Tag: Rapping

Bambu’s a Party Worker, but Conner’s a Piece of Work.

Bambu and his Party Worker album landed on stage at the Crocodile last week. If Bambu and DJ Phatrick had produced this album in 1950 (highly unlikely since the hip-hop scene in 1950 was limited to the guys who produced Refer Madness) they certainly would have been called before Senator Joe “I see a commie” McCarthy (R Wisc.) and his House on un-American Affairs Committee. (Wisconsin has a history of electing idiots to office, for example, the current republican governor, Scott Walker. A diet of cheese and Packer football does have side effects.) Party Worker is an ambitious thematic album set at an organizational meeting where each guest rapper represents a different member of the working class, in other words, communism. (At least this is how Faux News would view the show, and since I am currently slipping closer and closer to their primary demographic–old, white male–I thought I should start using the proper verbiage.)

Bambu was in Seattle to perform and sell albums (more capitalist than communist, but a man has to eat), and I was in Seattle on a school night because I am a bad parent and my daughter (Emma) has spent the last six weeks of my son’s chemotherapy being largely ignored, so when she asked to see Bambu’s show I could not refuse. (Bad parenting is full of sentences that end with…I could not refuse.)

The Crocodile is a Seattle landmark club in Belltown where everyone who is anyone eventually performs, so Emma and I have been there several times. We had a plan, and it was a good plan: eat dinner, get tickets, hang out at the dirty coffee shop, see the show. The plan got derailed right away as I spent 40 minutes driving around in circles looking for a place to park. Belltown is a popular place and unlike Capitol Hill where everyone rides a fixed gear bike, people in Belltown drive cars and so by the time we got to the restaurant I was a little grumpy.

As we entered the restaurant we were confronted with a question from the hostess, “Are you here for the show, the thing in the back, or dinner?” We were there for dinner. “Well sit where you like then.” Emma and I took a booth against one of the walls and within 30 seconds I was ready to leave. There was a small group of people testing a sound system by saying, “Test, test, test…” while walking up to the speakers and getting Jimi Hendrix levels of feedback. It was annoying, but not as annoying as the group of people who were arriving for karaoke (aka ‘the show’). There are two types of karaoke, regular drunk karaoke where everyone knows they suck, and then there is the type of karaoke where people show up in costumes and think they are the next Susan Boyle. People were showing up in costumes. I turned to Emma and said, “If these people start to sing, I’m leaving. I don’t care if we haven’t eaten yet.” One guy, in a full length Liberace jacket, was walking around the restaurant randomly testing how loud he could sing high notes, I don’t know if he was trying to psych out his karaoke opponents, but I do know that people who “warm up” for karaoke have an emptiness in their hearts only matched by the emptiness in their heads.

Liberace continued to roam around looking for attention, but what started to interest me was “the thing in the back.” Youngish guys wearing backpacks kept coming into the restaurant and telling the hostess they were here for the thing in the back. They would walk by “the show,” past the bar, and through a red curtain covering a doorway. These guys fit the profile. There was a disaffected, lost quality to all of them; outsiders not accepted by society and forced to meet secretly in a Slavic Belltown restaurant. Had I fallen into a secret meeting place for terrorist cells? Were these guys plotting? Were they falsifying passports? Should I call the FBI? These questions lingered until my food arrived and then I forgot about the burgeoning terrorist plots of losers in the back of the Slavic restaurant.

The food was good, the bill came, and we escaped the restaurant before the singing officially started. As Emma and I walked around the corner, I saw two of the karaoke singers hiding in a doorway smoking a joint like they were Miles Davis preparing for a concert. Their attempt to hide made it obvious that they were doing something naughty and when I looked to see what other nefarious activities could be taking place in the vicinity, I saw what the “thing in the back” was. A curtain was drawn back just far enough for me to see the disaffected group of young men huddled together. They weren’t plotting, they weren’t falsifying passports, they were playing video games.

