I love Hip Hop shows at the Fox.
Every time I go to one, the acts are great and the crowd has a lot of energy. Last Friday was no exception.
I knew it was going to be fun when a couple of kids were outside beforehand trying to buy tickets to the already sold out show. The fact that these kids were willing to pay any price for a ticket shows how devoted Def Jux fans are to the label and with the exception of local mixing wonder DJ Idiom, all the artists that performed that night are on Def Jux.
As the crowd wandered into the club DJ Idiom warmed them up with a great set of hard hitting indie Hip Hop. I recognized some of the elements he was combining from the last show I saw him at but he was mixing them in different ways. Idiom opens a lot of shows in the Boulder area and he does a great job of not repeating his routines. Using the vocals from “Backdrifts” by Radiohead over new break beats is just one of the ways he keeps it fresh.
DJ Fakts One came out and spun gritty old school beats to prepare us for the first Def Jux act. Metro and Camu Tao are the Columbus, OH duo known as SA Smash. This tour was the first time either MC had been to Colorado and Camu Tao had the soundman adjust the mic levels for him because his voice was going out. He still rhymed like a madman and the duo gave a set of heavy thug rap that was stripped to essentials. SA Smash has taken the Cadillac Escalades and excessive gold and diamonds out of Hard Rap and sent it back to days when Eazy-E was still alive and performing with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
I don’t think the middle class college kids in the Fox knew what to do with the group at first. The crowd eventually caught on and was answering all audience participation without missing a beat. There was something about SA Smash that reminded me of Public Enemy. I think that it was Metro’s hype style. He seemed to take a few ideas from Flav and Camu’s delivery was slightly reminiscent of vintage Chuck D. Although he was without the ferocity that made Chuck D so powerful, Camu is a formidable MC. I did hear some grumbling from Hip Hop purists in the club about the fact that SA Smash had no DJ. They have fallen in with the common practice of using a DAT machine that is run by the sound man to play their beats. I don’t necessarily like this trend and it often feels a little like karaoke when I see it but Camu Tao and Metro pulled it off with a lot of energy still intact.
When Fakts One came back on stage he introduced Akrobatik from the Perceptionists. He flew solo without his counterpart for a warm-up rap.
Akrobatik apparently has never been to Boulder also and he wanted to kill some jitters before Mr. Lif came out. When Akrobatik began introducing Mr. Lif his skills (and role in the group) as a hype man were demonstrated. Even though Akrobatik is a very skillful MC he takes a back seat to Mr. Lif’s politically charged attack. The Perceptionists back up MC is better than most crews’ front men and their front man is virtually untouchable.
All of that over one of the most solid DJs in the Hip Hop scene makes for an amazing show. While watching the Perceptionists do their work it was hard to believe that someone was going to follow them. They made us dance, holler and pump our fists against anyone who wants to take away our freedom. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who almost forgot that there was a man named Aesop Rock playing after their set. At the end of the last song Mr. Lif told us about the groups next release (fall 2004) while Akrobatik slipped off stage. Before we could really notice the change, Mr. Lif brought the man of the night on stage. Lif wouldn’t do it until the crowd made more noise than Fort Collins did the night before at the Aggie.
Once the hearing damage was sufficient Aesop Rock strolled out and immediately started to rhyme one of the songs off of Bazooka Tooth and the whole place erupted. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd react that way to an artist starting their set. Ten seconds into it I realized why they were so excited. Aesop Rock was starting to look like one of the best live MCs I had seen since Atmosphere played the Fox in April. He kept it up for the whole set and the entire time Mr. Lif wasn’t just hyping Rock, he was fueling and dueling him. The two were feeding off of each other’s energy but the emphasis was always on Aesop Rock and his material. Lif had said his piece with the Perseptionists and now was happy to make sure the headliner was doing alright.
Halfway into the music stopped and the MCs began to act like they were going to fight the DJ. With that started Fakts One cut in a response off of a record. I believe the reply was “I am going to kick your ass”. Lif and Aesop asked him to repeat it in typical schoolyard style and again Fakts cut in “I am going to kick your ass”. “Say that one more time, we dare you” they said and one last time we heard Fakts One’s response but this time it was followed by a mammoth beat and the music was on once more. The DJ got the last word. When the house lights began to flicker signaling the Fox’s desire to wrap it up Aesop asked the crowd who they wanted to do the last song. Did we want a solo number from Mr. Lif or did we want more Aesop Rock. Both responses were equally loud so they left it up to the DJ. Whatever Fakts wanted to play is what they were going to do. Sticking to the marquee he played an Aesop Rock tune and let the headliner close with all the glory.
Like I said earlier, I love Hip Hop shows at the Fox. The sound system is amazing and the touring acts are the best in the country. Aesop Rock, the Perceptionists and SA Smash came showed us what their label is all about. The recently updated tour entries on Mr. Lif’s website tell of the bus doing doughnuts on the interstate on the way to Seattle. Lets just all hope these guys survive this tour so we can see them next time. Oh, one last word to the fans in Boulder that were there on Friday. A good place to break dance is in front of the stage in the b-boy pit. A bad place to break dance is in front of the doors and bar.