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Novelists are part spoken word, part hip hop. They create well woven stories that are stripped down and just good. I got an education on the state of hip hop listening to Novelists that other day... Rich in samples and rhyme, I was brought back to a style of music I have not been listening to a lot lately.
I do not need a pair of vintage sneeks' or a throwback jersey to take me to a different era. I just needed to put in their debut Album, entitled "Bookends" and I was transported back to a world of tight mc'ing, catchy, but not overly produced beats reaching me easily through their richly woven songs. Novelists provide a fusion of mellow and positive messages over deep beats. We are definitely down with what the very talented Novelists are trying to do.
"Oh Em Gee! It smells like a mixture of weed and gym class in there!" I'm talking to my group of friends as we spill out of the packed Viper room and onto the sidewalk for some fresh air. The crammed venue is a good sign for this evening's headliner, nationally known and locally respected Hip-Hop duo U-N-I- but unfortunate for our nostrils. Even posted up against the parking meters outside, the congregating LAliens are continuing to show up to show their support for the performers tonight. My feet hurt and I am tired. I don't want to go back inside and deal with crowd but really have to go to the restroom. A writer in distress. I am looking forward to seeing U-N-I perform. Aside from having an awesome amount of buzz in the last year, the duo recently played in Miami and opened up for Busta Rhymes at a few shows.
The duo is celebrating the release of their latest album A Love Supreme which they made available free for download to any and everyone. As the group gets ready to come on stage, a voice booms over the mic, " DJ, play me something dope. Something to make me go crazy." The audience cheers in agreement to the request and the DJ drops a record. The familiar tune of the Cha-Cha slide comes belting out the speakers onto dormant ears. U-N-I comes strutting on stage, oblivious to the crowds distaste to the DJ selection. "Alright everybody, to the left....take it back now ya'll....one hop this time!" The early millennium tune is not making the finest impression, but Thurzday and Y-O don't seem to give a damn. "April Fools guys...April Fools." The prank kicks off the set on a great note, a perfect compliment to the group's night as they showcase their material to newcomers and old pals.
"You guy's don't realize it but I still have a nine to five" says front man Y-O, "You see me in the videos partying and living the life but I still have a day job!"
Even with blue collar obligations the group has managed to achieve a rapid rise within the underground scene in Los Angeles and across the US. Tonight at the Viper Room, there is barely any room to move (or breath) as friends, family, and fans have come to show their love and support as the group takes their musical endeavors to the next level. Even if you are new to U-N-I, it won't take long to attach your self to the group's energy and charisma. Their chemistry is natural and entertaining, drawing in Hip-Hop heads, lyricists, and music lovers alike.
Their music flexes their lyrical abilities, and the two have a magnetic energy between one another like that of Run-DMC. Exchanging rhymes back and forth, while maintaining an individual flow, their style translates well to the audience- and their content ranges from rapping about the flyest kicks to the fattest chicks to shopping on Melrose in JoyRich. Having already been endorsed by local legend Evidence (who joined them on stage) along with up and coming MC's H.O.P.E., beatboxer Fahz, and New York homeboy Curtains- the night was full of special guests and creative cameos. By nights end, U-N-I was literally in the middle of the crowd hyping the audience up before thanking and shouting out their friends and family.
On the drive home, I though about how it's inspirational to see young people balance their artistic endeavors and still maintain that nine to five. Keep on grinding and remember to work together. It's U-N-I till the day we die!
Let us introduce you to an MC(yes we luv the fact that he still considers himself an MC) from Crystal Springs, MS by the name of Pyinfamous. Unknown on the west coast, I got a few MP3's sent to me and have decided to introduce this MC to our community.
Take it for a listen. I did and I really liked it. He will eventually be making his way to the left coast for some shows in the upcoming months.
You know, it's been a tough time for male R & B singers lately. Autotune has dominated the industry and radio, the mention of a boy group sends most A& R's into a laughing fit, and the very utterance of Chris Browns name...well, you get the picture.
Yet as I sit here at the Viper Room and listen to up and coming panty dropper/singer Mateo swoon through his set, I am reminded that there is hope for the ladies and men that need that good ol' fashion baby making music. I mean, where is the lane for the soulful singer these days? Los Angeles based singer Mateo is paving his own way and is dedicated to bringing feeling back into the music, a lane that will secure that our future financial deficit inheritors are not left with a soulful musical selection as desolate as their loan options.