We arrived at the Crocodile, got our tickets, and were let into the venue. This was an all ages show, so anyone under 21 had to stand in an area the size of an elevator to the right of the stage and the rest of us were free to wander to the bar and drink beer from plastic cups. I found a dark corner with a seat and did what I do at concerts, waited and watched. As 10 PM approached, the crowd grew and my personal space started to shrink. This is when Conner came bee-bopping into my life. Conner was a little guy, we were never formally introduced, but because of who Conner is everyone within ten feet of Conner got to know him. Conner was wacked out of his gourd. He was smoking something from one of those vapor pen devices that caused him to have an excess of energy; whatever he was smoking caused his buddy to vomit in a nearby trashcan. Conner didn’t vomit though. Conner jumped around, bumped into people’s drinks, and generally annoyed everyone. I don’t know Conner, but I am going to guess a few things about Conner: 1. He rides a motorcycle, 2. He carries his motorcycle helmet wherever he goes so people know he rides a motorcycle, 3. Conner spent a good part of his high school years getting stuffed in lockers. At one point, Conner sat next to me. He had a girly drink from the bar. How do I know it was a girly drink? It had a straw and ice. After Conner finished sipping his drink, he began taking the ice cubes and tossing them at people’s legs in the crowd. This gave Conner such a charge of joy, he looked over at me for approval, I gave Conner the “get off my lawn” old man look, and he got up and ran away. Of course, Conner spilled the remains of his drink and ice on the bench before leaving so the next four people who sat there got wet pants.

While Conner focused on the “party” portion of Party Worker, Bambu took the stage and left no doubt that his allegiances were with the workers attending his show. His lyrics bend towards issues of social justice and equality, and his performance was a celebration of his working class roots. The set began with tracks from the Party Worker album which I am certain won’t be played at the Mitt Romney for President 2016 rallies. Well, to be honest, there probably won’t be any Party Worker tracks played at any of the democrat rallies either, unless Elizabeth Warren wants to attract the hip hop demographic to her campaign.

My favorite part of the night was when Bambu was joined by DJ Nphared and Prometheus Brown on stage. For those of you not as hip as me, this trio is known as The Bar. I saw The Bar at my first hip hop concert, so when they began their song Rashida Jones it was like a little journey down memory lane for me. Bambu and Prometheus Brown have mastered the art of emcee stage presence. There are some standard movements for all emcees: pointing with non-mic hand, non-mic hand raised above the head, march across the stage to the left or right non-mic hand pointing at crowd, and then there is the jump straight up and down while bouncing the non-mic hand like you are patting a dog on the head. The more difficult mc moves are combinations of the above moves, but also involve spins and Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation chopping motions with the non-mic hand. (Don’t try this at home if you are too white, or uncoordinated, you might put an eye out.) I have begun to believe that 1/3 of the show is stage presence and both Bambu and Prometheus Brown have that 1/3 down.

After the set by The Bar, another emcee came out, but she did not want to be known as a lady emcee, she just wanted to be known as an emcee, so I won’t assign a gender to her. She also said that everyone should love each other for who they are and I was feeling all warm inside…then she began to rap. Let me just say, her message to the audience and her rap lyrics didn’t seem to be from the same person. Maybe this was a paradox, or irony, or maybe even a juxtopositioning, to hyperbolize her situation, but her set confused me. I’m not saying she didn’t have energy and a message, I’m just saying that I am probably not her target audience. My daughter liked her, so there you go.

Bambu closed the show by telling us to go out and change the world. Don’t wait for the change to drop by and invite you over. Go out, organize, and change things.

Taking my 17 year-old daughter to a hip hop concert on a school night might not get me the Redbook Father of the Year Award, but when I think about what I want my daughter to know about the world, I am happy that she has these experiences. True learning isn’t something that takes place only in a classroom, it isn’t something that can be boiled down to a few stupid test questions, it isn’t something that can be learned through reading, it is something that must be experienced.

Rappers + Cameras > Wrappers + Cameras

It was the rainiest May day in Seattle history and where was I? Seattle. I like to attend all the historic weather moments I can. There was the record-breaking heat wave I attended in Europe, the 40 days of 100 degrees when I toiled at the Lemoore Cemetery, and then there was the coldest winter in Spokane history. I have been to them all, and I survived.

