Friday, August 22, 2008

Old in Hip Hop Years

In what feels like the start of an annual tradition I ventured back to DC with Brian to see Aesop Rock again Wednesday night. Blockhead was missing from last years line up and had been replaced with Grayskul, a tough act to follow for sure. I'll be polite and say they weren't for me, but that brings up a larger issue I want to address below. This post is two pronged, so lets get started.

I'm Old
Realizing I'm getting older, not "old" mind you just older, is nothing new. Given my two bad back flare ups in four years, a house, marriage and a full time job lets say you could call me more mature and/or responsible now then I was in the past. It was more apparent than ever at the show on Wednesday. We choose to take in the first two acts from upstairs, because it was a more relaxed environment (read old people upstairs, young people downstairs). When Grayskul came on stage the first thing I noticed was how loud the music was. After their performance my back was already starting to ache.

Yak Balls came on after Gray and again it was loud and my back hurt. When Aesop finally took the stage I found myself looking at my watch. What the hell I came all the way to DC to see one of my favorite artist and I am looking at my watch? The performance was on point, but my ringing ears and a knot the size of a dodge ball in my lower back had my mind elsewhere.

Live Hip Hop
When Brian and I got back in the car we briefly reflected on the show we had just seen. The conclusion we came to was that hip hop was probably the worst genre to see live, for three reasons. One, the bass/beat can be so loud that it drowns out the vocals and even so loud that any subtle sound that could hook the listener is reverberated into primal bass hits. Two, the lack of things to do on stage can make for an extremely boring visual experience. Visual Experience! Three, outside of your DJ scratching the live performance is closer to the album than other genres given there are no instruments to play.

I perfect example of these live performance woes is Yak Ballz. I have seen him perform twice and come away with a negative impression twice. Until he came out for a guest performance on one of Rob Sonic's songs. Oh yeah that is that guy on that song that I actually like a lot. What the hell, maybe I like him. I had completely written off his work, until that point. I actually found myself in the mental exercise of wondering if I would actually like Aesop or Rob if I had been introduced to them through live performance. Probably not.

Ultimately, I did enjoy their set though. I have been listening to Aesop for almost four years now and knowing all of his songs can transcend bad audio levels and live hip hop clichés. Hip Hop Clichés! Armed with these new found revelations I am willing to at least try a Grayskul or Yak Ballz album.

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The Wise Man's Fear
Dynasty of Evil
100 Bullets Vol. 07: Samurai
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100 Bullets Vol. 05: The Counterfifth Detective
100 Bullets Vol. 04: A Foregone Tomorrow
100 Bullets Vol. 03: Hang Up on the Hang Low
100 Bullets Vol. 02: Split Second Chance
30 Days of Night
100 Bullets Vol. 01: First Shot, Last Call
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