Haiku D'etat with Del ThA Funky Homosapien , Zion i and Bukue One as part of the Cali Comm 2004 tour at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Saturday (November 6), 5 pm. $26.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Idealists of the world believe that our dark present demands superheroes, but realists know that superheroes don't exist and that sometimes you just have to settle for a supergroup.
Speaking optimistically, Haiku d'Etat are that supergroup. The Cali-based act with a highbrow name, featuring Freestyle Fellowship's Mikah 9, Abstract Rude (of Tribe Unique fame) and underground legend Aceyalone, is currently touring in support of the just-released Coup De Theatre album a full five years after their self-titled debut.
On the phone from their tour van, with members Aceyalone and DJ Drez asleep in the back, Mikah 9 tries to explain why the wait didn't matter.
"I thought we were going to continue when we did the first album," he says. "I didn't see it as a one-off, because the potential is so great whenever we get together."
He attributes the slow reload time to a change in the concept, from a live instrument-based bounce on the debut to a digital-based sound with live embellishments and scratches from DJ Drez. Mikah gets scientific when he tries to describe what to expect from the MCs.
"Lyrically and thematically, you can expect a subtle and quite cleverly hybridized cross-pollination of jazz, poetry and soul. I'm the jazzy vibe, Ace is the poetic vibe and Ab is the soulful vibe."
But can too many vibes spoil the broth? Apparently not, if reaction during the tour is an indicator.
"The response to us on the tour has been all positive," Mikah 9 happily asserts, adding, "Not a single boo, not a single heckler. They're compelled to love."
As happens with so many crews, the meeting of these three minds occurred thanks to an open mic. In this case, it was renowned Los Angeles health-food-store-based open mic Goodlife. They've known one another's styles and worked together for 10 years now, and the new disc seamlessly shows off how well they complement each other. With production handled for the most part by knowledgeable veteran FatJack, the beats are sweeter than a sugar sandwich made with sugar-coated bread.
Certain thematic concepts arise in the fusion of their three vibes into one, claims Abstract Rude.
"As far as content, we're touching on things like the fading away of ignorance," he explains. "Coup De Theatre means 'a dramatic turn of events' and that's what we want when we hit the airwaves - for intelligence to come forward.
"We talk about dignity, rallying around community, women and men relating, and how good things don't last. Everything in life isn't positive and rosy. The whole thing is like listening to hiphop theatre."
With that critical tone in mind, and in the spirit of the American election that loomed over our chat, Mikah 9 was kind enough to give his thoughts on who in hiphop would be the best president.
"Chuck D would be the best president," he begins. "But wait, he didn't show that much love to Professor Griff, so I take that back. Really, I'd give it to Afrika Bambataa, one of our older, wiser patriarchs. I'd give the vice-presidency to Rakim, because he's got a lot of knowledge, and for secretary of defence it would be somebody who don't take shit, like Kool G Rap.
"I think hiphop is more like religion, but if it were part of politics, I wouldn't want a separation of church and state. It'd be a hiphop theocracy."