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AlphaZeta fuses two of the city's best hip hop talents; Monolake and Deadbeat return to the Recombinant Labs Compound

Wednesday, Jan 12 2005
We should consider ourselves lucky that two of the hardest-working men in Bay Area hip hop, DJ/producer Zeph and MC Azeem, also happen to be among the region's most talented. And the fact that these artists have decided to pool their considerable talents for their new project, AlphaZeta , is pure gravy. Azeem has spent considerable time on the spoken word scene, as evidenced by his probing rhymes. But unlike that of many who straddle the hip hop/spoken word divide, the MC's flow is as smooth as it gets. Zeph, meanwhile, is still basking in the glow of his solo debut, Sunset Scavenger. A protégé of underground superproducer Kutmaster Kurt, Zeph produces beats that are warm, funky, and varied. If AlphaZeta's auspicious first single, "Here Comes the Judge," is any indication, you should be hearing a lot more from these two in 2005. For now, catch them on Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Boom Boom Room; call 673-8000 or go to
-- Sam Chennault

Most folks haven't heard anything of rapper Special Ed since he dropped the Brooklyn classic I Got It Made in 1989 at age 16. Now thirtysomething, Edward Archer is a composed and mature man, ready to call out the follies of today's hip hop game. His recent album, the slept-on Still Got It Made, was released on his own label, Semi Records. Despite tasty cameos from Snoop Dogg (who counts Ed as an influence) and top production mainly from "Hitman" Howie Tee (who produced I Got It Made), it's clear that Ed needs little more than a microphone to shine, even if mainstream radio and television aren't listening. Special Ed will be supported by Coolie High featuring Maestro Black and Spaztik Emcee, as well as DJ Koo-C and True Skool's resident DJ, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist. Witness the blunted beats and downright retarded flows on Friday, Jan. 14, at the Elbo Room; call 552-7788 or visit for more info.
-- Tamara Palmer

As a member of Berlin's influential Basic Channel collective, Robert Henke, aka Monolake , has helped to shape contemporary electronic music as much as almost any artist working today: Should you hear something particularly subtle or graceful in a current dance track, chances are you have Basic Channel and its whooshing, dub-inflected minimalism to thank. But Henke's influence goes beyond mere stylistics. As the creator of Ableton Live, a software application that has become the industry standard for live performance, Henke has single-handedly altered the shape of live electronic music as it's played everywhere from barrooms to massive outdoor festivals. Of course, if you think brow-furrowed performers gazing intently into laptop screens doesn't sound visually spellbinding, you're at least partially right, but Henke's solo work compensates for a lack of theatrics with detail-intensive, full-spectrum sonics that shudder with machine rhythms and shivering harmonics. It'll work even better on Monday, Jan. 17, in the surround-sound confines of the Recombinant Labs Compound, where Montreal dub-techno whiz kid Deadbeat will open with a set of material from his forthcoming album on Pole's ~scape label; for more info, call 971-4276 or go to
-- Philip Sherburne


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