Guilty Simpson gets a new buzz in Austin before the Duck Down vs. Stones Throw show
SXSW is easily the most overwhelming and intense music gathering of my life, and I've been to Sars-Stock, Rock The Bells, The Getting Up Festival, and others that I only hazily remember. I ran around like a madman trying to see and hear everything and everyone possible.
Here in Austin, 6th St. is basically the main strip of the festival, and it far surpasses Adelaide St. (or is that Richmond? I always mix the two up) for the amount of venues with live music. Clubs of all shapes and sizes and genres and designs and sound systems abound, catering to almost every type of music lover there is.
As I was walking to see the Duck Down vs. Stones Throw show at Habana, I bumped into Cadence Weapon and DJ Weez-L, with Orly, their kind manager. She drove us to the venue, it was directly across the street from where Cadence was playing. He gave me a copy of the CD, Afterparty Babies, and seemed non-plussed at the harsh review Tim gave it. Opinions vary - I haven't heard it yet - but he’s performing at least six times this weekend, and from the Canadian showcase, it looks like his style of electric, intelligent party rocking hip hop is winning over ears steadily.
Irony kissed me gently when I left Cadence to bump into Tim at the Hip Hop Showcase, where him and I caught up for the first time, and chatted about our master plan to attempt omniscience at SXSW. He left to another showcase, and I covered what I thought would be more impressive than it actually ended up being, for a multitude of odd reasons:
1) DJ Rhettmatic, a sharp, talented turntablist. Crowd-rousing jam master? Not so much. He played a few good songs, but spent more time noodling around with some tricky scratching and dropping obscure jems that don't do much to build anticipation. "Move the Crowd" doesn't only apply to MCs. But that new MF DOOM jam he dropped was sure dope to get a whiff of...
2) Kids in the Hall. Duck Down's attempt to tap into that questionably lucrative hipster market? Kinda sounds like it. Nothing they performed was even remotely close to the "hoodies n' timbz" grime crime rhyme style of the rest of the Boot Camp, and though they have potential, they were not where they needed to be to capture either the fickle, fleeting hip hop audience or the self-absorbed hipster douchebag crowd. While failing to impress with their sloppy performance over deadprez's immortal "Hip Hop” beat, they almost had me with their earnest attempt to pay homage to Souls of Mischief's "93 Til Infinity."
Other songs of theirs were not exactly wack, but not exactly super dope either. They tried though.
3) Percee P. I bought a CD off this relentlessly driven hip hop entrepreneur because, last time I saw him in Toronto at the Opera House, I promised him I'd buy it one day. He signed it for me and gave me five minutes of wisdom about how he never lets negativity deter him from his mission to rap. As a Screwface Capitalist, I took it to heart, and thanked him for his time.
When he took the stage, he didn't enthrall as much as he did on the Stones Throw tour that passed thru Toronto last fall. Percee's fingers twitch when he spits his multi-syllabic rapid-fire spray of lyrics, and it's interesting to see someone so in the zone keep going and going. His mic control wasn't on point for some reason, or his voice was weakening, but the crowd was actually generous with their praise, though not ecstatic. I forgot, people might cheer for above average music, this is not Toronto, where phenomenal moments can meet cold-shouldered silence! Percee ended it off with “Lung Collapsing Lyrics,” and walked off stage proudly.
4) Sean P, the quintessential Brooklyn hip hop monster. Makes people laugh. Could also make people cry. Makes people think a bit too, when he does his hilarious drop-out ad-libs. "Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuttin ta fuck with/ and Boot Camp Click aint nuttin ta Wu-Tang!" is just wonderful. Sean's commanding stage presence kept ears tuned in to his 'Jesus Price: Superstar' hits, 'Operation: Lockdown', a throwback from Heltah Skeltah's glory days, and some promo for his upcoming LPs, 'Mic Tyson' and 'Da Incredible Rap Team: D.I.R.T'. Can't leave rap alone, the game needs him.
DJ Weez-L wisely noted: "the energy at the Canadian hip hop showcase was much higher than this." And my vision of Canada saving international hip hop, both now and in the next few years, became that much clearer.
Sadly, I decided to leave the showcase before Guilty Simpson got on, and I missed Buckshot Shorty because I've seen him before... so I headed over to Fuze nightclub to attempt the impossible: get into the Pimp C tribute by Bun B, and many others.
Let me interject: what "they” say is it's true: just by walking up to someone and asking them one question can lead to an adventure you'd never imagine. I met up with some MCs from Houston who I ended up trading verses with, as one of them curiously stated: "I've never heard an MC from Toronto! What does Canadian rap sound like?" After delivering a bit of the Mindbender Experience to his head, they got excited and joined me, showing me where the Bun B show was at.
While waiting in a massive line-up of angry, anticipating patrons, the bouncer kept shouting about "fire marshall" and "capacity full" and what not, and I saw hip-hop man of the town, Matt Sonzala. He was stressed and very busy, so I chose not to introduce myself. I hope to see him again.
What I hope to not see again is another fight break out as it did in the front of the club. I decided to leave with my newfound friends to go see another Houston mainstay Devin tha Dude up the street.
We crossed paths with a guy wearing a shirt that said "Poon Hurter," then got to Devin, which was too late to stick around for, as my friend from Houston really wanted to see what the Cadence Weapon phenomenon was all about. So we left and I took him to see Cadence Weapon's "darting intelligence" flow and intense stage energy going ballistic in front of 75 eager listeners, where we moshed, listened to Edmonton tributes and saw DJ Weez-L slice vinyl with surgical precision.
After parting ways, the icing on today's ultra-sweet cake was sliding into the Saul Williams show half way through it, at club Vice. Saul was in his element, wearing blue eyeliner and large white feathers in his afro, as his post-punk-rap-soul-ska-spoken-word explosion stole the hearts and souls of the lucky audience members. His three bandmates were equally out there, one wearing a silver penguin mask, one with a magnificently fucked-up half-Mohawk, and the third just emanating weird aura everywhere, providing the perfect foundation for Saul to go balls to the wall. His berserker cover of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" might have been the best of what I saw, but everything I saw him do was edgy and inspiring. He's still the future. He's still unreal. He's coming to Toronto within a month or two. You have officially been warned.
I crashed after that.
Today, I woke up, and the sun isn't as shiny. I still expect greatness: today, Del tha Funky Homosapien and El-P are performing.Good times!