Mateo is a storyteller through melody who has not stood by and let the industry shape his art form. He is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and producer. His latest mixtape, Underneath the Sky has been buzzing from the online community to the real world recession, and itunes recently picked up the mixtapes first single "Complicated". Myspace even got behind the young up and coming star as one of their first signees to their music label. Mateo has been a freight train of hustle and creativity and is re-shaping the mold of a singer in today's standards.
"Sing it like your singing in the shower" Mateo encourages the packed Viper Room. He is playing the piano and coaching the audience with ease, instructing us to sing the Obama inspired hook of "Yes We Can" and "Yes We Did". Mateo's energy on stage glows of positivity and confidence, along with sincerity and humility. Having broken into the industry at the staple time during the election, Mateo usually makes it a point to be decked out in some pro Barak gear and does a great job to maintain his overall musical charisma in the same uplifting vein as the Presidents. He's personable, even from 30 feet away with bright lights and fog.
Mateo has built up the energy since his opening song, having started out his set with the lax and harmonious tune "Oohh N Love" a personal favorite. Starting his set off slow and sexy was a nice touch, different from the big bang cymbal crashes- over used by attention wanting artists and singers. Backed by DJ C. Brown (no, not THAT C. Brown) and the technically impressive drummer Tony Westing Jr, Mateo's set depicted well written and well rehearsed music, a different strand from what listeners have heard on his mixtape where he's singing mainly over top-40 instrumentals.
The live music tonight is fresh and imaginative, an amazing compliment to the singer's voice. Not afraid to step outside the box, Mateo pauses in between songs to explain to the audience how happy he is to be able to share with them his work. "I want my music to capture those favorite moments in your memory. Those special times that always come to mind whenever you hear a certain tune. I believe every song tells a story and this next piece is a medley I put together meant to tell a story to all of us."
The chill Casanova on the mic and piano went into a barrage of well known songs, cutting the lyrics and splicing the tunes of hits from Usher, Justin, Jordin Sparks, Alicia Keys, and more. In between transitions of the songs he would tell of a girl he met, the ups and downs of the relationship, the break-up and make-up, while all the time jumping in and out of the classic tunes. The audience ate it up! Guest rapper Shawn Chrystopher also made a cameo, giving way as the only feature within the entire set.
Mateo parted the audience with some encouraging and relevant words before getting into the songs "Get to know Me" and "Underneath the Sky. "Stating that "Everyone wants to be known", the singer reminded us how easy it is to get caught up in the hype, and not love one another for who we truly are. He thanked the audience for accepting him for who he is, and encouraged everyone to be true to themselves.
I've mentioned a few times that I work at a cool hang in Hollywood called Space 1520. About a week ago, while I was walking around my store and listening to the Kanye West VH1 Storytellers performance, the idea ran through my mind of doing some sort of musical collaboration with my mother. Random thought, but pondered nonetheless. I had grown up listening to my mother and sister sing all the time, and by the time I was 16 my mom was an accomplished visual artist, poet, published author and playwright among other things. I pondered on what sort of style our album would be. Maybe a cross between Sweet Honey and The Rock and The Roots, Etta James meets Kanye West, or maybe something more in touch with out Southern roots, like the blues. The idea lasted all of three minutes and sixty seconds, but was one that stuck.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. I am cruising my weekly listings of upcoming shows and what do I see- an Amoeba in-store featuring Eligh and Jo Wilkinson to promote their brand new mother-son collaboration project. A bitter sweet smile slid across my face. Happy that I had found a show to review (Amoeba has the best in-stores and their FREE!) yet sad that the idea had already been in such quick rotation. It was a show I couldn't miss and on Tuesday there I was front and center waiting to critique the action.
The well titled project, On Sacred Ground, features Elighof California Hip-Hop collective Living Legends along with his mother, folk singer and passionate activist Jo Wilkinson. The two have come together to mesh their genres and generations- and judging by their show and the music on their Myspace (which I am playing over and over again right now) the timing couldn't be better. At Amoeba, faced in front of family members and fans, the duo unveiled a sound that carried the best of both worlds, a down to earth hip-hop intuitive meeting the folk inspired ensemble which penetrated the mainly hip-hop audience.
Mama Jo held a warm spirit to the stage and to the melodic production of her son.
A personal favorite of mine was the song Poet Man, which she explained to the audience was inspired by a Living Legends fan who came up to her and thanked her for giving birth to Eligh, or the Poet Man as the fan referred to him. At times, the songs feel like Johnny Cash collaboration, something that Rick Reuben would have his hand in. The album features known MC's Pigeon John, Slug of Atmosphere, and of course Eligh's partner in crime, The Grouch. Most of the tunes carry a very positive partnership amidst the lyrics, with heavy tones of guidance and strength. Eligh even talks openly about smoking weed and girls, which means- seeing as he's been rhyming for well over a decade- his subject matter won't come to many, especially his mother, as a surprise.