I was in Seattle on my Father of the Year tour with my daughter to see the latest Rappers with Cameras show. What is Rappers with Cameras? Well, there are Rappers who take pictures and then the Rappers (Prometheus Brown/Geo and Thig) display the photos and people who like photography and rapping come together and hang out. Stuffed bears are also allowed to attend.

Bear

I’m pretty sure this bear felt awkward. He stood in the corner the entire night and spoke to no one.

My daughter and I arrived early, after spending 12 unsuccessful hours trying to find a free place to park on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night, so that she could interview Geo and Thig for her school newspaper. The event was being held in what I think was a clothing shop. (The shop also sold dishes, plants, knives, books, backpacks, and stuff any hipster would need to be cool.) I am naturally uncomfortable in any retail clothing outlet because I am…how do I say this…a freak of nature and cheap. I am 6’6″ and I only buy clothing that fits and is on sale, so being in a store where you know that everything there is made for normal sized people with money is a little like a Vegan looking at the menu at a rib shack.

Photo Wall

Yes, gentlemen, that’s what a lady’s legs look like.

Anyway, when we arrived I walked around looking at the pictures and price tags on the clothing while my daughter talked with Geo and Thig. I found a rubber raincoat from Sweden for $400, some super ugly shorts for $120, and lots of other stuff that confused me, but since I have lived in a state of confusion for well over 20 years I did not panic, I just went with the flow.

When my daughter finished her interview she introduced me to Geo and Thig. For those of you who are not as hip as I am let me fill in the gaps for you: Geo is also known as Prometheus Brown and he raps for The Bar and for Blue Scholars; Thig is also known as Thig Natural and raps for The Physics. I talked to Geo about photography, his life as a Navy brat, and the Seattle rap scene. Since I know little to nothing about any other city’s rap scene, Seattle’s situation strikes me as unusual. The people involved in music in Seattle are incredibly supportive of each other. Geo thought the cohesiveness was due to the outstanding music programs in local schools and the fact that geographically Seattle is removed from the rest of the country and is able to do their own thing.

Black and White Poloroids

Black and White Polaroid’s of the guests.

It is a little odd that about a two years ago I was a little concerned about my kids going to a rap show at Neumos so I tagged along to protect them from the dangerous world of rap music, and now I find that the concerts and events are one of my favorite family activities. This probably makes some people think I am one of the worst parents in the world.

Geo and Thig

Thig (on the left), Geo (on the right).

More Poloroids

More Polaroids

The crowd at Rappers with Cameras continued to grow as it got later and this is when I realized that if The Smiths (the 1980’s/90’s musical group) were to show up on Capitol Hill they would fit right in. The hipster haircuts and clothing are exactly what Morrissey wore circa 1987. This took me on a circular thinking tangent about whether these people knew who The Smiths were, whether Morrissey knows that the entire hipster movement can be traced back to the video There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, and if Morrissey knew he was responsible for the hipster movement  would it make him sad enough to write really depressing lyrics? (For those of you who don’t know the Smiths, all of Morrissey’s lyrics are depressing.)

Is that Morrisey?

Is that Morrissey?

Around 10:30, the agreed upon time of departure for catching a ferry back to the boondocks, I found my daughter talking to Hollis. (Hollis is one of the featured singers on the Macklemore album and member of the group The Flavor Blue.)  My daughter was attempting to hitch a ride to Corvallis with Hollis for an upcoming show. I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed by my daughter’s initiative or upset that my daughter was acting like she was in a Jack Kerouac novel. I explained that picking up my daughter would probably add about four hours to the trip which, for some reason, did not strike Hollis as the best plan.

We left Rappers with Cameras and ventured back out into the downpour. The drive home was quiet as I thought about how rapidly my daughter has gone from the little girl to young lady. I’m sure my daughter was thinking about something similar, or she might have been thinking, “If I could just get to Portland, then maybe Hollis will pick me up.”

