Thursday, October 25, 2012

Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at The New Parish, Oakland

View From the Front Row, 10/25/12

About two weeks ago, I went and checked out the Arguments With Dreams Tour starring Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at the New Parish in Oakland CA.  This was the first show of the tour and it had the misfortune of landing on an unexpected Game 5 for the Oakland A's, which probably drew a bit of the sports fanatic Busdriver fans away from the venue.  Still, the show got a pretty good turn out of top notch people, including a bunch of fans from Nappa Valley who I ended up grabbing a beer with before the show.  Later met up with a few awesome friends of mine at the venue, and happened to bump into Doseone, who distributed hugs in the midst of buying a round of drinks for the performers.  I've seen all of the acts on this tour play many times before (hell, I've seen Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver play a couple of times this year alone), but this particular show felt special since it was my first time seeing these three LA rap talents on a proper tour together.  Given their numerous collaborations and similar approaches to hip hop, the sets that these Hellfyre Club MCs offered up had a special chemistry that made for a really dope show.

Open Mike Eagle kicked things off with some smooth melodic styles that quickly roped the crowd in and won them over by the third song.  After an odd electronic intro rap from "4NML HSPTL," he got into the full swing of things with his track "The Processional," where his skillful musical flows and clever lyrics had folks' undivided attention in no time.  I've seen Open Mike Eagle play tiny dive bars like Johnny V's and huge concert halls like the Fillmore, and he always kills it with his unique soft-spoken style and finds charming ways to banter with the crowd.  Highlights of this recent set at the New Parish included "Neighbor" and his verse off of "Why Pianos Break," though he cut his song "I Rock" cruelly short when he realized that it wasn't really speaking to him that night.  Mike Eagle had the crowd do some proper stretching exercises before throwing down some beat manipulation and dropping the track "Free-Writing Exercise," where Nocando joined him on stage to exchange some heated verses.  The two friends I was with had never seen Open Mike Eagle live, and the Nappa Valley kids had never even heard of him before the set at this show.  All of them left converted fans and told me how much they loved Mike's set.  Dope show for sure.

Nocando was next to rock the mic, and he delivered a more loud and aggressive set of songs that worked nicely on the crowd.  Oakland is one of the two places that Nocando claims as home, and he was clearly the touring artist that felt most at home at the New Parish that night.  The way that Nocando pointed out his friends in the crowd and rocked a beat from an iPod that someone handed him in the front row, he may as well have been killing it in his own backyard.  Still, club-oriented joints like "Where's the Money?" and "All Over a Bitch" (which Nocando openly apologized to the ladies for) got folks rowdy in the front row and made the place feel like a proper dancehall.  He also kicked some of the freestyling he's known so well for, and brought Busdriver out for their collaborative number "Two Track Mind."  This was one of Nocando's first shows back in the states after spending some time in Japan, so it was great to see him vibing so well off of Oakland's energy.  Very good set.

Busdriver stepped up as the evening's headliner, and proceeded to show off his zany styles of rapping to the fullest.  He started things off with a series of solo tracks that spanned his body of work, with a particular emphasis on songs that have impressed people live.  Some stand-outs included "Me-Time," "Casting Agent & Cowgirls," "Avantcore" and "Bon Bon Fire," though just about every song he played was solid.  While this part of Busdriver's performance was great, the highlight of the evening was definitely when Nocando joined him on stage to perform a set of songs as Flash Bang Grenada, where the crazy music took on a new life.  Busdriver and Nocando were having a great time playing together, frequently laughing or bugging out over each others flows and lyrics, and the good vibes translated well to the music and to the crowd.  Tracks like "Beat My Bitch" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop" sounded plenty live through the New Parish speakers, and Open Mike Eagle joined the two of them on stage for a rowdy rendition of their excellent track "In a Perfect World."  My friends and I were dancing so hard that at one point my glasses flew off and somehow found their way onto the stage, where Busdriver stumbled upon them and handed them back to me in the front.  Great set that ended a great show.

Fun times for all involved, my friends and I left smiling and sweaty.  Peep the video footage for "In a Perfect World" live below, and please excuse the less than stellar sound quality.  Now, if I could just start a petition here to get Open Mike Eagle to start performing "Haircut" again in his sets, we could round these shows out to perfection.  Not the best song in his catalog or anything, but that track has been great the few times I've seen him play it live!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soul Reigns Supreme

The Latest Greatest, 10/17/12

I know my serious hip hop head buddies have been fiending for this one.  Myka 9 & Factor's new collaborative album, "Sovereign Soul," will be dropping this November 13th via Fake Four Inc.  Myka is an incredible rapper with one of the most musical approaches to rapping you're likely to hear anywhere, and his last full length with Factor "1969" was one of his strongest projects to date.  I'm left with no choice but to assume that this new album of theirs will end up being amazing, and the tracklisting definitely piques my curiosity. Can't say I was expecting to see Astronautalis or ERULE up in the mix, those should be some epic collabos for the books!  Track I'm most looking forward to hearing is probably that "5 Mikes" one, fun concept already and I haven't listened to a single bar from it.  For now, you can listen to the all-too-short leaked song "You Are Free" below:

1. Sovereign Soul
2. You Are Free
3. Bask In These Rays (feat. Ceschi & Astronautalis)
4. Hard Hit
5. Ode to Cosmosis (feat. Abstract Rude, Freewill & Moka Only)
6. Mind Heights
7. Sexy To The Beat
8. Heaven Up (feat. Johanna Phraze & JNatural)
9. Bless Me Out (feat. Jah Orah)
10. Zo Oh Owe Ning (feat. Charli Rose)
11. 5 Mikes (feat. Open Mike Eagle, Mykill Miers, Mic King & Myk Mansun)
12. Indigenous Areas (feat. ERULE)
13. In So Far As We Know

    Myka 9 and Factor "You Are Free" by Fake Four, Inc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Understudies "CC5: Collected Compliments"

Expanding the Backpack, 10/16/12

Not in the habit of sharing mixtapes on this blog, but this new 19 track collection of unreleased joints and loosies from Berkeley CA's Understudies Crew is surprisingly tight.  I've been watching these fellas grind in the Bay Area rap scene for a second now, and their hearts and heads are all in the right places when it comes to this hip hop shit.  "Collected Compliments" is the fifth and finest installment of their "CC" mixtape series, and features some of the best recorded Understudies stuff I've heard to date.  Core members of the crew such as Gee, Citizen, Sean E Depp and Manifest are all accounted for on the raps while production credits include the likes of Digital Martyrs, Myers, Cyberclops, and more.  Plenty of highlights to point out here, whether it's Poe effortlessly killing his verse on "Pressure Cooker" or Gee straight clownin' on fools on "Disclaimer."  Sean E Depp delivers one of his strongest songs with "Can I Help You?", flexing his calm flow over a smooth self-produced beat that perfectly compliments his style.  My favorite track on the album is probably Self Advocate's solo joint "The Tiller," a beautiful introspective number where Self flips some impressive styles for 6 minutes over a keyboard and guitar driven beat of his own crafting.  Hard to pick a proper "digital blog single" for this mix since a lot of the songs are short and unfinished, but "Without You" is a strong number by Gee and Foss that gives you a good sense of what this crew is like to listen to live.  Stream the song below and download the entire "CC5: Collected Compliments" mix legally for free HERE.  Also, be on the lookout for the long-belated official full-length Understudies album "One Night Only," which is dropping sooner than you think.

1. Kushy (Myers)
2. Blood, Sweat & Cheers (Gee, Manifest, Maintain)
3. Any Other Night (Foss & Fly Cobb)
4. Pressure Cooker (feat. ABNG) (Poe & Sean E Depp)
5. For The Moment (Gee, Foss, Manifest)
6. Disclaimer (Gee, Poe, JB Nimble)
7. Road Cats (Fly Cobb & Foss)
8. Gentlemen (Maintain & Myers)
9. Inhale (Remix) (Manifest & Foss)
10. Can I Help You? (Sean E Depp)
11. Kick Off (Manifest)
12. The Tiller (Self Advocate)
13. Without You (Gee & Foss)
14. Space Revisited, Part 2 (Foss)
15. Take'Em To Space (Sean E Depp & Poe)
16. Time Bomb Tickin' (Gee & Sean E Depp)
17. Cipe (Myers)
18. The Elders (Jazzmatazz) (Foss & Manifest)
19. One Night Only (Foss & Poe)

Download CC5 and visit the Understudies website

  The Understudies "Without You" (produced by Dakota) by elitwack

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Filler

The Latest Greatest, 10/11/12

Chicago MC Robust will be releasing his new album "Fillin' In the Potholes" on November 6th via Galapagos4.  I really loved Robust's 200G4 debut "Potholes in Our Molecules," and the "El Foto Grande" and "Stick Figures" albums that he followed it up with were very dope as well, but I can't really say I've dug too much of the material he's released since then.  Fortunately, judging by the singles that have leaked from this new project, it seems that Robust may be set to make a pretty major return to form come November 6th.  The return to the "Potholes" motif seems to be pointing towards a fresh start, and Ro even jokingly speaks on how the "fans don't think he's hot no more" on the album's lead single.  Production line-up is some A-List Chi Town shit: Meaty Ogre, Maker, Void Pedal (dope!), PNS, Jackson Jones and DJ Alo make contributions amongst others.  Very dope Albane cover art as well.  Check out the video for the single "Northern Soul" and the leaked song "How Ya Livin??" below:

1. Fillin' In The Potholes (prod. by Max)
2. Soloist (prod. by Robust)
3. Northern Soul (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
4. High Road (prod. by Void Pedal)
5. Loop Dreams (prod. by Robust)
6. All I Do (prod. by DJ Alo)
7. Remember When (prod. by PNS)
8. I Wake Up (prod. by Maker)
9. Spare Change (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
10. How Ya Livin?? (prod. by Max)
11. Polluted Views (prod. by Jackson Jones)
12. Tortured Soul (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
13. Driftwood (prod. by Pore)
14. What's Your World (prod. by Pore)
15. Pressure (prod. by DJ Alo)
16. Realism (prod. by Pore)

    How Ya Livin??? - Prod. By Max(Old Irving) ft. DJ ALO by Robust Chicago 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Z-Man, Hopie, C-Plus, Rey Resurreccion, Toast and Dregs One at Elbo Room, SF

View From the Front Row, 10/9/12

Been a little quiet on the front row around these parts, but not for lack of hitting shows.  Aesop Rock and co. at the Fillmore and Astronautalis (who opened for the abysmal Flobots) at Bottom of the Hill were both very noteworthy recent shows that I attended, but there are so many shows to cover in the Bay and so little time.  Rather than covering one of the larger tours that I peeped, I figure that a new local performer write-up is long overdue, and Z-Man's recent "album release" show at Elbo Room featured a nice line-up of Bay Area rap talent to cover on this blog.

I put "album release" in quotations since, while billed as an album release party for Z-Man, there is yet to be a new Z-Man album birthed unto the world to my knowledge.  Elbo Room filled up a little slowly at first for this event, but the crowd made up for the initial low turn-out with a pretty great showing of Bay Area rap heads.  Kirby Dominant was in attendance, supporting his gals Toast as well as Z, and one of the performers mentioned that Myka 9 was chilling somewhere in the spot as well.  There were a lot of really hardcore Bay Area hip hop fans in attendance, including some dudes who'd been listening to Gurp City since middle school, and these fools were going extra hard with the support at this show. 

Dregs One acted as the evening's host by introducing each of the acts and getting the crowd appropriately hyped.  He also played a couple of songs as the show's opening act, and kicked a few tracks between sets as the night progressed.  Dregs was pretty excellent at both of his jobs.  As a host, he knew how to properly introduce the performers with class and enthusiasm, and riled up some great responses from the crowd.  He was equally great as an MC, with vivacious stage energy that was rivaled only by the evening's headliner.  Dregs did justice to a couple of tunes from his "Wake Up Call" album, threw down an object-driven freestyle that got some crowd love, and debuted some new songs from a project he's working on with Big Shawn of Bored Stiff.  He also filmed a video for a song off of said project during the show, but had a bit of a hard time getting some of the crowd involved in it.  Here's hoping the footage turned out dope, cus' he deserves it!

Toast was the next act to take the stage, with Kirby Dominant joining them for a verse and supporting them on the hooks.  Toast were clearly having a pretty great time on stage with their raunchy feminine raps, which is why it pains me to say that their music did nothing for me and their set left me feeling a bit cold.  Their style of music, which might be described as a more clever underground version of the White Girl Mob, just doesn't appeal to me I guess.  What's funny is that I was still supporting and dancing up in the front row, and Erica B singled me out a couple of times with some pretty dirty lines that got me smiling a bit.  Not a bad time grooving next to these pretty ladies, but can't say I'd ever be caught dead listening to one of their songs in the comfort of my own home.  Kirby is still the motherfucking man of course, and killed it with his all-too-brief guest verse.

Rey Resurreccion followed after Toast with a solid performance that had a lot of folks in the crowd blazing up some major blunts.  See that haze of smoke surrounding Rey in the pic of him rocking the mic?  That ain't no Elbo Room smoke machine!  Rey Resurreccion put a lot of passion and ferocity into his verses that had dudes who hadn't made their way to the front take a couple steps forward and start bobbing their heads.  His beat selection seemed to bounce back and forth between traditional jazzy hip hop shit and more club-oriented jams, and he handled both styles well.  As someone who is not well-versed in Rey's music, I thought he was very good live.  I hear he's gonna be touring with Bambu in the near future, which will hopefully offer him some new exposure to potential fans.

C-Plus was next to play, and was the only rapper of the night not repping the Bay Area.  I had some mixed feelings about his set.  On the one hand, C-Plus had a dope voice and a pretty great flow, which caught my attention right from the get-go and kept me listening.  On the other hand, he seemed a bit cocky and over-confident on stage, which resulted in his set going on for a bit too long.  He opened by demanding that the crowd get extra hype for an out-of-towner from Sacramento, which was not the right foot to start things off on.  Once he brought up the Giant's and A's victories, he'd silently made amends with the crowd and folks became a bit more supportive.  C-Plus brought a rapper buddy hype-man to the stage about halfway through his set, and dude killed it with his one guest verse but was otherwise an unnecessary distraction.  C took things out on a high note by ending his set with the song "Heaven Is" from one of Ski Beatz's albums, which provided the perfect mellow jazzy note to wind things down with.  Pretty good set overall.

Hopie got on stage once C-Plus had finished, and she delivered an awesome set that felt almost too short by comparison.  From the very first moments that Hopie addressed the crowd and tested their energy with her opening song "Speakers Knock," it became abundantly clear that she had a real connection with the audience and was relishing the opportunity to play.  I've seen Hopie rock it live a fair number of times, and one thing that's always great about her sets is that she really knows how to vibe off of the crowd and how to enjoy her time on stage.  She was in great form with her rapping this evening, and flowed effortlessly through her tracks, with highlights including the charming upbeat ode to Cali herb "Higher, Higher" and the bouncy synth sounds of "Space Case."  Hopie may have gotten the best crowd response of any performer at the show, which is a testament to her ability to connect and have fun with folks during her sets.  She also played an impressive new song from her upcoming "Sugar Water" album as an encore, and I was digging the chill West coast vibes of the track.  Dope set.

Z-Man finally came out as the evening's headliner, blue track suit stunner shades and all, and he definitely killed it with a crazy ill comedic set of Gurped out rapping and fancy footwork.  Z took the stage with the very hypest number in his live show repertoire "Fronted On," only to tease the crowd by cutting it short a few seconds in and starting the track over just to make sure fools got extra hyped for it.  Majority of the crowd was fairly tipsy at this point in the evening, and Z-Man generously broke out some bottles of his signature rosé wine with plastic cups to share with folks up in the front.  He refilled people's cups at the start of each song, and I had to slow my roll a little after the third or fourth cup! A lot of folks were a little too drunk to get super hype and responsive to Z-Man's songs, but it resulted in an unusually comedic show that was still fun as hell to be a part of.  Tracks like "Crumb in the Bay" and "OJ Simpson and Courtney Love" went super appreciated by the crowd, and Z busted some pretty sick dance moves and even bent down and flashed his boxers at one point to emphasize some line about ass.  One of the funniest things to witness was Kirby Dominant's reactions to Z-Man's insane stage antics, particularly when the two Bay Area rap legends began complimenting each other on their classy choices of suits.  I've seen Z-Man live countless times, and he really is one of those dudes whose stage charisma you have to witness for yourself at some point if you live in the Bay.  Highly recommend the man's live show.  Great time, guaranteed.

No "album release," but it was definitely a party up in Elbo Room that night.  Super good show.