Thursday, July 5, 2012

LIVE REVIEW: El-P / Killer Mike / Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire / Despot at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, CA

Before I start talking about this show in question, a couple orders of business:
1. This review is nearly a week late. Boo hoo.
2. This is my first time doing a concert review in written form, so forgive me if it's not so eloquent and it comes off as a kind of transcript of what I would've said in video form.

Now that that's out of the way...

When I heard El-P would finally be coming around these parts of LA, and at one of my favorite venues, I knew I couldn't possibly miss it. It was my first hip-hop show ever, and given that he was bringing along fellow NYC rappers Despot and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike (whose latest album El-P produced), it would certainly be a night to remember.

And it was, but in a way I didn't expect. These four emcees showed me how personal, intimate, and fun a hip-hop show could be. I never expected to lose my voice the morning after a rap show. I never expected the people around me to be so welcoming. I never expected the mood of the show to be so fun-loving and almost nostalgic.

The first act was Queens, New York City rapper Despot, who's a name I've seen in a good number of feature spots but whose solo material I've never heard, what little of it there is. He even joked about how long it's taken for him to drop an album. But he performed very well, if a little lethargically. As good as his beats, flows, and lyrics are, Despot's inflection never quite changes as he raps. But everything else, as well as his witty banter with the audience in between songs, made his set memorable.

Next came an emcee whose popularity is massively growing, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire. While all four rappers that played that night brought great energy, eXquire brought a kind of manic punk rock energy. The dude is so hyped up himself I'm surprised he even bothered to have a hype man for himself. The crowd was going nuts for this guy, he performed with a weirdness that turned into charisma, and even El-P had to come out to hype this guy up. I'd love to see this guy at a headlining show.

Killer Mike came on after that. Love him or hate him, you cannot say that Mike is insincere. Not only was this apparent with the brute force he brought into his harder songs, but after giving a tribute to his fallen grandfather and playing "Willie Burke Sherwood", Mike ended the song in tears, admitting that he "cries every time [he] plays that song." The fact that someone as "tough" as Mike is completely unashamed of his emotions made this one of the most profound moments of the night. It reminded me that the music these people were making was some of the most honest and sincere music you can find in hip-hop these days.

I forgot to mention that there were DJ sets playing in between each act, and before El-P's set, none other than The Gaslamp Killer showed up to twist some knobs. I've seen him DJ a couple times before and he's always more entertaining than the average DJ; apparently he played some new Flying Lotus material. Interesting.

Finally, the man of the night took the stage. El-P came out with his 3-piece band, hypeman, and later on plenty of guests. As many of you probably know, I fucking loved his latest album Cancer 4 Cure, and he played the entire album in full, which to me is the best way to present the songs. It's one of those albums where if you just play one song out of the flow and context of the record, it wouldn't be as meaningful. This way every track got to shine in their own unique way.

For the performance of "Works Every Time", Zola Jesus came out to fill in for Paul Banks' vocal parts; she performed with El on Conan O'Brien's show the night before, so it was pretty nice to see that in person. Of course Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Killer Mike and Despor came out to do their respective verses on "Oh Hail No" and "Tougher Colder Killer", but what was probably the biggest surprise of the night was Nick Diamonds stopping by to do his fantastic vocal part on "Stay Down". I don't know if this was just for the LA date or for more surrounding shows, but it was breathtaking hearing him perform live.

After performing the album, El came back out and did some old tunes, including one from Fantastic Damage. I feel like I couldn't give you an accurate telling of my experience, because a lot of what made the show great was the camaraderie I felt from everyone around me, including the people on stage. It was one of those shows where you go to it alone, but you find yourself making friends with everyone there. This was one of the most intimate, personal, and memorable shows I've been to in a long time, and I feel so incredibly lucky that I got to partake in it. Hopefully more hip-hop shows are like this.

(Robby wishes he was as good of a writer as he is a video blogger...which isn't saying much. But follow the motherfucker on Twitter @ClydeNut anyway)

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