A kid being an open book amongst their parents is such a rare thing, and my hope is that projects like these can break down those barriers and encourage more communication between generations. The chemistry and honesty between Eligh and Jo is inspiring to watch and see, and their jokes between each other make for a great show. This surely isn't the Hip-Hop your mom thought you were listening too, but it sure could be the hip-hop you and your mom listen to together.
As Jo is standing on stage and wraps up their last song, she thanks the audience for embracing her into the hip-hop world. Eligh replies with a thank you mom for embarrassing the shit out of me and of course she responds with, "That's what moms are for."
Some great shows this week. But as always, if you want to access the biggest calendar of events, Click Here:
Pink Mochi -3/9, 9PM @ Silverlake Lounge, Silverlake
Roco Le Duca & The Burden -3/10, 9PM @ Troubadour, West Hollywood
Rhone Occupation, One Trick Pony- 3/11, 9PM @ Silverlake Lounge, Silverlake
Jo Wilkinson and Eligh -3/10, 7PM @ Amoeba Music, Hollywood
Fishtank Ensemble - 3/11, 10 PM @ Bordello, Los Angeles
Cut Copy - 3/10, 9 PM @ The Music Box, Hollywood
Lady Gaga -3/13, 9PM @ The Wiltern, Los Angeles
Katie Costello - 3/14, 9 PM @ Hotel Café, Hollywood
Pizza! -3/9, 9PM @ Perhspace, Echo Park
Christopher Hawley Rollers - 3/12, 9PM @ Air Conditioned, Venice
Steve Soto & The Twister Hearts - 3/12, 9PM @ Alex's, Long Beach
Bastidas -3/13, 9PM @ Motion LA, Los Angeles
Ana Egge -3/11, 9PM @ Home, Silverlake
Ghosts Machinists, Electric Children -3/12, 9PM @ Mr T's, Highland Park
Felt Drawings, Former Ghosts -3/15, 9PM @ The Smell, Echo Park
Angela Wood -3/10, 9PM @ Dakota Lounge, Santa Monica
Sara Bareilles - 3/12, 9PM @ Hotel Cafe, Hollywood
Sara Bareilles - 3/13, 9PM @ Hotel Cafe, Hollywood
Derek Carter -3/10, 9PM @ El Cid, Echo Park
Last night I went to go see a legend! Who is this legend I speak of? None other than LA's ownMyka 9. Myka played Knitting factroy and was joined onstage with JTheSarge spinning and spitting with him. Last night Myka 9 was promoting two projects...the man is busy! He was promoting his new record "1969" and his Magic Heart Genies' project that he worked on with JTheSarge called "Heartifact." He opened for his long time friend, Aceyalone! It was definitely an old school night, but they sounded as young as ever, not that they are that old or anything!
Now, I don't frequent underground hip-hop shows very often, but I felt at home in the crowd. Hip-hop crowds seem to be a little nicer than some indie-band crowds, maybe that was on the account of a certain illegal substance that filled the air? Or maybe because hip-hop is hellah fun! I was feeling everyone's energy. I walked in while Icon was performing (right before Myka 9) and I was immediately smitten with the scene, even though I was totally called out by Icon...he asked people who had backpacks on to put them to take them off and put them to the side and dance, I think I was the only one with a backpack that I noticed, but I just came from school! Another thing that is so radical about hip-hop shows is that they don't take forever and a year to set up. They are on it and ready to go. Ready to get in our faces and tell it like it is in their world. Myka 9 was literally onstage 3-5 minutes after Icon was done performing. He kept the energy going...smart!
"1969" is Myka 9's fifth solo album outside of Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D'Etat, and Magic Heart Genies. Like I said, the man is busy. His new music, both solo and collaborative, last night was killing. He rhymes so freakin' fast, I couldn't believe it! A couple of times a song would come up that JTheSarge had in line and Myka would say he wasn't prepared for that particular song, but he would do it anyway and kill the fuck out of it! Like he said "My beats are bumpin' like braille." Haha! I love it. In the background he projected some old footage of himself back in the day rapping and he looks the same except for the fact that he has longer hair now. He gets better with age in all areas! Ok, well his touring schedule lists his next show in Texas playing SXSW and nothing lined up after that, but I'm sure he'll be around Los Angeles promoting "1969" and his Magic Heart Genies project "Heartifact." Both projects are super tight. Go pick up your copies!