Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs and A.Dd+
April 2, 2011
Better Than: Staying at home on a Saturday night?
The headlining performers on Saturday night's bill at Trees were supposed to be big draws. And rightfully so: Big KR.I.T. and Freddie Gibbs are two of the bigger names to emerge in the hip-hop blogosphere in recent years. Recent months, however, have seen the local hip-hop scene blow up in its own right, many thanks to hometown boys AD.d+ and and their recently released When Pigs Fly album.
So the crowd, perhaps understandably, was split -- one camp curious to look into the live performances of the touring acts, the other curious to see how When Pigs Fly translated into a live setting.
And, once again, the local boys were the the most exciting part of the night's plethora of performances.
Not that this was necessarily all that difficult a task: As the expansive collection of opening acts performed (really, four openers?) their lyrical topics didn't vary much from one another and tended to stay within hip-hop's set parameters of smoking weed, scoring bitches and general braggadocio of the ilk. The first two acts came on stage and each urged the crowd -- at times almost begging them -- to throw their hands up. Or, well, basically anything to garner a response from the tepid audience. None succeeded; the responses they did receive were barely audible.
But the room was beginning to fill up by the time AD.d+ took the stage, and the duo of Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun were able to deviate from the side-to-side stage stalking offered up by the first two acts as they hit the crowd with a much-needed shot of energy. It was surprising how much energy the twosome put into the laid back, drawling of songs from their album into all out party. The syrupy flow of "The Rapper & The Poet" even turned into a party jam.
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Slim, in particular, was all over the stage in manic performance mode, jumping off speakers, doing the running man and generally just putting on one helluva show. And, unlike their openers, when they asked the crowd to do something, they did it. Call it the gift of showmanship -- a blessing and curse. Their performances weren't 100 percent in line with the feel of their album. But, without the showmanship, they would not have established themselves as the best part of any otherwise lackluster night.
Big K.R.I.T., long lauded as a skilled rhymesmith with a shot of sociopolitical awareness, was next. And, indeed, the audience seemed excited -- one in particular told me that K.R.I.T. was "real." Instead, though, the Mississippi rapper took the stage buried in bass booming from the speakers and haze of blunt smoke -- and all he seemed to talk about was smoking weed. It was the most disappointing part of the night. As K.R.I.T. and his hypeman prowled back and forth on the stage there was nothing really special about his performance or material. What he lacked in stage presence, though, he made up for in attitude -- even if it wasn't really enough to make his show, flow or material that impressive.
After starting he, like Gibbs too on this night, only did three things: talk shit, smoke weed and wear a particular brand of clothing. Few seemed to mind -- this was a K.R.I.T.-friendly crowd. But, unlike with the offering frmo A.Dd+, this one felt like just another hip-hop show -- one that was just like the last hip-hop show and featured nothing particularly dazzling.
Personal Bias: Growing up in the "Golden Age" of hip-hop I was a fan of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Ice Cube's early records. And those artist and their albums have what hip-hop seems to be missing lately -- good story tellers. Being a good-to-great rapper takes more skill than just being able to put words together that rhyme -- and that's why I'm so drawn to AD.d+'s new album. They talk about smoking weed, drinking "brown liquor" and sex, sure. But it's not completely over the top. And the duo comes up with clever ways of talking about it, instead of seeming like just another rapper talking about the same subjects and throwing it in your face.