photos and comments by Jim Bennett:
On Saturday night at Showbox SoDO, KEXP DJ Kid Hops was spinning vinyl from the time the doors opened and kept up a great string of warm sounds to keep the air alive between bands.
Abyssinian Creole then took the stage. I think of them now as characterized by simple rhymes, simple beats, simple messages, but always lots of friends on stage. I was glad to see some local hip-hop get a chance to be represented. They warmed up over the course of their set and ended on a message of love. They set the tone for positive hip-hop throughout the night.
THEESatisfaction are fantastic. Sinewy at times and sharp at times in their movements. Sublte, varied, poised, inventive, synchronized moves but disparate personalities and clothes. A great 70’s vibe, terrific vocals blending singing and rap, uncommon sampling. I hadn’t had the pleasure to see them before, but I found them mesmerizing. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. They were a gem.
There was an intial crush to the front after THEESatisfaction. A kind person next to me, recently moved here from the Southwest, wanted to help me get my shots for the first three songs, so I had one less pair of arms to contend with… but it was *P-A-C-K-E-D I-N*. Someone not far behind us kept up a chant of “Where Brooklyn At?”. More people squeezed in. Kid Hops kept up a great groove of hip hop and reggae while apparently numerous pictures were taken side stage for 20-30 minutes. Still more people tried to horn in down front.
When Black Star came out, anticipation had built to fever pitch and the crowd let go with a wave of arms and voices. Immediately, Mos Def and Talib Kweli stepped into the groove of the samples from the album and, with humility and style, shone incredibly bright. Their brand of hip hop is so tight — terrific samples, well honed vocal interplay, a strident but upbeat message, unbeatable clothes, retro mics, every detail prepped. The improvisation is leads to, and the stage presence it creates, is really distinct and fantastic to see and participate in.
Everyone in the audience clearly knew the album, from the opening spoken sample onward. My favorite aspect of the show — what made the show fresh and not just an album replay — was the liberal diversions down different musical paths they followed during album cuts. They followed the album track list, roughly (the intro,
astronomy (8th light), definition, etc.) but would seamless riff on a beat or a rhyme until it had legs, and eventually you’d find you were right back in the track again.
At one stage, Mos Def thanked the crowd for coming out, saying “We know you could be anywhere today, and are glad you decided to be here with us. Thank you, Seattle!” This is very humble for a show that:
- was sold out well in advance
- had not one ticket I saw for sale on the street, and a lot of frustrated folks looking to buy
- had a line that stretched to the end of the block and beyond before the doors opened at 8 (even though Black Star didn’t go on until nearly 11)
- is one of the few Black Star shows still happening (after the Midwest shows were canceled)
All in all, it lived up to expectations and beyond. Mos Def, Talib Kweli and DJ J.Rocc put on a stellar, polished, tight performance and the crowd (right down to the very young youngsters dancing in the back) *loved* every beat and every rhyme.