Planet UAll of the artists in “Rise & Shine,” a mini concert series at the world famous Apollo Theatre in New York, put in their work back in late March. It wasn’t at all the Apollo I imagined — the huge stage and rows and rows of seats — but that wasn’t a bad thing. It took place in one of theatre’s soundstages, giving the show a very intimate feel. A small stage with portraits of some of the most talented artists to set foot inside the Apollo acted as the backdrop of each performance. After each artist performed they were right there with you in the crowd, enjoying the next artist’s music. It’s just like co-host Capital J said, “No one in here is bigger than anybody.” And we all truly felt that way.

The executive producer of “Rise & Shine,” Mecca Don Villain (, is the one responsible for the concept of the concert series, which he says was designed to “give exceptional but underexposed artists the well deserved attention they need and to have their crafts recognized on a national and international platform.” The end result was a pretty entertaining night, with only a few kinks that could have been ironed out. And of course, an after-party at Buds Sports Bar followed the show.

Finstta The GodThe show popped off with Playboy, aka “Finstta The God” (, who I gave much credit for trying to get the crowd hyped while people were still filling into the venue and figuring out what they wanted from the bar. Spitting classical hip-hop, Playboy made it look easy, like he had conquered the stage numerous times before. He didn’t seem a bit nervous; even with the crowd’s stoic stances (they loosened up by the end of the night), he forged on with his performance, maintaining the same energy from beginning to end.

BX OrginBronx native — and extremely proud of it — Merciles (, the only female MC of the night, proved that she could hold her own amongst the talented pool of men. Never allowing the crowd to forget where she was repping, Merciles’ performance was fraught with sporadic shout outs to the Bronx and the 4 train, as she rhymed over a Lil Wayne beat. It seemed like half her borough attended the event because she had everyone throwing their Xs up at one point.

Peter TohAfter some technical difficulties and an improv performance by Mecca (while the problem was being fixed), singer/songwriter Peter Toh ( hit the stage. Even though this was one of the lackluster performances of the night, after checking out Toh’s Myspace page, I discovered some songs that would have had a better chance at winning the crowd over. It might have been the fact that just when the crowd had finally started to get boisterous, he came in with some slower joints on his guitar.

To separate the show into two parts, a fashion show put on by Top Ten Models, whose models have been featured in Hot 97’s “Full Frontal” fashion show, showcased some bootylicious models draped in the finest urban duds.

Dot BXPlanet UWith images of Tupac and Biggie on the screen in the background, D.O.T. ( kicked off the second part of the show. His 50 cent-esque voice and flow offered up some clever words of wisdom: “Think big like B.I.G. and you can eat like Pun.” Next up was Planet Ubiquity (, and they immediately put everyone in a frenzy. Their eclectic mix of hip-hop, rock and reggae was definitely a welcomed change amongst the hip hop-heavy line-up. When one of their members Phearnone played his unorthodox red violin, I never knew I could rock out, bob my head and appreciate some classical instruments all at once. So, it’s no surprise that these boys have already been on stage with the likes of Common and Lauryn Hill.

Another fashion show intervened the performances and showcased Juelz Santana’s mom duke’s clothing line, D Couture. The line, which is classified as “urban couture,” was definitely for the grown and sexy. Though the clothing line received mixed responses from the crowd, they still showed support for Ms Santana’s venture.

Rob HoaglandRob, which stands for “Rise On Belief,” ( re-commenced the performances, stating that he loved the idea of the whole show because it “showed diversity.” Rob classified his music as a hybrid of contemporary, alternative and classic rock, and you could undoubtedly hear the influence of Jimi Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz in his deep lyrics. He left the stage with one of the most profound quotes of the night: “Your dreams are your key to reality, follow them and be free.”

151 Cardi151 Cardi ( sparked the crowd with the type of hip-hop that the rap cognoscenti lament many fans have forgotten about. The MCs in Cardi rapped from the heart and it was felt throughout the audience. They emitted a sound very reminiscent of the Brooklyn hip-hop scene in the ’90s, and it was a bitter sweet reminder of the meticulous lyrics that once donned the genre.

Last up was Corrupt Politicianz, whose founder Pro Decimal continued the ’90s nostalgia, invoking the likes of Krs–One, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane in his “corrupt” flow.

The night ended with all the artists on stage as Mecca closed the show. Overall, I think Mecca shouted out Parish-Nation (one of the shows sponsors) around twenty times; but perpetual plugs aside, this night was definitely about showing love to those of us trying to work our way to the top. There’s no better time than now to try to do what you set out to do, and this show just gave these artists one more reason to believe that the top is closer than they think.