Monday, February 6, 2012

LIVE REVIEW: Buck 65 / Kool Krys at Starlight, Waterloo ON

by Mark Gillis

I realized the day of this show that I’d never been to a hip-hop show before in my life, nothing even remotely close. So needless to say I didn’t have any clue what to expect from Buck 65 and Kool Krys. What I ended up with was a mixed bag of ridiculous, awesome and just plain unbearable music and rapping.

It was a decidedly older crowd at Starlight. The club is 19+ anyway, but just from looking around it was obvious that a lot of the crowd was 30 and over. The shouldn’t have really been a surprise given Buck 65’s staying power in Canadian music over the past two decades. His latest album was aptly named 20 Odd Years because of his unique career trajectory over the past 20 years. He’s gone from releasing 7” singles on Sloan’s label Murderecords in the early 90s under the name Stinkin’ Rich to being signed by Warner Music and releasing some of the most experimental and influential hip-hop music that Canada has ever seen.

The night started out a few songs from Marnie Herald, who would later join Buck 65 on stage. She played a guitar and sang, which was a little bit out of line with the rest of the show. It was kind of obvious that people were there to see Buck 65 based on the talking in the room during Marnie’s five or six songs. It was a nice, but ultimately kind of forgettable start to the night.

Next up was Kool Krys, a female MC from Ottawa who really started working on her hip-hop career when she moved to Halifax to attend school. I hate to say it, but this was one the the least enjoyable performances I’ve seen in recent memory. I thought her flow was decent and the beats from producer Bix were actually pretty mice to listen to, but the performance was filled with so many cheesy moments that it completely turned me off.

On more than one occasion there was an attempted shoutback type sequence with the crowd that didn’t seem to go well as most everyone was unenthusiastic. When I hear clichés like “this song is for all the ladies out there” and “behind every strong woman is a strong man” being spouted off before songs it’s just a complete turn-off for me. Maybe I just didn’t enjoy the songs because I really couldn’t relate to them, but the, lack of interest from the crowd during Kool Krys’ set only made it more blatantly obvious who everyone was there to see. The legendary Buck 65.

I didn’t realize how eccentric of a guy Buck 65 was until he came on stage, but it soon became quite apparent. His dancing style was definitely something to behold, it was more randomly moving around with awkward arm flailing than dancing. It showed that this guy is a real character, and that came through in the rest of his performance.

The show was basically consisted of Buck 65 playing tracks off of a laptop while rapping over them, along with him doing some occasional scratching on a turntable he had set up. I just couldn’t get over how much I loved his flow the entire night. He has such a unique rapping voice, it’s just so rough, scratchy and raw. He could change things up so well too. There were some songs where he was singing softly and other where he was rapping so ferociously that I was just in awe.

After a few songs by himself, Buck 65 was joined on stage my the aforementioned Marnie Herald for some songs off of 20 Odd Years. 20 Odd Years was an interesting album to say the least. There were a number of features on it, which isn’t uncommon for a hip-hop album, but the features were all from singer/songwriters including Gord Downie, Jenn Grant and Nick Thorburn. The album also had a number of non-traditional hip-hop beats. There were a number tracks with some beautiful strings and guitars on them. This kind of uniqueness made for an awesome live show as Marnie sang all the various features. it just displayed how dynamic of a rapper and producer Buck 65 is.

I think the highlight of the night for me was a version of “The Centaur”. Buck 65 said he was using a new beat for it that was really, really hard. I was amazingly pleased when I heard that the beat sampled Colin Stetson, so there was no wonder why it was so hard. To make that track even better Buck 65 was rapping at such a furious pace.

I ended up being really pleased with the night. It had it’s share of hits and misses, but the hits were in just the right places for me and the misses were in spots I didn’t care a lot about anyway.

You can follow me on Twitter @Mark__Gillis

Here's a nice video of Buck 65 performing in New York.

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