Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hip Hop Lives

My old high school friend Nep recently returned home to the East Coast from Cali. Last night he sang backup for underground hip hop staple Chali 2na.

2na was a member of seminal West Coast underground hip hop collective Jurassic 5. The set (augmented by a live band) was tight, well paced and high energy. Due to the quality of the PA system, it was hard to make out 2na's words, but his flow was consistent and his vocal timbre was strong. He was essentially another instrument in the band, which was actually cool. 2na also had a relaxed and confident stage presence that really put the crowd on his side. Instrumentally, the band clearly knew their past and present funk, which gave some stylistic weight to the material. The songs were also intermittently split up with DJ breaks of "old school jams", which helped create an ebb-and-flow for the set and added another historical layer to the music. Onstage, 2na had a great rapport with both Nep (who interjected soulful phrasing into the songs) and another mc/sideman who helped out with some hook lines and call-and-response, which is always great when well-rehearsed and done with more than simple repetition of a few words.

Prior to 2na, former Freestyle Fellowship member Aceyalone gave a totally pro (that's a compliment), wholly entertaining set of his own.

Armed with only a DJ and mic, Aceyalone immediately owned the stage and reminded me that a creative MC with solid tunes can be totally engaging and just as exciting as a band. He was also flowing over some deep samples taken from 60's r&b records. That's underused source material for hip hop and I was really glad to hear it.

No comments: