Fisher Green Stage
It’s funny that the widely-hailed hip hop visionary and emcee’s emcee Jay Electronica is credited for revolutionizing rap music by being best known for completely removing one of the central ingredients of rap music: the beat.
Jay’s penchant for beatless spoken word/rap poetry is clear during his Bumbershoot set; almost all of his songs are cut short by his tour DJ T.J. the King after a few bars and he continues to rap acappella with a strangely captivating intensity that shows you just how talented an emcee the man is.
The show opens with MGM lion snarl samples and snippets of movie dialogue when all of a sudden T.J. whacks across the fader and slams us into the icy wash of Skream’s remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill” -– no surprise that this, one of 2009’s best loved two minute intros, has absolutely no beats present at all. Every hand in the crowd is up and everyone is very, very hyped as the New Orleans rapper then rushes on to the stage shouting “See-at-tle!” to a roar of applause and hits us with the opening bars of “Dear Moleskine” (a title I’ve always thought sounds like overly-emotional, self-absorbed coffeeshop hipster territory) only to go a cappella, true to form, a minute later.
Dressed in a light gray hoodie, electric green t-shirt with baggy gray pants and throwing around a white towel in hand like he was conducting air traffic by shooing away planes, Jay then has our fingers in the air as a tribute to the late great J Dilla before we’re launched into pharmaceutically-aware track “DMT” and more beatless spoken word.
“How many people here know their hip hop history?” Electronica bellows as a challenge the crowd. But the audience is far too honest about their knowledge of a music scene now almost forty years old and give a palpably hesitant response, which is understandable given that most fans here haven’t been on the planet for even half that time. “Regardless!” shouts Jay, “how many people here LOVE hip hop?” That’s a question that undeniably gathers a far more positive reply.
We’re then offered more heavy hits including the ode-to-MySpace-girls “Googly Eyes,” the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack-sampling “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge),” and recent favorite “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace” with it’s instantly addictive jazz guitar sample hook.
“Exhibit A (Transformations)” then follows, after which Jay jumps off stage to rap to the front row while his manager walks to the front of the stage to snap pictures on his smartphone of clamoring fans and a wayward crowd surfer.
Having well and truly rocked the crowd, the festival, and the city, Electronica ends on his most popular track to date: “Exhibit C.” This is one emcee that has proved his lyrical skills one, two, three times over this afternoon, rain or shine, beats or no beats.
High: After covering “The World Is Yours” by Nas, Jay spontaneously invites 150 people in the audience to rush the stage and bounce along to the music, which they need no further encouragement to do, much to the chagrin of a very evidently pained stage manager. It’s pretty awesome though.
Low: With sample-heavy rhymes-driven hip hop this good, beat makers everywhere could very soon be forced to change careers.
In a Tweet: The conscious baritone authority of KRS-One that’s reinventing hip hop and legitimately pushing music and lyrical dexterity forward.
Did you catch Mr Electronica at Bumbershoot this year? What was your highlight? Leave KEXP a comment and/or four verses of rap poetry in the Comments section below!