Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, & Mr. Lif, hosted by Lyrics Born
November 7, 2009
Better Than: This year's VH1 Hip-Hop Honors
Indie hip-hop icons still pack them in up in the Bay
Area. On Saturday night, the Independent was dominated by indie artists who
have spent more than 15 years building their audiences and fanbases, and thus
know how to give the people what they want. As a result, the sold out
capacity-crowd of 500, who showed up and early and cheered often, left happy.
People were feeling a little restless by the time Boston's
Mr. Lif took to the stage (the show started about 75 minutes late), but he quickly
satisfied with a pair of new, unreleased tracks. Lif brought the rawest
energy of the night. His set was enhanced by an interactive
video-display broadcasting images, controlled by on-stage
collaborating rapper/producer Willie Evans Jr. Towards the end of the set,
Evans' laptop experienced a few hiccups, causing the pair to improvise with an
impromptu freestyle session.
Next to the stage was Gift of Gab, who proclaimed, "We're
going to go a little bit to the left here, maybe a too far to the left," and lived
up to that vow. What Gab lacked in dynamic stage-presence, he made up for in
dazzling displays of tongue-twisting wordplay. He sandwiched his set with
"Alphabet Aerobics" and "Chemical Calisthenics," both featuring intricate flows
that rapidly increased in speed as the song progressed. In between, Gab
performed such crowd favorites as "Deception" and "Blazing Arrow" as well as
tracks his new sophomore solo album, Escape 2 Mars. Gab later brought Lyrics Born and Lateef, the third MC in
Quannum's crew, to the stage for the night's second freestyle session.
Chali 2nua rounded out the evening. Best known as a member
of Jurassic Five and Ozomatli, he performed with the backing of
live band, supporting his recently released solo album, Fish Out of Water. A proven road warrior, 2na's strong suit on
stage is his ability to connect with members of the audience. "I don't want
y'all to think of me as just a robot from Jurassic Five," he said in earnest, "I'm
a human being too." The strongest parts of his set were the heartfelt "Love's
Gonna Getcha," a high energy romp through "Guns Up," and performances of J5
favorites "Freedom," "What's Golden," and "Quality Control," the later
featuring the keyboardist singing a chorus of the other J5 (the Jackson Five's)
"One More Chance."
All three acts found a balance between
performing the tracks they're best known for, while hyping their new
material. They also proved that years of staying loyal to your fans can really
Random Detail: The
normally-dreadlocked Mr. Lif was sporting a close-cropped Caesar cut. He'd sported
his infamously large dreadlocks for 14 years.
By the way: While
Chali 2na might not be a robot, he is very good at doing The Robot. And singing
like Rick James.