 

 

Who’s Too Old For A Rap Concert

In my family we like to say, “The more you like music, the more music you like.” I love music and have encouraged my children to love music also. Unfortunately this has caused my children to form their own musical tastes and dabble in rap music. We all know that rap music is the gateway music to anarchy, death, destruction, and the end of mankind. I will admit that I dabbled in rap music when I was younger. I listened to the Beastie BoysA Tribe Called QuestPublic Enemy, and De La Soul; but I didn’t get hooked, I knew better than to try the harder stuff like NWA and Tu Pac. I never wore a hat sideways, bought gold chains, or owned a pair of pants that sagged enough to show off my ass. While friends of mine were learning the lyrics of Cop Killer I took a left turn and immersed myself in reggae. (No, I did not grow dreads, or chant down Babylon.)

My children do like the rap music and apparently there is a vibrant and growing rap scene in Seattle, at least this is what I have been told. So when my children expressed an interest in attending The Physics album drop I was concerned. I am one of those older folks who associate most rap music with misogynistic lyrics and anti-authoritarian attitudes, so I told my children I would chaperone them if they paid for everything: my ticket, the ferry ride, the meals, and all the coffee I could drink. They agreed and that is how I ended up at my first rap concert last Saturday.

Mount Rainer from the ferry.

It was a beautiful day to visit Seattle. The sky was clear and from the ferry the entire Cascade Range was visible from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier. There is no other major city in the US that is as lovely as Seattle on a clear day. This is not an opinion; it is fact.

We arrived in Seattle and headed for Neumos (the club where the concert was to be held) on Capitol Hill. We ate lunch, walked around and looked in the shops, and spent about two hours in Elliot Bay Bookstore. By the time 8PM rolled around I was already tired. I rallied by drinking a couple espresso shots and then went to stand in line for the concert. Most of the people in line were about 12 years old (anyone under 25 looks 12 to me these days.)

Elliot Bay Bookstore, which is no longer near Elliot Bay.

We entered the venue and I set up camp as far away from the stage as possible, my kids went the opposite direction. Neumos has an upstairs for over 21 drunks and a lower section for the kids. It did not take me long to feel old since I was downstairs with the kiddies, but I did my best to put my cool on and stood next to a large fan hoping it would blow the noise away once the concert started.

The kids pretending not to know me.

The first 30 minutes of the show were taken up with various strange looking dudes walking on stage and fiddling with turntables and cables. Most of the AV crew looked like they had just escaped from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Eventually they connected all the right cords and the speakers began pumping out chest crushing bass thumping sounds that probably killed whales in the Puget Sound.

The first act of the night was Brothers From Another and here is where I admit my ignorance: I don’t really know when the group started playing. The DJ was onstage playing records and trying to get the crowd to “put their hands in the air.” He would prance around for a little bit and then grab the mic and give some instructions like he was an aerobics instructor in a bad outfit. I could not get past his hat. It was a blue camouflage canvas hat shaped like the one Gilligan wore on his island. It is the type of hat that I cannot take seriously. Maybe if you live in a retirement home in Arizona you can wear a hat like that, but if you are between the ages of 8-65 you should not wear a hat like this unless it is a joke. Anyway, Gilligan danced around for about two songs and just as I was about to decide he was Brothers From Another (which would be a great name for a solo act) two other guys jumped onstage and started rapping.

How old did I feel at this point? Pretty old. The two kids rapping were probably born last week and everyone else in the crowd was younger than them. They did their best to rhyme  and put on a show, but I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to poetry. I’d take Keats over Vanilla Ice any day. I am certain that the finer points in meter, scansion, and slant rhyme would be lost on the Brothers, but I will admit I was entertained. At one point one of the brothers had a cousin come onstage to rap a charming tune, “You ain’t gonna drink my drank for free,” or something like that. Now, whether this cousin was in fact a biological cousin or not could not be determined, but he did bring the median age of people on stage into double digits.

Brothers From Another: Short brother, Tall Brother, and Gilligan.

The Brothers finished their set and I thought they did just fine for an opening act. One of the sad things about being an opening act in a smaller club is that when your part of the show is over there is no place to go. So for the rest of the night I saw Gilligan, short brother, and tall brother wandering around like the Israelites looking for the promised land.

