green Speedo and puka-shell necklace number. Mechanical-design engineer Kederra McDaniel II, an Aquarius, got awarded with best talent, thanks to a masterfully delivered motivational speech, and Eric King, a self-employed Libra who rocked the formal attire with a red and black three-piece suit and matching red cane with a fish bowl on top, won the coveted Mr. Congeniality trophy.
Expectation was at a palpable high in the moments leading up to the naming of the evening's top prize winner. In the end, and true to his Cancer sign, intuitive and imaginative Roosevelt Williams III, an aide to City Councilmember Tony Young, emerged victorious.
After the show, when asked by an organizer what I thought, I said I loved it and wanted to be in it next year. Without missing a beat, she responded, “Well then, you better start hitting the sun.”—Enrique Limon