By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Long-haired rock weirdos won't be the only ones hitting Dallas en masse this week; expect a number of short-haired hip-hop weirdos, too. Rubber Gloves is the place, and though the festivities will be spread over two nights, comprising stops on two separate package tours, the MCs and DJs (and lone laptop jockey) performing represent an extended family at the frontier of underground hip-hop, one dedicated not so much to asserting itself in relation to the acts that dominate the commercial hip-hop market (in the same way that, say, the Native Tongues camp has done), but to building an alternative version of the form from similar (but not always identical) parts.
L.A. indie Mush Records sets up shop Friday night, presenting a handful of its acts, including the irrepressible cLOUDDEAD, who last made their way here in March opening for the English avant-rock band Hood. A trio of art-damaged thinkers who've spent far too much time in their parents' suburban Cincinnati homes, cLOUDDEAD get down to business within the first couple of minutes of their recent self-titled LP: "Do you know how many times I thought about writing about the paper I'm writing on?" they rap over a swamp of ambient keyboard hum and nausea-inducing beats, nailing the precocious self-consciousness that much of this stuff thrives on. Reaching Quiet, a cLOUDDEAD side project, is even stranger and more interior, a free-form home-recording project that will perform Friday as a live band, complete with guitars and live drums. cLOUDDEAD member Doseone will also turn in a set with DJ Boom Bip, as will Baltimore rapper Labtekwon, whose recent Song of the Sovereign, which boasts actual beats and rhymes, is one of the most cognizant records Mush has released.
San Francisco's Anticon Records takes over Saturday night, offering MCs Sole and Passage, as well as a set by Kevin Blechdom of the laptop duo Blectum from Blechdom (a member of the equally sprawling family of electronic-music misfits centered around the Bay Area indie Tigerbeat6). Like cLOUDDEAD, this is hip-hop as personal storytelling: Anticon MC Sage Francis' new Personal Journals is as affecting as anything by "emo-rap" starlet Aesop Rock; on his Web site Passage even promises "what happens when fire meets what's awkward and endearing about the cynical nice guy," right underneath a photo-booth picture of himself that looks like a lost Sebadoh sleeve. Cool beats or no, Bubba Sparxxx won't ever guarantee that.
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