September 20, 2010

Cornell Loves Plaid, and Hip-Hop

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“Who loves hip-hop?” chanted Kiwi during his performance. “We love hip-hop,” replied the crowd. On Saturday night, Cornell surely expressed this sentiment, as the Asian Pacific Americans for Action presented a myriad of hip-hop musicians from across the country in Appel Commons.

Even though the sold out crowd seemed to only fill a little over half the room, the performers filled the empty space with energy, a wide range of sounds, and at times even their own bodies.

Entering Appel, the excitement and anticipation for the groups was palpable. A line of people stretched down the stairwell in hopes of getting into the concert. The crowd itself was extremely diverse. From plaid wearing hipsters, to plaid wearing bros, to plaid wearing b-boys, the groups obviously attracted a wide fan base.

First up was the Seattle based duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. While each artist is known in their own right for their contributions to the Seattle hip-hop scene, the two have been frequently collaborating in recent months for shows. Once Macklemore was given a chance to properly greet the audience, many people started to liven up to the act. The two artists complemented each other quite well, as Macklemore’s crisp and precise flow contrasted Lewis’s simple, rhythmic, bass heavy samples. One of the most notable songs was the duo’s “Otherside,” which featured Macklemore rapping about getting caught up in fame and drugs over an equally appropriate sample from the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s song of the same name. Macklemore then offered the crowd a set of party songs. The set was preempted with a dark pump-up speech from Lewis (during which he mistakenly referred to Cornell as “Cornell College”) and culminated in Macklemore surprising the audience, dressed as what seemed to be the child of Bruce Dickinson and Asher Roth. The group finished their slot with the Macklemore’s electro, heritage-themed, “Irish Celebration.”

Next was the Brooklyn based electronic hip-hop group, Das Racist. The group was accompanied by the Blue Scholars’ DJ, Sabzi, and an unknown person whose leather jacket, tight black pants and wild long hair actually made him look like Bruce Dickinson. Once the group seemingly forced their way on stage, they started off with “Ek Shaneesh,” from their new abum, Shut Up, Dude. As exemplified by the song, Das Racist is known for their intricate, heavily synthesized beats and aggressive vocals. The group rapped about various topics ranging from Macbooks to being told that they look like Mario Lopez. Despite delivering musically, the group’s onstage antics were not well received. As Kevin Burra ’13 noted, “When the group seems to be having more fun on stage than the audience is, there are only two possibilities: Either the crowd is lame or the group is wasted.” The Dickinson look-a-like flailed around the stage tackling the other performers. The rappers themselves looked equally as inebriated as they took swigs from a bottle containing a brown liquid. However, what can you expect from the people who made a song about a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell? The group closed their set with the single, “Rainbow in the Dark”— a more relaxed, “I don’t give a fuck” ballad.

Following Das Racist, was the composed and eloquent performer, Kiwi, formerly of the group Native Guns. Soon after a brief, humble introduction, Kiwi made his musical prowess evident. As a deep Reggaeton-inspired beat came on the P.A., he started rapping. Kiwi has an interesting flow — his piercing, high-pitched voice contrasts very well with his intricate, deep, tropical beats. His lyrics are equally as impressive. Throughout his performance, Kiwi often broke into free verse where he rapped about his background and even quoted Morpheus, from The Matrix, on what it means to be truly free. Later in the set, he revealed that it was actually his birthday, to which the crowd responded with an enthusiastic, impromptu chorus of “Happy Birthday.” The organizers even brought out a mini cake to celebrate the occasion. Kiwi also incorporated the crowd into many of his songs. For the song, “Right Here, Right Now,” he had all the women in the audience sing the chorus. Despite performing without a DJ or backup rappers, Kiwi commanded the stage like a true hip-hop veteran. As one concert goer noted, “It may have been Kiwi’s birthday, but he sure gave us a birthday present.”

Finally, after much anticipation, the Seattle hip-hop legends, Blue Scholars came on stage. The group, composed of MC Geologic and DJ Sabzi, is known for their soulful, elaborate, and rhythmic beats as well as their politically charged lyrics. Despite the intensity of his raps, Geologic cruised through his lyrics in a relaxed yet powerful fashion. Once the group appeared onstage, the crowd immediately lit up. Throughout the night, the group seemed to cater to every kind of fan in the audience. Sabzi jump started the night with a sample from the xx’s song, “Introduction.” He continued to sample indie music throughout the night, such as Modest Mouse’s “Float On” and Bibio’s “Lover’s Carvings.” The group also played a wide variety of songs from their discography. From the popular track “Blue School” off their first record, to the soulful jam “50 Thousand Deep,” the group had something for everyone. The performers themselves hyped up the crowd through constant interaction. They were visually engrossing; Geologic held his microphone confidently and Sabzi wore a “hip-hop suit,” with his microphone as his tie. They joked about awkward extensions of eye contact with audience members, which they continuously did throughout their set. Sabzi left his podium multiple times to run into the audience.

The duo also featured several songs off of their upcoming album, Cinematropolis, which were met with great approval from the audience. After giving a heartfelt speech about not wanting to miss their bus, the group still gave an encore, playing the audience requested song “Joe Metro.”

Original Author: Matt Becker