A sweat box is a small club,

from Big L – Ebonics (Criminal Slang) Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

A sweatbox club is specifically a tiny club, usually in the basement of another building, where they let so many people in that even if they have a cooling system, you won’t be feeling it
And you will need one of these.

It’s basically a “first three rows will get wet” situation because you will be leaving covered in your own sweat as well as that as a couple hundred strangers

These clubs have tiny overheads and often don’t have regular patrons so they’re more willing to gamble on a musician with a relatively small following in the hopes they will draw a larger crowd than usual (some of them only have live artists and not a usual DJ). It’s traditional for a new unestablished artist (and a lot of established indie artists no matter how long they’ve been around for) to play sweatbox-type venues until they graduate to drawing big enough crowds to be a safer booking bet for larger venues. The club usually profits on drink sales and the artist/their management takes ticket sales. This is especially true for underground rappers in the 90s, since these clubs spring up all over major cities and don’t necessarily usually last long

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