Monday, January 13, 2014
Concert review: Dallas’ brightest headphone-heavy stars shined in hip-hop showcase
The open-minded, mostly engaged crowd on Friday received a wildly entertaining evening.
If concertgoers’ late night social media posts reflect matters accurately at Granada Theater Friday, it would appear that headlining duo A.Dd+ earned the highest marks possible at the inaugural North Texas Hip Hop Showcase.
Presented by the Dallas Observer and hosted by Lower Greenville’s stalwart Granada Theater, the event brought together more than a handful of the area’s brightest headphone-friendly stars, with A.Dd+ rappers and proven local-stage slayers Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun deservedly topping the cake.
We're not saying the event thoroughly covered D-FW’s diverse hip-hop landscape; it’s fair to assume that doing so would probably require more than one evening. (Now that would be fun.) Yet the open-minded, mostly engaged crowd on Friday received a wildly entertaining sampling. Full disclosure: I caught every act except the headliner. And it still, for me, ended in marquee fashion thanks to the penultimate performer, Blue the Misfit.
Brandon “Brain Gang” Blue’s producing prowess is well-documented around these parts. He’s made memorable tracks for the aforementioned Slim and Paris as well as helping introduce the city to frizzy-haired dynamo Sam Lao (also on Friday’s bill).
But Blue’s solo work takes artfulness and visual presentation to the next level. Rather than bounce around in the real-life boxing ring on stage, he opted to lower the video-wall curtain and employ his own projected imagery.
Regardless, we couldn’t take our eyes off the man himself, who spat fire as he postured in a ski mask and a fashion-forward getup (shades of Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour in effect, intended or otherwise). Blue’s shortened, festival-style set left everyone wanting more.
The same can be said for Lao, who cut a formidable profile earlier in the boxing ring. She stayed near the front of the set piece and even stepped outside of it in order to keep her connection with the audience tight. Though at moments she was drowned out by the floor-rumbling bass tracks, delivery of her tunes “F.H.S.” and “Haze” captivated to no end.
The only showcase performer to bring a live band into the ring was the poetic young lyricist Lord Byron, who mixed it up with some jazz-funk specialists he called “the Dark Artses” (playing off the title of his Dark Arts mixtapes). His set proved a nice change of pace and required the audience to lean in. As they should, considering Byron’s reference-heavy approach to storytelling.
More viscerally pleasing than most on Friday’s bill was the evening’s opener, AV the Great. Denton-based rapper and radio personality Chris Avant possesses the ability to mine deep biographical territory while retaining crowd-pleasing hooks. He worked splendidly in kicking off the festivities; it’s just too bad those arriving late missed him.
Other highlights included rapper Topic’s horseplay and athleticism inside the ring, singer-rapper Jaeson Green’s crowd-winning defiance against being told to wrap up his set, and the between-act selections of presiding DJ Jay Clipp.
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