Who: Rich Abbruzzese (aka Juan Deuce)
What: Rhyme slayer and controller of the mic
When: 9:20pm, Tuesday, April 24
Where: The Met, 1007 Main Street, Pawtucket
Why: He lives at 1 Happy Place… in his mind, at least.''
When Juan Deuce opened up for GZA at Firehouse 13 on March 24, a crowd of fired-up fans waved cardboard caricature masks of his likeness in the air. With his flat-brimmed black hat, thick eyebrows and wide smile, the masks were unmistakably him. “The masks at the last show went over really well,” he says, sipping a bottled water and watching the room fill. It’s an hour to show time.
Juan Deuce, left, stands with DJ Emoh Betta
Tonight the MC is opening for Schoolboy Q. As he waits, various people come up to give a handshake and a well-wish. He’s appreciative of the support. “The fan base is very loyal and growing by the day,” he says. “I’m doing what I aspired to do, only on a smaller scale. The more I continue to work hard, the larger the scale will become.” He smiles. “The goal is to become the Dos Equis Man.”
He’s taller than he appears to be in his videos and up on stage. And with his hood pulled up and strapped with a black backpack full of essentials – such as EPs and white towels – he appears younger, too. I ask about the origins of his stage name. “[It's] a street name that Redman would shout out on his albums,” he says. “I flipped it a little bit.” Indeed, he’s created his own unique persona.
Juan Deuce doesn’t drink or smoke prior to a performance. He’s someone who takes his craft seriously, which can be a rarity in the ego-driven world of artists who let the game get the best of them. The minutes tick by; finally, it’s showtime. He’s joined on stage by Falside, a local producer and beatsmith, and DJ Emoh Betta, who’s been manipulating vinyl since 1998.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned by attending hundreds of shows over the years, it’s that hip-hop fans can be brutal. Just think of that scene in 8 Mile. As Juan Deuce and Falside began spitting their rhymes, I watched the crowd. Fans waved their arms from side-to-side and chanted his name. Juan Deuce-newbies nodded their heads, and a few began waving their arms.
Do you have a day job? I do. I work to pay rent and make music. There is no other passion. Music is it for me.
Who inspires you? Historically, artists like Redman, De La Soul, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes. But right now I’m excited about where music is going, especially on an independent level. Rap music is so good right now!
What’s been your best on-stage moment thus far? There is nothing like seeing people rapping along with you and finishing your words. Every time that happens, it trumps everything.
When you make it big, what five things will go on your rider? Bottled water, clementines, white towels, pretzel M&Ms and more towels.
Have you ever gotten stage fright? Yes. In a fifth grade play. I had two lines and had to fall on cue after being pushed.
Signature white towel draped over his shoulder, his rhymes flowed smooth: “They say they wanna get to know me, they say I have a nice smile.” I admire his confidence on stage — he owns it. “My personality is something I share when I rap live,” he says. “Come get to know me!” For those of you who can make it out, he’s opening for Talib Kweli on May 18 at Fete. For the rest of you, check the vids.