October 20, 2010 | 9:00am
Lyrics Born and Chali 2na
Oct. 19, 2010
The Show: You gotta feel bad for Bay area MC Lyrics Born who followed rapper Chali 2na last night at the Commonwealth lounge. Though he brought his A game and spat rhymes with dedicated enthusiasm, it wasn't enough to outshine Tuna, who once co-fronted legendary hip-hop act Jurassic 5.
And though Lyrics Born performed with a live group of musicians that included skilled keyboard, drum guitar and bass players, it wasn't enough to keep the small crowd grooving in front of the stage. By the end of the set, there was little more than 10 people standing on the dance floor.
The Berkeley rapper, who's been in the music biz since the early '90s, has a new album set to be released next week titled As You Were. And last night, he focused a large portion of his set on this new material.
Even though Lyrics Born is capable of switching up his rapping cadences at will, the way every jam segued into the other, combined with the continuous bouncy rhythms made the set feel like one long song. In the end, the funky upbeat style of each gave the whole set the vibe of sitting in front of a talented house band.
As for Lyrics Born's rapping style, he vacillated between machine-gun enunciation and a galloping liquidity that reminded one of '90s hip-hop band US3. However, there were moments when he switched to a more staccato bark that felt reminiscent of metal band Disturbed's front man David Draiman.
The set wasn't without its highlights however. The newly recorded track "Something Better," features an infectious synthy hook and inspirational lyrics about avoiding victimhood delivered with the help of his back-up singer.
As for Chali 2na, his smooth rapping came across less choppy and was backed by a band that proved more dynamic than Lyrics Born's as it switched seamlessly between funk, soul, jazz and reggae. Watching 2na's set made one think of the rarity of such high-quality performances in Orange County especially when it comes to the hip-hop genre.
This show portended the possibility that the Commonwealth Lounge could set itself apart from other well-established Orange County venues which commonly focus on indie music.
The crowd: A multiethnic, well-balanced representation of Asian, Hispanic Africans and Caucasians.