Austin Mic Exchange welcomes hip-hop performers of all levels to weekly open mic

Matt Robertson

On Tuesday nights at Austin Mic Exchange, hip-hop fans crowd the patio of Spider House Ballroom as rappers take to the stage spitting beats in a free-for-all cypher. 

In 2012, local KOOP radio host Leah Manners and rapper and series-host Adam “P-Tek” Protextor founded Austin Mic Exchange, known as AMX. The open mic night features a cypher as well as individual performances by artists on a first-come first-serve basis. The duo paired with a veteran of Austin’s music scene, Aaron Miller, in 2013 and together have expanded to incorporate other events such as this Saturday’s “Return of Weird City” music showcase at Spider House.

The event will feature artists performing a wide array of genres and styles of hip hop. Manners said the open mic night has helped bring Austin’s hip hop community together, especially for artists newer to the scene.

 “I think AMX has created a place for the newer generation to find its group,” Manners said.  “It’s such an open community that anyone who wants to contribute is welcome. AMX creates a community that is less insular and more about being open and welcoming.”

Rapper Frank Perrodi, who performs under the name Phraynkh P, said he first came to the open mic night simply in search of a place to perform. He said he found the tight-knit community AMX offers and now occasionally hosts the series.

“I show up every week,” Perrodi said. “Whether or not I’m hosting, I try to keep the friendly environment going and introduce myself to people to keep that energy and the spirit where everyone knows everyone here.”

Perrodi said he has seen many of Austin’s best performers at the open mic, but he said there is as much support for people performing for their first time as there is for well-known artists. Austin native Coota Brown said the open environment promotes a constant stream of new artists who can collaborate and develop their music.

“AMX gave me an outlet to deal with new artists,” Brown said. “AMX gave me a spot to see other great artists and connect creatively and learn off of other people. It’s bigger than just being around here and having fun”

Miller said he sees the night as a chance for young artists to network and develop a stage presence in an encouraging environment that will help them book future gigs.

“It’s an incubator in the classic sense of the word,” Miller said. “It’s a place for rappers, DJs and emcees to come work their craft and raw skills in an environment where its 100 percent supported.”

By growing the local community and talent, the team at AMX has been able to discover new artists to showcase at events. Their event this Saturday will feature many of the rappers who can be found performing at the open mic on Tuesdays.

“There’s major talent in that room,” Protextor said. “That’s something that is nice to be able to support and put on at bigger shows and that’s the whole point of putting on the fest.”

AMX’s community has been able to support local talent Miller said, which he said many of the city’s major festivals fail to do.

“It’s an Austin fest, not just a festival held in Austin”, Miller says. “Festival culture in Austin has led to the bands and workers that keep the lights on year round being made to feel like outsiders during these larger festivals. I think even with only one fest we’ve shown that the festival differs from other fests in how much stage time locals are getting.”