Wax Philosophic Live at Norteños Cantina

Review and photos by Jack Barten

Of all the people who have a connection to the building formerly known as The Apollo, few can claim to evoke more sentimentality than the members of Wax Philosophic. Formed in 2000 by locals Jenero, D-Cyphur, and Reach, the trio has been playing The Apollo stage since before this writer was born. This backdrop proved to be the perfect storm for their 23rd anniversary show at their home stage at Norteños Cantina (housed in the former Apollo).

ZakwithDaPack and Liam Maguire

The evening started with openers Liam Maguire and ZakwithDaPack of Bay Dream Records. Maguire went up first and got the growing crowd warmed up, donning a mysterious hood and verbally lighting up the room. Maguire impressed with clever and articulate verses throughout his set. Then ZakwithDaPack took to the stage, with a set infused with old-school sensibilities. ZakwithDaPack further built on the electricity with his onstage charisma and high-energy bars. After this set, both members of Bay Dream Records hit the stage together, exchanging parts on past collaborations and capturing the attention of the room. 

Wax Philosophic’s Reach and D-Cyphur

The team from Bay Dream did a perfect job getting everyone ready for the main event, the 23rd anniversary of Wax Philosophic. The set started off quiet, with the MCs standing towards the back as the beat built up the atmosphere in the now-packed bar. Then suddenly the duo exploded onto the stage with a level of charisma that was entrancing to those in the audience, as instantly the room was glued to everything Wax Philosophic was presenting. Every song the group performed was so articulate, and every word and syllable was easily distinguishable and sharp to the ears, showing the group’s years of experience. The onstage energy was also incredible, with the two MCs jumping into the audience and then back on stage, never missing a beat. It really was a sight to behold. To make matters even better, DJ/producer Jenero provided miraculously well-produced, energetic, and concerted beats.

Everything about this set was perfect. The evening went on with track after track of some of the best live hip hop music one could ever hope to see. But with 23 years of experience, anyone who has ever seen Wax Philosophic already knows the group is great, and seeing them on their 23rd anniversary on the stage where it all started really was a special experience.