Wichita is on a rap roll.
After years of complaints from fans of rap and hip-hop that the local music scene was alarmingly low on shows they wanted to see, suddenly the concert calendar is full of them.
Not only did Intrust Bank Arena just book its first rap show in its five-and-a-half-year history, the Power House Jam on June 11 featuring Lil Wayne, Trey Songz, Kid Ink, Ty Dolla $ign and Fetty Wap, but a longtime west-side venue – the Cotillion at 11120 W. Kellogg – recently has started carving out a niche for itself as a home for rap, hip-hop and R&B musicians.
Since March, the 2,000-capacity, 55-year-old venue that until recently had a calendar filled mostly with country, blues and heavy metal acts, has put on a string of rap shows.
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Grammy-nominated rapper J. Cole sold out the venue in March. And in April, the venue hosted rapper Lil Boosie, then R&B singer SoMo. Rap star Waka Flocka Flame performed earlier this month, and the venue will welcome four more shows during the next several weeks, including E-40 headlining a bill of six rappers on Sunday. During the same period last year, the venue had three such shows: Yelawolf, Juicy J and Tech N9ne.
Longtime Cotillion owners Richard and Cathy Leslie declined to be interviewed for this story. But Greg Williams, program director at hip-hop station KDGS, Power 93.5, who helped book Lil Wayne at Intrust Bank Arena, said the Leslies’ business sense has helped fuel the rap resurgence of late.
Most hip-hop and rap shows across the country are filling 2,000- to 4,000-seat venues, Williams said, and promoters say the Cotillion is the right size at the right time. He describes the business of booking shows in those genres as “cyclical.”
“The good thing about Cotillion is that it’s a family-owned business. And Richard Leslie knows his market,” Williams said. “He knows exactly what numbers he needs to have a show and get the price right. He’s very strategic about how be brings in the acts, and that makes it cost effective.”
Local rap fans say it’s about time.
Kyle Ellison, a Wichita rapper whose stage name is Kae Wun, went to J. Cole and has plans to attend Nipsey Hussle as well as Tech N9ne (and Lil Wayne at the arena) in June. He and his friends even are planning to get a suite for the arena show.
Ellison and his fellow music fans have noticed the uptick in rap and hip-hop shows at the Cotillion, he said, as well as at nightclub Pandora, which hosted Juvenile last June.
“People have definitely noticed, and they’re loving it,” he said. “It used to be a few years ago that we never got any good shows. But lately the Cotillion especially and then Pandora have been bringing some acts pretty consistently, and it’s an awfully great thing to see.”
Ellison said he noticed at J. Cole that the crowd was diverse and said he thinks promoters of rap and hip-hop shows are beginning to notice that it’s not just one group of people interested in attending their shows.
“It’s nuts,” he said. “The biggest thing about rap and hip-hop in general is it really has transcended different communities. There’s no particular demographic. You see all different races and all different age groups at these shows, and that’s the most exciting thing. The music is getting to everybody.”
It also helps, says local hip-hop fan Brielle Dunham, 24, that the Cotillion shows are so affordable.
She moved to Wichita from Kansas City two and a half years ago and noticed that there weren’t many concerts here that she was interested in attending.
That’s all changed recently, and she went to her first-ever Cotillion show when J. Cole was in town. The top ticket price at that show was $32.
“We’ve been thoroughly impressed with them,” she said. “And for the price, you can’t beat it.”
Rap and hip-hop shows at the Cotillion
The venue at 11120 W. Kellogg has been consistently booking rap and hip-hop shows during the past year. Here are some coming up. For tickets, visit www.thecotillion.com or call 316-722-4201.
▪ Nipsey Hussle, $25-$100, date TBA: Nipsey Hussle is a Los Angeles-based rapper known for his mix tapes and association with Jay Z. Friday’s show has been canceled, and a new date will be announced. Tickets for the Friday show will be valid for the new date.
▪ E-40 with Stevie Stone, Necessary, Cool Nutz, Buckhead, Bo Pessi and Lyrical Massacre, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, $21.50 in advance, $25 day of the show: E-4- is a rapper from the Bay Area whose 2006 single “Tell Me When to Go” was produced by Lil Jon.
▪ Rae Sremmurd, 8:30 p.m. May 29, $25-$100: This Mississippi hip-hop duo is made up of brothers Khalif and Aaquil Brown. They’re known for the single “No Flex Zone.”
▪ Tech N9ne’s Special Effects Tour, 8 p.m. June 3, $26.50 in advance, $30 day of the show: This Kansas City rapper frequently performs at the Cotillion.
▪ King Lil G with MC Magic, Lucky Luciano and Brown Boy: 8 p.m. June 20, $25-$125: King Lil G is a California-based rapper.
▪ Lil Wayne with Trey Songz, Kid Ink, Ty Dolla $ign and Fetty Wap, June 11, Intrust Bank Arena, $49.50, $65, $89.50, $129.50, www.selectaseat.com.