First, a dedication: This is for the security guard who took my brand-new Bic pens and flung them into the trashcan without asking me why>"/>
First, a dedication: This is for the security guard who took my brand-new Bic pens and flung them into the trashcan without asking me why I had them. In his mind, he already knew what I was going to use them for--scribbling on the walls. Thankfully, his heart turned out to be more gold than black, and he returned my precious writing utensils to me with the caveat that he “better see a story about the show in the Weekly.” This review is for you, dude. Oh, and thanks for not tossing my $10 Moleskine Reporter Notebook out, too. It was a gift from my mom way back when she was doing everything in her power to get me to stop humping inanimate objects and get a job.
Dilated Peoples’ infectious fusion of lyrical acrobatics and buoyant beats has always struck me as a dish best served piping hot to hyped audiences rather than cold on a CD to drowsy listeners. The trio’s intense repertoire--bullet-quick deliveries zipping and zapping over superhero-sized beats--always feels like a phantom limb on disc. The music, in other words, isn’t the entire point; it’s part of a larger whole that’s noticeably missing when pumped through your iPod.
The pieces came together last night, with Dilated confirming my view (or were they reminding me of theirs?) shortly into their nearly two-hour long set. They dropped “Pay Attention,” from 2001’s Expansion Team, which includes the briefest of history lessons: “First came the live show, then came the record.” Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
With DJ Babu supplying the background noise, MCs Evidence and Rakaa pounded through fairly fresh cuts (“Back Again,” from ’06’s 20/20) and oldies-but-goodies from double-0’s The Platform. Evidence played the unhinged Skeletor to Rakaa’s laid-back Buddha, as the crowd reached for the rafters like speed-freaks searching for more, more, more. Bottles of Red Stripe were held dangerously aloft, breakers twirled like upside down tortoises, and burly dudes screamed unmentionables to everyone, and no one, simultaneously. When your wires get crossed, go with it.
And why not? It was, according to the L.A.-based crew, the “Fresh Rhymes & Videotape” tour’s kick-off night, a special, star-crossed occasion for all the b-boys and -girls who find themselves, like me, scratching their heads at the current state of the culture. (I mean, what the fuck is that roundtable debate on MTV about? Who are the “hottest MCs in the game”? Uh…who in the sweet body of Christ cares?)
Dilated brought it back to the basics. DJ Babu provided a nice interlude (so, presumably, Evidence and Rakaa could head backstage and spark a lil’ indo) full of loops that fed on each other in a self-reinforcing barrage of vague sounds and mysterious utterances. After coming back on stage, Rakaa reminded: “The backbone of hiphop is the DJ.” Babu proved it.
The other highlight came when Alchemist--all 5-foot-nuthin’, 100-nuthin’ pounds of him--darted on stage in a feverish search for the energy source the audience was stuffed to the gills on. (My guess? It was Evidence, who buzzed back and forth across the stage for virtually the entire concert encouraging the crowd to do everything but self-immolate.) Babu dropped a highlight reel of Alchemist beats from his Mobb Deep days, and flashed rhymes (believe it or not, the dude can flow) from his up-coming solo album. As with all real hiphop, it’ll probably be worth the wait.
Harlem MC 88-Keys opened with a set wrapped tightly, if slightly annoyingly, around a fictional character called Adam. The songs were fun--full of good cheer and raunchy humor--but parts of his set came off like bad community theater. I appreciate that he was trying something “different,” but pretending to be dead at the end of your show leaves us all stiff with rigor mortis.
Next up was Aceyalone, the most underhanded showboater you’ll ever meet. He’s a headliner in his own right. When he rapped, “I live by the words on the page,” from “Caged Bird,” my eyes almost got teary--or maybe it was just the memory of my kidnapped pens.