Monday, January 15, 2007

Mistah FAB Live in Santa Cruz

I picked Keak Da Sneak's Santa Cruz show in February, 2006 as my favorite live show of the year for one reason: energy.

The vibe of that night was unmatched, as more than 900 crazed lunatics filled the Catalyst with a sonic swell of good vibes, dancing, stunting, and going dumb until the walls started to sweat. The top pick was a no-brainer.

So Saturday night's Mistah FAB show came with a lot of anticipation on my part. I wanted to know if FAB could match the frenetic chaos of that Saturday night in February. FAB's show was sold-out well in advance, so the crowd was going to show up. It was all on FAB's husky shoulders to deliver.

Replete in an airbrushed XXXL white-tee — the colorful, detailed design centered on wicked looking yellow bus driven by the late great Mac Dre — FAB showed up promptly for his 10 p.m. set time to a heroe's welcome. Opening act Ashkon did a serviceable job of warming up the crowd, but there was no question who the audience was there to see.

FAB came out to the Jim Jones single of the moment "We Fly High," and then switched up into his regional interpolation "Stupid, Dumb ,Hyphy," which borrows elements of Dem Franchise Boyz "Lean Wit It..." The crowd instantly went into full-hyphy mode, dancing with a reckless abondon not unlike prisoners rioting in the yard. A fight actually broke out, the bouncers having a tough time of separating the two females engaged in hand tohand combat (that was the only incident of the night, luckily).

The thing I like most about FAB is he can rap, flat out. A reformed backpack rapper who was smart enough to use his skills to write hook-friendly radio songs and hood anthems that didn't compromise his craft, FAB dug deep into his catalogue to serve up underground favorites. His revision of Young Joc's "It's Goin' Down," was a Yay Area jack move, and that's a good thing.

Another local fav, "Metros and Chirpers," kept the energy going because FAB can rap about anything and keep heads nodding.

One of the highlights of FAB's set was the endless pool of regional remixes he's figured in. Northern Cali anthems like The Wolfpack's "Vansn" and Hoodstars "Grown Man On" were flipped so FAB could spit his 16, which brought a nice, all-encompassing vibe to the set.

As the night progressed, FAB seemed to get aggitated, although it was hard to tell exactly why. At one point, he called out his hype man for caring more about talking to his homies on stage than performing. At another instance, he was visibly upset when his Thizz Nation cohorts PSD and J-Diggs took the stage to perform a mini-set.

But FAB recovered to engage the crowd with not one, but two freestyles. The first was a stream of consciousness rant that skipped over three different beats and lasted about five minutes. When the DJ mistakenly threw on a Beyonce beat, FAB demanded the track be cut but continued to freestyle. This guy can go for days.

The latter portion of the show was all about his hits. Starting with the Too Short collab "Side Show," FAB brought the house down one joint at a time, like a veteran showman. His street anthem "Super Sik Wit It" had the floor shaking, as the crowd chanted the "Scraper, Scraper" chorus to glorious effect. The stage was set for FAB's biggest hit, "Ghostride It," which he performed not once, but twice. The mindless posturing of the crowd mixed with its insidious energy promped FAB to perform the song twice, the second time with him in the crowd.

FAB ended the set with a well-intentioned, heartfelt freestyle that featured a lot of meaningful wordplay about why he does what he does. He rapped about doing it for Mac Dre, Jam Master Jay, and all of hip-hops fallen soldiers. He rapped about being blamed for the deaths of two people who were killed while ghostriding, the dangerous car stunt he celebrates in his hit single.

Most of all, he rapped about his love for his art, his people and himself, which was a perfect way to end the set. He went about five minutes over his time limit, but I don't think even the sound guys minded, as they allowed him to complete the acapella rap.
The energy of the night demanded closure, and FAB delivered.

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