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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Last Night: Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, & Mr. Lif at the Independent

Posted By on Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 7:34 PM


Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, & Mr. Lif, hosted by Lyrics Born

November 7, 2009

The Independent

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

pay off.

Critic's Notebook

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.

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Jesse Ducker


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