Vancouver Catches Best of the Bay [Review]
Vancouver, B.C. – The Deadliest Catch Tour was just that. No, this wasn’t crab fishing off the Bering Sea in mid-winter. But to catch arguably the best hip-hop artists from the SF/Bay Area scene (Quannum & Jurassic 5) along with the East Coast legend Mr. Lif was the sort of show any underground junkie is fishing for. Plus, the conditions in the Biltmore Cabaret (a fitting venue for such an intimate yet hype show) got so warm that one would have happily traded places to be aboard a fishing vessel on a frozen sea. Between the throngs of drunken hyped-up suburbanite hip-hop heads and hipsters pushing towards the stage and the red hot talent lighting up the venue there wasn’t an unsweaty moment to be had. But it was well worth it.
The phenom known as Lyrics Born set things off by introducing the show: first up was Boston’s Mr. Lif, and he hit the stage like an explosion. Always a commanding figure, Lif had a few surprises. Normally very on point and accurate with his delivery, Lif abandoned his regular M.O. to spit viciously at the crowd, covering new and old material energetically and with a raw edge. Even more surprising than kicking his new jam “Collapse The Walls” over The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” was that when he pulled down his hood his trademark colossal dreads were no more. As heartbreaking as it was to see Lif with a normal looking dome, this new trim-headed Liftiddy Man – who’s accomplished so much with his craft – seems to be only hungry for more, and the bobbing heads in attendance happily ate up every last rap he spat.
Next up was the one and only Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. He performed heavily from his second solo effort Escape 2 Mars, with its producer DNAE on hand to keep it rolling. Gab did what he does best: showed the crowd what a mastercraftsman can do and he seemed happy to forsake accuracy over enjoyment. His verses often climaxed into an indiscernible growl that neither rhymed nor seemed to contain any audible word from the English language but oozed with fun. Gab showcased many new joints that the crowd quickly embraced and gave up the best collection of classic Blackalicious tracks, a full set that he killed like a champ. And with Lyrics Born stepping up to share the stage the crowd couldn’t have been happier.
Evidently the biggest fish in this sea of talent, Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, held down the headlining set. Bringing members of the mighty Ozomatli on stage to back him, this 2na fish set it off. Performing mostly solo material from Fish Outta Water along with some J5 classics, this tall powerhouse baritone rode over the live drums and rhythms with ease and confidence. 2na’s effortless flow and chill demeanor mixed well with the snappy live beats, keeping crowd’s heads bobbing til the very last beat.
It was a deadly show I was lucky to catch, and a bill that probably won’t be seen together again. These titans of the underground gave Vancouver one hell of a night. And if it weren’t for this eager reporter/hip-hop head discovering that his car had been broken into at the end of the night it would have been a pretty amazing evening. They stole my deck, amp and sub, even the new Lif CD I had foolishly left in there. But as I drove home surrounded by broken glass, feeling the cold air whipping my face through where the window once was, having Gab’s new album in my back pocket was just enough to keep me from lazily drifting into oncoming traffic. So, once again, thanks Gab.
Written by Jesse Furnell for HipHopCanada
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