KC Rapper Charges First Friday Crowd Up on Battery Tour

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AY entertaining downtown street crowd at First Friday. (Photo by Phil Petersen)

By Kim Mueller

AY knows his easy laugh and genuine smile will attract overflowing crowds to his rap concert at this week’s First Friday when a regional production company films his performance.

“It’s a social music movement for all ages and demographics,” said AY, who adopted the initials of his birth name, Aaron Young, as a performer.

“I will have a hundred people Cuban shuffling. I’ve had a 70 year-old woman doing the Macarena and a five-year-old doing the Electric Slide.”

AY’s approach is not unique. He starts his street performance playing familiar cover songs. He encourages people to dance and sing along to Michael Jackson, The Temptations and Prince.

Then AY sings his original music, starting with his most well known song, “Say Hey,” which garnered 35,000 views on YouTube.

The most unique element, however, is found in its solar-charged batteries used to power his aptly named Battery Tour.

These batteries caught the attention of Outpost Worldwide, which is developing a pilot project about sustainability ventures.

The Crossroads-based production company will film AY’s Battery Tour from 7–10 p.m. Friday in the parking lot at the northwest corner of 18th and Grand.

“It’s on our nickel,” said Producer Mike Wunsch.

AY hopes to use upcoming First Friday video to capture a wider audience. (Photo by Jennifer Mazi)

If Wunsch likes what he sees, then three minutes of AY’s performance might make it into a series pitched to KTWU in Topeka and hopefully picked up nationally through Public Broadcasting Service and American Pubic Television.

AY also plans to use Outpost Worldwide’s uncut tape of his First Friday performance to approach Amazon Prime about creating a show about his tour.

AY doesn’t have to convince the local arts community about his talent.

ArtsKC awarded him a $2,500 Inspiration Grant last year to buy a battery charger, a solar panel and three batteries to run The Battery Tour.

The Charlotte Street Foundation also awarded AY its $6,000 Rocket Grant this year to pay for marketing, videos, and tour collaborators.

When AY isn’t passing the donation bucket during his free Battery Tours, he is singing as a solo artist at private, paying gigs.

AY has opened for SHAGGY, Aaron Carter, T-Pain, Timeflies, Flo Rida and XV. In August, he opened for Wyclef Jean on the Crossroads KC Stage.

One of AY’s biggest claims to fame came when he auditioned in 2012 for the Fox TV show “The X Factor.”

While attending the University of Missouri at Kansas City on a basketball scholarship, AY sang for the five celebrity judges. He received affirmative votes from L.A. Reid, Simon Cowell and Brittany Spears.

“So after one year, I quit school and ball to do music,” he recalled. “I didn’t think I could change the world like I want to do by putting a ball into a hoop.”

But the anticipated record deals did not materialize.

So AY took his show to the streets, starting at the Country Club Plaza. AY said he moved his pop-up performance from the Plaza to downtown’s CrossRoads District last year after Plaza officials told him to leave.

AY has performed in 39 different states during the last six years. He held 230 Battery Tour performances last year that collected only $12,000, he said, which he used to buy new batteries for the tour and gas for his car.

“I stay at truck stops because I don’t have the money to do an Air B&B,” AY said.

“That’s cool because eventually the world is going to catch onto what I am doing. But I don’t want to do this for another three years because it is going to kill me.”

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