EL DA SENSEI, OC and WORDSWORTH as part of the Kings Of The Underground Tour at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (June 2). $22. www.myspace. com/mixtapemassacre. Rating: NNNNN
Kings Of The Underground, the title of ex-Artifacts member El Da Sensei's tri-headlining show with OC and Words-worth, might sound a bit grand, but, says the veteran hiphopper, he lives up to the name "in more than one way."
"I always try to be as good an MC as I can be when I'm servicing the music to the people," the Redman protege explains via phone from Newark, New Jersey, disappearing briefly from a BBQ.
After a first life with the Artifacts issuing Illmatic/Ready To Die-era classic singles with his buddy Tame One (with whom he has no beef but never talks to any more), El Da Sensei went on to release yet more singles. The comic book/animation fiend, whose name is Spanish, hiphop and Japanese for "The Teacher," also spent a lot of time touring and working abroad. He counts Norway, Sweden and, above all, Japan among his favourite countries, praising them for demonstrating a level of sincere hiphop love now rare in the States.
EDS's new album, The Unusual (Fat Beats), following up his 2002 release, Relax, Relate, Release, dropped earlier this year. Crowd Pleasa, the Ill Mind-produced lead 12-inch single, is a particularly ridicunanas (uh-huh, that's "ridiculous" and "bananas" combined) piece of dust-caked samples, voiced-over with grown-man talk and a preemo hook.
"I didn't try to sound dated and as underground as I can," he says about the new LP. "I wanted rap audiences to hear what it was, and what it is. It's music that is definitely for the soul -- I'm definitely bringing the MC back to the light."
Sensei's album release is well timed, seeing as older MCs are getting cool again. Many have recently been stepping back into the light with the support of newer cats, or on their own. And whereas more experienced rap artists used to get dissed for "falling off," many are making strong returns on the indie rap tip due to the rising stock value of what I call hiphop history cred.
The artist weighs in: "There's a flood of independent artists right now, but there are just a few good ones. The ones that are good have been making records before and are in the independent phase now. So I think it's a good come-up with brothers like me, cuz you saw how C.L. Smooth came back. I think that's a good trend right there."
For El Da Sensei, the reason is simple. "Fans miss the voice and they miss the music. And if we were able to put it down then, what makes you think we can't do it now?"