Thursday, May 7, 2009
“When you say ‘hip-hop,’” says Mark (“Foot”) Lofton, manager and MC of hip-hop band Realization (formerly 40831), “people think stupid booty shaker music – they think rap. Rap is what they play on the radio. Hip-hop is music with a conscience. There is still real hip-hop music out there.”
This weekend, it’s here. Since April, Realization has been threading the California coast on The Awareness Tour, which will soon make a generous amount of Central Coast stops at spots including Jose’s, Monterey Live, Mortimer’s (really?) and this Friday’s all-out show at The Planet Ultralounge. There, they will be joined by San Jose’s ska-rock-rap outfit Firme, Salinas’ PLG (Para la Gente), BBT (Billy Bud Toker), breakdance crew Onepiece, live painters BasicLee and Epic – all rolled out on a red carpet photo entrance and broadcast via the Internet and radio station KNRY.
Lofkin says the band changed its name (40831 was the hybridized area codes of San Jose and Seaside) to appeal to a broader market, and to not perpetuate the geographic divisions that young gang members often adopt. They use their music – a mash-up of hip-hop, rock and reggae – to shower political and spiritual messages on the masses, like a more irie Rage Against the Machine.
That’s the gameplan of PLG, too (the Weekly’s Zachary Stahl is their bass player). They describe their style as conscious live hip-hop with an old-school flavor. Firme rock the hardest, with guitars and horns leading their ska attack, and share the tour’s socially conscious streak. Hailing from Seaside, Billy Bud Toker’s “socially conscious” colors are clouded by weed smoke, hood tales and Pro Tools-like production.
“A lot of the music out now,” Lofkin says, “is all about ‘go dumb.’ We call [ours] ‘feel good’ music.”
But wait. There’s more.
On Sunday, over in Salinas, the Fox Theater presents a minor coup for the county’s hip-hop heads: Tech N9ne and MURS. Tech N9ne, from Kansas City, has nursed a rap career that began with glimpses of his whip-fast raps on “Questions” in the James Belushi-Tupac Shakur movie Gang Related. After years in obscurity, Tech and other Midwest rappers like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Yukmouth and Dru Down broke through with attention-nabbing successes.
Tech sports crazy hairdos and tribal warpaint on his face that looks more punk and goth than rap and hip-hop, but there’s substance behind the wild style: His song “Rain,” about how being on the road steals his time away from his daughters, brought tears to the eyes of director Nick Cassavettes, who put four of Tech’s songs in his movie Alpha Dog.
MURS (Making Underground Raw Shit) is a founding member of L.A.-by-way-of-Oakland hip-hop collective Living Legends, who have been staunchly fighting for the soul of hip-hop like knights in grimy armor, using sheer intelligence and humanity, with a fidelity to real hip-hop. MURS’s solo discography is jam-packed with inspired stuff: a hilarious music video with WWE wrestler John Cena; mixing hip-hop and skating before Lupe Fiasco got around to it; a hot joint called “Lookin’ Fly” with will.i.am that samples Al Hirt’s “Green Hornet.”
Both these MCs are slated for this summer 2009 Rock the Bells Tour in San Francisco alongside KRS-One, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Common, Nas, RZA, Raekwon, Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek and others. Welcome to the wonderful world of hip-hop.
THE AWARENESS TOUR show starts 9pm Friday at The Planet Ultralounge, 2110 Fremont St., Monterey. $10/advance; $20/day of. 902-0762, 373-1449.
THE SICKOLOGY 101 TOUR show starts 3pm Sunday at Fox Theater, 241 S. Main St., Salinas. $25. 758-8459, www.vallitix.com.