View From the Front Row, 5/6/12
A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Edison and friends rock a free show over at Ear Peace Records in Berkeley. I wasn't planning on documenting this one, but it ended up being such a great time that I felt the need to preserve some of the details to memory here. I've seen Edison and Beastmaster kill it plenty of times live, but Babelfishh and Home I wasn't as familiar with, and they both really impressed me with their performances. This show was also awesome in the way that it brought together many friendly faces from both sides of the Bay, with hip hop homies from San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley all congregated in one tiny lil' record store. Sooo many rad people packed into one space, it was almost unfair to whatever else was going on in the East Bay that night!
The turn-out to this event was pretty good and easily trumped the sparse crowd of the previous Ear Peace Oldominion show, with lots of friends and loved ones of the performers in attendance. Before the Babelfishh and Beastmaster tour that Ear Peace was hosting got started, Bay area producer Phillip Drummond punched out a mix of beats and other songs from the store balcony above the crowd. This part of the show was billed as a "Beat Cypher," but with only Phillip Drummond participating it played out more like a warm-up DJ set. The traditional blapper beats went on for a bit too long, but the set served its purpose in killing a bit of time until more people showed up and the rest of the artists were ready to play.
Beastmaster took the stage after Home had finished, and brought out a chest of antique toys and a couple of beast dolls for company. I've seen Beastmaster rap a number of times as a freestyler during Edison's sets, but it occurs to me that this was only the second full set of solo material I've seen from him, with the first being a performance as part of Ecid's "Attack of the Vampire Mermaids" tour a few years back. Beastmaster began his set with an awesome recording of someone talking about wizards and other fantasy creatures, and from there he went straight into the rapping and kicked a bunch of dense intellectual hip hop numbers for people to wrap their brains around. He played a number of dope songs, including his track off of Edison's "Full Mustafa" album and another great one that had him chanting a hook about running around with a hatchet. In addition to his ill creative lyrics, Beastmaster's set was great to watch from a visual standpoint, with his repertoire of toys offering up some memorable moments. At one point in the set, he leaned down to cuddle his beast dolls while a funny "I Love My Beastmaster" theme song cued up in the background, and at another point he was gripping the mic through giant beast gloves. Babelfishh joined Beastmaster for a bit of freestyling before the set was done, and the two of them rocked some funny lyrics and flows together. Pretty beastly stuff.
Babelfishh was up to play next, and nothing could have prepared me for how mind-blowing his set was! Beastmaster introduced him by saying that Babelfishh was gonna scare the shit out of everyone, and his performance was so damn noisy and intense that the words of warning seemed fitting. Babelfishh had a suitcase full of beat-making equipment handy on him, and knocked out some extra discordant instrumentals on it while going nuts on the mic. If Home's music was the folkiest of the night, then Babelfishh's was the loudest and most punk, with rampant verses that frequently ended in brutal screamed hooks. His rapping was so focused and relentless that he frequently let go of the mic to yell his complex verses at the crowd, and his songs were full of exciting switch-ups and beat manipulations that left people guessing. He'd successfully seized the audience by the throat after the first three songs, so when he commanded that people take off their shoes and toss them into a pile, a good portion of the crowd responded and a small mountain of shoes was formed in front of him. Babelfishh experimented with his music in interesting ways during his set, occasionally rocking verses over drone numbers with no drums and even tossing on a good ol' fashioned country sing-along for some comic relief. By the end of his set, folks were left feeling sweaty, confused and elated. Excellent show.
Edison set up his equipment as the final act of the night once Babelfishh was done, and blew people's minds with one of his elaborate live production performances. His set got off to a bit of a rocky start since his laptop froze up just as he was about to murder some buttons on his first track, but after fixing this slight hiccup it was all buttery beats with a whole lot of incredible sound manipulation. I've seen Edison play quite a few times now and his songs have become very familiar to me, but somehow he only gets better every time I see him. I think it has to do with the fact that no two Edison sets ever sound the same, since he toys with the structure of the tracks through his monome pad and improvises in a variety of innovative ways. Hands down one of the best live beat sets out there in my opinion, and yes I've frequented Low End Theory and all those trendy spots. Edison invited Beastmaster and Babelfishh up to freestyle for a song while he rocked out some sick beats, and rat masks from Edison's "Cure for the Case of the Wealthies" video shoot were passed around and worn by spectators and rappers alike. Really terrific music plus very impressive to watch live... I guarantee you that Edison's "Delayed Reaction Effect" album will be a force to reckoned with when it drops in the Fall.
Once the music was over and the shop was closed up, a bunch of us folks rolled over to Nick's lounge for a few drinks, where there happened to be some karaoke night going on. A white girl's rendition of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" prompted a couple of us to get rowdy in the front row. Good times all around. Great show and a great night, check out some of these freestyle videos from the event to get a better sense of it:
Babelfishh Interlude and Freestyle:
Beastmaster & Babelfishh Freestyling over an Edison Beat: