Vic Mensa (with Towkio, Ryan Caraveo & Romaro Franceswa) | Neptune Theatre | August 25, 2015
The Brand Kings and EMP Museum Present: Through the Eyes of Art Black History Month kick-off event featuring The Value of Black Life artist showcase with appearances by Talib Kweli and Draze | EMP Museum Sky Church | Saturday, February 7, 2015
The Crocodile, Reign City, Ten Grand Marketing, and Soul Gorilla Present: Twista the “Dark Horse Tour” | The Crocodile | Thursday, October 16, 2014
I went to the Twista show excited to take a stroll down memory lane. When I think of the legends of hip-hop he might not be one of the first people to come to mind, but once he ran through his catalog I realized this was a mistake. As I watched one of Chi-town’s finest emerge on the Crocodile’s stage with the most impressive jewelry I have seen up close (paling only in comparison to Slick Rick’s) I happily rapped my way into nostalgia.
The room was packed with dedicated fans. Twista opened his set with the title track off his latest album, Dark Horse, but the real strength of his show was in the older material. What impressed me most about Twista is the amount of hits he’s had and how fun all those songs are to hear live. As soon as the beat dropped from “Is That Your Chick,” and he began to rhyme at a pace that no one has been able to rival, I was amazed. Even though everyone knows that Twista is defined by his ability to rap faster than anyone else, seeing that kind of skill, mastery of language, power, energy, and simultaneous calm on stage all at once is impressive.
Showbox, Dead Nation and Reign City Present: Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) with Lilla & Raz Simone | Showbox Market | Wednesday, October 8, 2014
One could argue that it is hard to be innovative when it comes to rap music. It might even be harder to be innovative when performing rap music. Most musicians stand on stage, hold the mic, walk around a little bit, and then take a pause to say, “How y’all feel?” This is not bad of course. There is nothing wrong with just performing your songs; that’s what people are there to see, after all.
But Raz Simone impressed me by stepping out of the box and, in this case, off the stage to do something that never even crossed my mind until I saw it with my own eyes. Midway through his opening set last Wednesday night at Showbox at the Market, he hopped off stage after he had been working the entire room, and asked the crowd to gather in a circle. He rapped passionately in the middle of the floor, the highlight being when he performed his love letter to Seattle — a cover of Adele’s “Hometown Glory” — standing eye-to-eye with the audience. He hugged people in the crowd, jumped up and down and even finished his set by being hoisted up, literally on the shoulders of the people he was performing for. Call me sentimental, but this gave me a lot of hope for rap music in general and made me proud of Seattle rap in particular.
On the first day of Autumn, a few hundred Seattle residents celebrated the city’s return to dreary gray weather by gathering to be a part of a sold-out show featuring two of hip-hop’s most profound underground MCs: Bambu and Brother Ali.
Full disclosure: I saw Bambu perform in LA when I was in college and became a total fan girl. Needless to say, his presence on Brother Ali’s “Home Away From Home” tour caused me to have exactly the same reaction. Dressed in all black like an omen, he appeared on the Crocodile’s stage full of Cali swag. And while his delivery is cool, make no mistake, everything about Bambu can be summed up in one word: Power. He was there to give you a show, yes, but mostly he was there to give you an education. Bar after bar, rhyme after rhyme, social justice delivered in dramatic form is the name of his rap game. With all the heavy subject matter — Ferguson, women’s rights, student loan debt, to name a few — listeners took away a better history lesson on what it’s like to be struggling in America than they could have from a classroom.
Open Mike Eagle has described his brand of hip-hop as “art rap,” while typically being classified as an “alternative rapper.” While the art rap stamp rings true, I would beg to differ that what Eagle brings to the table is “alternative.” Or, if it is, everyone else needs to change the way they think and talk about rap moving forward because what Eagle offers should be the norm. What you get from Mike Eagle is everything rap ought to be: witty intelligence, great flow, comedic value, punch lines that make you think twice, and good supporting beats.
Normally I hate describing certain music as “smart” for the same reason I detest describing people as “nice.” More often than not these terms are lacking. However, since the word “smart” means “Having or showing quick witted intelligence,” there really is no better way to sum up what Eagle brings to the table. Clad in earth tones and a turquoise wood medallion, unassuming, thoughtful and reverent to the rap task at hand, Open Mike Eagle began his show at Columbia City Theater last Saturday night by
wafting scented oil into the air tracing an unknown word in the air while holding a figurine, facing East to pray, and passing around a golden crown for the audience to touch before starting his set. This was a dope way to establish energy in the room while also alerting the audience to just how important his particular craft is to him.
Eagle has a smooth voice and cool delivery, and he clearly loves performing his well-crafted bars. Not one to move about on stage or call too much attention to himself, he leaves room for what is most important: his raps. He made intense eye contact with the crowd, was very personable, and not over-confident, even though his skills justify any bragging he might do about his own dopeness. Instead of all the bravado that rap is accustomed to, he just stood and delivered, song after song. Eagle pulled off something rare by making heavy social commentary without sounding like a show off.