Between acts I watched the man with the worst job in the world: the security guy in charge of keeping the alcohol upstairs and the minors downstairs. He had to watch a door, watch the stairs, and check every person passing by for ID. His job only got harder as the night went on. What’s worse than a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt? How about a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt who has had three umbrella drinks.

The second act was set up and ready to roll by about 10PM. These days 10PM is when I set my book down on my bedside table and go nighty-night, but for some reason I wasn’t really tired yet. Maybe it was the espresso, maybe it was because my brain was being concussed by sound waves. Act number two is still a mystery to me. There was one guy named Prometheus (I hope this is his real name and not a stage name), one guy whose name is still unknown, and then there was DJ InfraRed. The name of the group? I don’t know. After the concert my daughter tried to explain the situation to me, but it was like listening to my mom explain how I was related to some person that lives in Florida.

One of the rappers is from the group Blue Scholars and the other two guys were from other groups, so it was either a rap super group or three guys doing rap karaoke.

Rap Super Group?

These guys were good. Now I don’t know what the hell they were saying, but they had great energy, got the crowd going, and put on a show worthy of my attention post 10PM. There was one moment that confused me. Prometheus said he was going to be taking it on the road to Bremerton. Now if you are in Seattle why would you aspire to go to Bremerton? For those of you outside the Northwest I will try to make a comparison. Let’s say you are in New York City doing a rap concert and then for some reason you say, “I’m going be taking this on the road to Rochester.” Maybe I missed something, but heading to Bremerton isn’t really a move in the right direction career-wise, unless you want to get a job in the ship yard. I imagine those jobs pay well and have better hours than rap star.

The rap trio then asked for requests from the crowd, I almost always request Blue Velvet or Just a Gigolo when called upon in situations like this, but I figured DJ InfraRed probably left those albums at home, so I left it up the youngsters in the crowd to shout out requests. One young lady standing near me started yelling, “Rasheeda Jones, Rasheeda Jones…” like she was Biz Markie‘s sister. She kind of looked like Biz Markie too, except in a skirt. Anyway, the group then busted into Rasheeda Jones. Biz Markie’s sister took full credit for the song and would not shut up about it. Act two came to an end and the +21 year olds headed upstairs to get oiled up for the final act of the night: The Physics.

Between sets one of the security guys went to stand in front of the big fan near me and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but the dude was not bathed in sweet-smelling nectar. No he smelled like hot dogs. If I smelled like hot dogs I would not stand in front of a fan, unless I was trying to entice people into a life of cannibalism. There are two ways to go when smelling like a hot dog: 1. put on a lot of Old Spice, 2. embrace your inner hot dog and rub a cut onion all over your body.

The final act took the stage around 11:15, and when I say took the stage I mean they filled the stage. The stage was not huge but I estimate there are 12,000 people in The Physics. Okay, maybe not 12,000. The number of Physics falls somewhere between MC Hammer‘s stage act and Public Enemy’s (not counting people dressed in military outfits.) To be more exact: two vocalists, two rappers, one DJ, one guy playing a keyboard, and one guy playing a guitar.

Physics and a few fans fill the stage. Annoying texting girl is hiding there somewhere.

The Physics were good. I have even listened to their album Tomorrow People and liked it. The show was going along just fine until they had members of the audience join them onstage to dance around. I kept wondering if the stage could hold all that funkiness. It did, but at the end of the song, when everyone was supposed to head back to the floor, one girl stood on the stage texting while everyone else followed the rules. She just kept texting away as the guitarist tried his best to shoo her away, but she would have none of it. She then interrupted the lead rapper to take a picture. I am not a violent person, but I found myself wishing someone would attack this self-centered moron or at least take her phone and throw it into the crowd where it could be stomped on repeatedly.

The show did go on but we left before it was over. We had to catch the 12:45 ferry back home, so we did not see the end of the show. My children reported a Macklemore sighting, so I assume he hopped on stage with The Physics at some point in the evening, but I cannot report this as fact. I can say that Capitol Hill is still busy at 12:30 in the morning and I did enjoy my first rap concert.

