Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thing I can't stand about most g/gangsta/thug/turf (or whatever the kids are calling them these days) rap concerts is this: it's all one big karoake show.
Usually, what happens is the lead rapper will go on stage flanked by about 40 dudes. Everyone is shouting into the mic, and the "DJ" (usually just some dude or a younger cousin or something) will press play on the CD. They basically rap over their own CD, which is hardly worth the price of admission (might as well just buy the CD and play it in the car).
This was most definitely the case Friday night at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, where Keak Da Sneak, San Quinn, Mista F.A.B., Jacka, Nump, and a whole bunch of Bay Area rappers came through to do a hyphy show. Now, I'm writing a bigger, more general article on the "hyphy movement" later on this week, but in anticipation of that, I decided to check out the show, and it could have been a contrived cliche like the scene I just described, except for one thing - the place was packed with people and the energy was amazing.
I got the show in time to see Nump, one of the more random Bay Area rappers on the bill. His song "I Got Grapes," is an infectious ode to the high-potency marijuana that is popular in Northern Cali because of its purple strain. The bass was turned up ridiculously high, and sometimes overpowered the vocals, but when Nump did the opening refrain to the song's hook (Pulled up turned the scraper in a circle/hit the block one time/trying to see who got purple/who got purple) it was hard not to respond with "I Got Graaappes." But he did the song for exactly one minute, which was just way too short for my liking (and also an indication of things to come).
As the night progressed, the crowd got more and more wild. Grown men dancing like they were going through convulsions. Girls shaking their mid sections in calculated thrusts that looked somewhat painful. Definitely a wild-out vibe. And this was while the DJ just played CD's!
Then Keak came on at a little after 10 p.m., dressed in a long white tee, black jeans and a white Oakland Raiders cap. He hit center stage with a Cheshire cat smile and the swagger of a young Jeffrey Osbourne. Seeing him interacting with the crowd, full of confidence and energy, it was hard to deny his potential star calibre. Keak could end up being the young gun who helps the Bay get over in the '06.
He also knows how to please a crowd, playing the Mac Dre song "Feeling Myself," a regional hit that resonated with the crowd. His more well-known songs, most notably "T-Shirt, Blue Jeans and Nikes," also got the party jumping, even though those annoying backing vocals echoed over his voice.
As the momentum picked up steam, Keak dropped the boom with "Tell Me When to Go," the latest Bay Area anthem and possibly the first song to get national attention. A video was released on MTV2 earlier this week, but the song has been on heavy rotation in the Bay Area for months now.
The crowd responded in kind with pure bedlam. One Mexican homie started crowd surfing! Girls had various limbs flying in the air, and guys were dancing in large groups, "going dumb," as it were.
Keak's closer was the mega-single "Super Hyphy," an instant Yay classic that he performed twice! The song was a good cool-down closer, as the audience grooved along a slower pace in tune with the song's sultry, slinky vibe.
And as soon as it had started, the show was over. Although a few troopers came back on stage in an attempt to hold on to the crowd, the show was essentially done before 11 p.m. As me and my camera guy left, we wondered how it was possible to pack so much explosiveness into a tiny window of time.
Although it was still more "rapping with the stars" than all-out hip-hop, the undeniable energy and adulation of the crowd made up for some shaky performances. But only hair-splitting, dissatisfied music nerds such as myself could find exception to such undeniable synergy.
In my opinion, these yet-to-be-stars in the making, these underappreciated Bay Area rappers still have to step their game up if they want to take it to the next plateau.