On Thursday, October 18th, MTV Hive hosted the CMJ version of their Live in NYC series of events at Studio at Webster Hall with a bevvy of heavy hitters in the hip hop world right now.
Atlanta's Killer Mike is having a bit of a career resurgance right now. Though he never really went away, it wasn't until the release of R.A.P. Music (album of the year contender) and its string of amazing music videos that the Outkast (RIP) associate started to really get his due. Since then he's been a very welcome presence at many New York shows opening for DIIV (we don't know how that happened either), GZA (we totally know how that happened), and hitting us with the amazing Into the Wild Tour (peace to Maurice Sendak). Killer Mike always gives an amazing performance so when he was added to this line up we made damn sure to be there on time. Once more he gave it his all, not treating this like a warm up at all. I don't know how he pulled the energy to do this then go to work at Irving plaza opening for GZA just a few hours later. If you've seen Killer Mike perform, he's not content to let his raps to the talking as he will break down his songs for you to show you craft and the origins of the tracks. It's great stuff and you should absolutely see him perform live.
New York native Le1f raps with a flair for the dramatic modulating his voice all over a track where in a 16 bar progression he'll sound sinister, playful and subdued backed with some amazing, bass crazed beats (he did Das Racist's “Taco Bell” beat for example) that when played at the Studio at Webster Hall made drink glasses shake like the arrival of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I've seen Le1f a handful of times but this is the first time I've ever felt that he was really in his element with costumed back up dancers and some ritualized cleansing of the stage (wth both water and later the burning of sage). I was a bit concerned because Le1f has sometimes not seemed to be into performing live as though it were a nessecity to the promotion of the music but here he absolutely playing to the fact that this was to be a visual show later broadcast on MTV's various web entities. You can check out Le1f's Dark York relase here. Check your bassbins for cracks though because the album will put your speakers through hell.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire followed on a “live your dreams” tip telling us that less than a year ago he was working 12 hours a day for $8 an hour in a parking garage (“Sounds like it sucked,” said someone from the audience) but now he's touring the world and pissing off his label by releasing mixtapes against their wishes (the day after this show he released a new mixtape The Man in the High Castle which has vanished from it's original home). He has an EP in the works and a full album coming out soon and I'm very curious to see how they sound.
Following this was Big K.R.I.T. who had a clutch of fans from Mississippi who were there to hear him give that work and we cerainly got it. Coming out hard, Big K.R.I.T. gave the audience a hell of a lot of tracks in his allotted time mostly from his major label debut Live from the Underground while still reaching back to K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (we got “Just Touched Down” but not “Country Shit”). K.R.I.T. was great live. A lot of energy a lot of interaction with the crowd jumping into the audience and performing from the floor, huge charm and really appreciative of his fans taking a lot of time after his set to talk to fans and get photos taken with them.
The final act of the night was Flatbush Zombies, the young upstarts are making drug fueled rap intentionally bypassing the “this is fun, i love everyone” stage and going right to the Confessions of an Opium Eater nightmare mode making psychological horror rap (not that Gravediggaz “I was a demon ever since I was some semen” stuff). Yes it's amazing and has that kind of “holy fuck the kids aren't alright” edge that makes handwringers out of music bloggers but fuck man if this shit isn't great. It's a crew with a vision that seems like it all fell together naturally. I've heard the term “punk rap” thrown around in relation to this group (and cringe everytime) and it seems as apt a description as any; DIY music written about personal experiences. Go see Flatbush Zombies live and it's like being at a punk show. At some point, there will be a mosh pit and at some point, a photographer will get a drink dumped on their head and at some point, there will be drugs. Speaking of drugs, download D.R.U.G.S.