working towards an intellectual understanding of booty chatter.

miércoles, marzo 12, 2008

inflowential: caged bird.

dl: INFLOWENTIAL - Caged Bird (YSI)
Raleigh, NC may not be the first place you think of when it comes to blossoming underground hip-hop acts, eh? In fact, when I first heard "NC Shit" (a North Carolina variation of Busta Rhymes' "New York Shit") it was just as odd as falling upon a "CT Shit" shoutout to Bridgeport while listening to Hartford's Power 104.1. I don't know why a Raleigh anthem threw me for a loop. I mean, it's not as if I hadn't heard of Inflowential and the Kooley High crew. My friend Crystal tried to put me up on them ages ago, but I wasn't really hearing them until she forwarded me an invitation to their show at the John Street Bar & Grill. The e-mail's subject heading was not a suggestion, but a demand-- "We're going to this." And go I went.

Upon stepping into the performance space, I got worried. A crew of three guys stood on stage "rapping" over Daft Punk. Now I love me some Daft Punk, but if you ain't gonna have any flow over it...don't flow over it. Just because Kanye and Busta did it*, doesn't mean that you can. Also, can someone please explain this Daft Punk sampling trend? Even Janet Jackson
and her people jumped on the bandwagon by sampling Homework's "Daftendirekt" on her new album Discipline. This is going too far. Are Daft Punk hip-hop's new James Brown?

Rant aside, I needed some Jack Daniels in my system after that experience. And then Inflow took the stage, and all that tension disintegrated. Charlie Smarts and Tab-One on the mic, Bender on bass, Kyle Phelps on guitar, DJ IllDigitz on (er) DJ stuff, and A-did on vocal percussion. Yes, vocal percussion. I'm talking real beatboxing, not some Blake-Lewis-college-a-cappella-group shit. Think Rahzel, and you'll probably get an idea why so much of the Inflow press is littered with comparisons to The Roots.

Their live show is not one to miss, as you can't get a glimpse of how impressive the group is by solely listening to the recordings. Their command on an audience was particularly impressive on "We Get Down". Having never seen the group before, I found myself joining in with the veteran fans as they bent their knees and got "down". While the mood may have gotten stale during a string of slower songs, Inflow was ready to bring the crowd back up with an energetic jam.

Speaking of energetic jams, I have unconditional love for a currently unrecorded tune that could be referred to as "One-conditional". The song plays on gender roles, as the two male MCs complain about a girl (or girls) who only wants them for their bodies. It maintains a level of hip-hop machismo by presenting a "damn, I'm so hot and chicks want me" attitude but spices it up with sensitivity and vulnerability. It makes them infinitely more likable, and makes it clear that they're not just spitting lies on the Evolutionary Process EP's "Love Is".

This EP is the first release from the group, available for free download on their site. And whether the EP's "Caged Bird" is a nod to Maya Angelou or a song inspired by a trip to the Raleigh-Durham Caged Bird Society, it holds a place as one of the standout tracks. Accompanied by Blu Thompson on saxophone and a soothing bass line, Charlie Smarts and Tab-One deliver a message of hope that wouldn't serve as a bad choice for Barack Obama's campaign.

Experience the hope, love, and nodding heads live this Friday March 14th at Blaggard's Pub & Restaurant (8 W. 38th Street, NYC).


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