A sold out Spectrum witnessed an eventful evening of hip-hop culture at the Concordia Student Union’s final orientation bash last Thursday, which included a remarkable performance by California-based headliner’s Blackalicious.
The evening began around 8 p.m. as concertgoers mingled to DJ Scott C’s typically eclectic mix of jazz, funk and hip-hop.
Meanwhile, painters from the Heavyweight collective started their abstract portraits on canvas.
For a free concert many of the women in the audience were surprisingly well dressed, decked out in the trendiest of sexy hipster gear.
Guys on the other hand were generally more casual, or at least tried to appear that way in one of the ubiquitous Styrofoam baseball caps many wore.
Less disconcerting than the high number of cheaply made hats was the evenly balanced ratio between men and women at the concert, which is often heavily tilted towards the masculine gender at many underground hip-hop shows.
Early on in the concert, the audience was reminded this was a Concordia event when singer (and child studies major) Staav Sabag introduced herself as Israeli, which caused a handful of cheers but also set an awkward moment of silence over the crowd.
Fortunately, her soulful vocals on a song with host Rawgged MC brought everyone’s enthusiasm back on board.
Following the duet was a very artistic performance by QuadSquad, a break-dance crew made up of Montreal and Ottawa based dancers.
The squadron’s DJ, Concordia Fine Arts student Mathew Morin (aka Hatch) unexpectedly began the group’s set with a dark, violin-heavy DJ Shadow track.
With deliberately slow movements the dancers took turns showing off their styles before falling to the ground.
But when Hatch upped the rhythm on the next beats they were resurrected into a more traditional popping and locking break crew, but impressed with some nicely choreographed team routines.
QuadSquad was followed by four more opening acts, which had the tough job of playing to a crowd, which for the most part didn’t come to see them.
But local crews Typecast, The Specifics, and Rawgged MC with Waahli, did a good job (despite sometimes shoddy sound) of animating the crowd with lively performances.
Toronto’s Brass Munk dawned the stage in lab coats and their many years of experience showed in a tight energetic set.
But was it necessary to self-promote their album by ringing a girl up on stage and plastering a sticker with their logo on her butt?
What one cannot doubt is that from when Blackalicious finally took the stage at a quarter to twelve they were in total control of a rapturous crowd for the rest of their 90-minute set, which was complete with background singers, enthusiastic freestyles and occasional reggae vibes.
Opening their performance with a thundering rendition of “Paragraph President,” the audience already started chanting the “president” line of the chorus without even a cue from the group.
Gift of Gab, along with partner in rhyme Lateef the Truth Speaker, and DJ Cheif Xcel rocked through their many anthems without missing a beat.
Blackalicious frontman Gift of Gab is an emcee’s emcee. Die-hard fans repeatedly listen to songs such as Alphabet Aerobics, (in which he illiterates the entire alphabet bar by bar) to catch every word he says.
At a concert such close listening is impossible, but judging by the crowd’s vocal response, many were impressed by Xcel’s funky music and Gab’s devastating flow.
After he performed a song, Gift of Gab would just look defiantly into space like Hulk Hogan circa-1988 and the crowd would go bananas.
CSU organizers Craig Desson and Arash Nazhad should be applauded for putting on a truly memorable event: consolations for those who didn’t get in.