Several amateur rappers were in for a special treat Wednesday night when rapper Kanye West made a surprise appearance at an open mic in Jersey City.
The international rap star, without wife, celebrity Kim Kardashian, dropped into The Dopeness, a Mexican restaurant in Downtown Jersey City, for its monthly Wolf Juice hip-hop open mic showcase. West made his entrance just before the event began, getting everyone in the packed house talking.
West came to see amateur rapper Jahmila Sandifer, 17, better known as Jay Hype, make her showcase debut. Sandifer is a close friend’s daughter and regards him as an uncle.
Restaurant owner Jon Scanlon said West’s visit happened so fast and left everyone there for the curated open mic in shock.
“It was a 15-minute thing,” said Scanlon. “I walked him to the back; he used the restroom. He came and gave her a big hug and a kiss, watched her perform, and he was out.”
Earl “Ego” Davis, who runs the event with DJ Mega Mission and Lana Sez, said Sandifer was nervous at first but ended up delivering a strong performance.
“When he came, she stepped up to the plate and was phenomenal,” said Davis. “It’s just awesome that the universe was aligned right. And for this girl to choose to perform for us? It’s a testament to the power of our culture. There is something special happening here.”
Sandifer said she was coincidentally performing the song “K.O.W.” (after Kanye Omari West’s initials), and was nervous since West had never seen her perform live before. After the show, West texted her father referring to her affectionately, saying, “Baby LeBron killed it.”
“Kanye is a very, very big idol in my life, and I try to incorporate the stuff he does into my work,” said Sandifer, who raps about self-esteem and relationships and puts emphasis on her energy and style. “He gives me pointers, and I take it very seriously…his opinion is always in the back of my mind.”
Scanlon said West, who was escorted by two bouncers, may have come solely to see Sandifer, but his visit electrified the show.
“It really set the tone, and everyone had a Kool-Aid smile on their face,” said Scanlon, a longtime West fan. “Nobody expected it, that a world-renowned rapper shows up out of nowhere. It totally hyped up the crowd for the night, and it probably enhanced everyone’s performance. He gave everybody life.”
Davis, who called West “one of the biggest artists since Michael Jackson” and said his debut album, “The College Dropout,” even “changed his life,” adding that West wasn’t the obnoxious guy some make him out to be.
“He talked to people and gave us smiles and head nods. And he kind of knows who he is, I guess, so he kept an ‘It’s OK, calm down, it’s really me’ face on,” said Davis with a chuckle. “He showed so much respect to the culture and looked really comfortable.”
The Wolf Juice open mic is held on the last Wednesday of every month at 9 p.m. at The Dopeness, 332 Second St., Jersey City. The next event is Nov. 26. Admission is $7. BYOB.