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Walking into Kava Lounge for Critical Beatdown, a new monthly series devoted to the burgeoning beat scene, you immediately notice two things out of place. First, it's packed, which doesn't happen in San Diego for anything hip-hop-ish. But that night, shifting your weight the wrong way could have you brushing up against the cardigan of a cute college girl. Which is the second thing: the crowd looks like college students instead of the dudes in hoodies that usually dominate at hip-hop shows. It makes you wonder how many audience members are here because this L.A.-born beat scene is "it" among the college crowd these days.

Whatever. It's packed and that's good. You can feel the energy of the crowd bumping you around. SD's DJ Pound breaks down records into glitchy grooves. Deep Rooted's Mr. Brady oozes bass through speakers like saliva through fangs. Mike Gao mixes a set through his self-made iPad program. And the crowd gets down.

When Tokimonsta enters, she possesses the energy, kick, and technical trickery of Pound, Brady, and Gao. But she glues it together with enough soul to bring you to the brink of tears. Plus she has the savvy to know when to drop classics like "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." The audience cheers at her every blip, beep, blend, bend, and breath. The beat scene might turn out to be a fad, but the excitement has me hoping it's not.

  • Concert: Tokimonsta, Mike Gao, Mr. Brady, DJ Pound
  • Date: January 6
  • Venue: Kava Lounge
  • Seats: General admission
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