Heading back home on the ferry. The Emerald City is just as lovely at night.

A Parent Guide for Rap Concerts

The view from the Loser Seats.

Now that I am a hip, trendsetting parent who takes their kids to rap concerts I thought I would toss out some parenting tips for those of you taking your kids to a rap concert.

  1. Leave the Kindle at home. I know you need to read the third book of Fifty Shades of Grey, but reading while at a rap concert is just wrong. Updating your Facebook page on your smart phone during the concert is okay. In fact, some people will get a real hoot from it if you post pictures or make snarky comments about your experiences while at the concert, but a Kindle? You might as well be wearing a cape and a wizard hat and carrying around a copy of one of the Harry Potter books. Nothing says “Nerd” like a Kindle at a rap concert.
  2. Do not try to dance at any point. Don’t do it. You might think you are moving in a fluid and striking way, but you are not. You are no longer able to move your hips in a fashion that will entice the opposite sex, and if you could, your kids would just think that is gross. So, stand if you must, but realize there are lots of people around you with smart phones who could record your gyrations and post them on YouTube. Nothing will lose you more cool points with your kids than showing up as the next viral video called, “Momma shakes her money-maker.” Clapping along with the song is just fine, but make sure you can keep a beat if you are going to clap.
  3. Once in the concert venue, don’t force your kids to hold your hand or sit next to you. If they want to do that fine, but let them go. They may get a little bruised or squashed if they decide to smash into the ball of human flesh in front of the stage, but most kids like this. Chaperone a high school dance and you will understand that being smashed into a big ball of human flesh is what kids do today. While we parents were mastering the finer dance moves like swinging your arms and hopping like a pogo stick, today’s kids are mastering the pressing of the flesh. Sure it turns them into a sweaty mess, but remember being a teenager? There are very few times when you are allowed to let loose the sweaty mess, so relax and let them get sweaty.
  4. Don’t be shocked if you hear a couple potty words. I saw one parent look like he was slapped in the face when one of the performers said a bad word. You are at a rap concert not at holy mass at the Vatican. Potty language and rap go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Starsky and Hutch, like the Northwest and Rain…you are going to hear some offensive language at a rap concert. Get over it and move on with your life. If you kid has ears and can breathe, he/she will have heard those words before and it won’t kill them. I would bet they even have said a few of those words.
  5. Don’t try to ask too many questions at the concert. Your kid is there to enjoy the concert not to play tour guide for you. I try to save all of my questions for the ride home. For example here were my questions on the ride home Friday night: 1. What was that DeeOne dude wearing on his head? From where I was sitting it looked like a gray traffic cone. 2.Can you be a one-man army if you have a DJ? Doesn’t that make you a two-man army? 3. Did you see how tall that lady was who sang that one song? Do you think she was seven feet tall?  I didn’t think she really sang that song? Isn’t she auto-tuned? 4. Do you think Macklemore has really read Outliers? 5. What was the deal with the little guy wearing the Where’s Waldo tank top? What was his name? Buffalo what?
  6. Don’t dress up for the concert. You are not going to see Itzhak Pearlman at Benaroya Hall. Leave the fancy clothing at home. Dress for comfort, you are not going to impress anyone anyway. If you are one of those people who worry about being dressed too informally then wear black. Black pants, black shirt, black shoes. Black covers many sins and it will make you look slimmer.
  7. Listen to a little of the music before going to the concert. You can even watch some videos on the Internets. You might actually find a few songs that you like. I can say that my attitude about rap music changed a great deal once I started to listen to it again. I had given up on rap once it turned into Big Pants MCHammer vs Gangster, but today’s hip-hop has a multitude of messages and styles. So even old folks like you and me can find someone out there that is pretty fly.
  8. Finally, sit in the Loser Seats. If the concert promoter provides seats way in the back, those seats are there for you. That’s right, you are no longer cool, or hip, or really very important. Once you bought those tickets your importance diminished a great deal. Accept it and realize that you can relax with the other losers away from the majority of the noise.
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