Pass the Mic!

Duck Blind/Seone Crooks/Rush/Carol
Koo's Art Cafe, Santa Ana
Saturday, Sept. 25

It had been eons since we last put in an appearance at the excellent monthly hip-hop shows at Koo's Art Cafe, something we sorely needed to rectify, since Koo's is one of the few OC locales (and certainly the only all-ages one) where people can go to hear live rhymes with any regularity. This isn't glitzy crap by the Liberace of hip-hop, Puff Daddy. At the hip-hop nights at Koo's, you can catch relatively unknown but on-the-rise regional rappers, throwing down freestyle rhymes to old-school beats spun by DJs who preside broodingly over their Wheels of Steel. The last time we were here, we caught LA's Styles of Beyond, who have since blown up semilarge, earning heaps of critical acclaim with their new CD, 2000 Fold (Uni/Mammoth). Would we be able to glimpse more ripples in the pool of hip-hop future this eve? Ummm . . . not sure, mostly because we weren't positive as to who was who; it may say, “Duck Blind/Seone Crooks/Rush/Carol” at the top of this column, but with all the people who took turns at the mic, even a scorecard wouldn't have helped us identify everybody, and not everyone was exactly forthcoming with self-intros, either. But that didn't matter much, since the music was mostly great.

One of the few things we have to whine about came early, when the first rapper, a shy, shaven-headed dude, chose to deliver his words motionless, with his eyes closed and his arms folded over his chest—not exactly the stance that complements the energetic beats DJ Jesse was dropping. But his freestyling skills were excellent, and maybe he just had to concentrate on his rhymes a bit harder than all who followed. Still, he kinda reminded us of the way we used to look whenever we had to stand, petrified, in front of our junior-high English class and give oral book reports. Now that's dark, cold-hearted fear!

Next up, two guys who took turns tossing the mic back and forth, a blazing, blinding, in-yer-face duo who were certainly more uninhibited than rapper No. 1. Their lightning-quick timing, along with their overall speed, was most impressive. What they were rhyming about, though, was rather generic—lots of pre-gangsta-era cartoon-violence chatter about killing off competing MCs, mostly. Then one of the two got into it with another MC who stepped up, and they both went nose-to-nose (or mic-to-mic) rather furiously, each opening up a can of verbal whup-ass over who had the better skills. It looked like punches would be thrown—but this, after all, was dissing as art. They soon separated and embraced, smiling, with neither side too hell-bent on claiming victory. Not much later, another MC took over and blew off a slow, funny rhyme about how time always seems to go by so quickly when you're wasting it away pouring 40s down your gullet (we could relate, except our 40s are the deep-deep-fried hushpuppies at Long John Silver's—greasy, yet satisfying!).

Then Rush (no, not the tired, old Canadian prog. rock band), one of the billed guys, stepped up and knocked us out with several raps, which he threw down in French, which shows just how international hip-hop has become. Rush's free-flowing, easy style with just the slightest hint of street rage made us wonder what kind of revolution there would have been if hip-hop had been around in the Paris of 1789. His talents were quite superb, even though we didn't have a clue what he was talking about, seeing that the only French phrase we know is “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi se soir?” (thank you, “Lady Marmalade”), which always got us into trouble when we'd sing it on the playground in second grade. We caught another MC rap about the “Cash Flow” (“Money comes! Money goes! In your veins! Up your nose! Everybody gotta get the cash flow!”), and then it was time for us to head out. But we got what we came for: proof that semiunderground hip-hop in OC remains strong and pumpin'.

The Foothill, Signal Hill
Saturday, Sept. 25

A quick shoot up the 22 to the Foothill for a free Filibuster gig. Filibuster, who split their time between Long Beach and Sacramento, are very much the party band, hepped up with heavy funk/reggae grooves that make them come off like a cross between the Long Beach Dub All Stars and 00 Soul. They were quite the shit, too: their DJ zinged freaky effects like sirens and ricocheting bullets, the sax guy blew all breezy and tropical-like, and their guitarists and rhythm guys kept pace without burning themselves out too soon. Though their new Deadly Hi-Fi disc doesn't make us do back flips or anything (this stuff is always better live), Filibuster are a fine, slinky, exotic dance band—they make you wanna sweat and come. And maybe knock over a head shop and make off with its bong inventory, too.

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