Over the Weekend...Paid Dues Festival @ Fillmore Auditorium

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Paid Dues Festival featuring De La Soul Friday, June 13, 2008 Fillmore Auditorium Better than: The wack hip-hop at KS107.5’s Summer Jam

Eleven hip-hop artists in six hours: Could you ask for a better night? Not to mention, Denver is only one of four cities slated to get the Festival -- and even then, the last show in San Francisco was cancelled.

We missed opening act B. Dolan because we had issues snagging our tickets but when we walked in, Portland MC and underground hip-hop vet Braille and DJ Idull were rocking the crowd with choice cuts from Braille’s four albums including newest, The IV Edition. The highlight of his set was the emotional performance of “Blessed Man”, where he bares his soul about the birth of his daughter and the death of his father.

After Braille's set, MURS, who hosted the entire evening, introduced Yak Balls, DJ Blue and a hypeman whose name we didn’t catch. The outfit's performance was reminiscent of early Beastie Boys in terms of energy, but the crowd was somewhat complacent. Yak Balls and crew were followed by Kidz in the Hall, this year’s favorite underground hip-hop duo. The act performed tracks from both of its albums, School is My Hustle and The In Crowd, including the soon-to-be summer smash hit, “Drivin’ Down the Block.” And instead of ending the set with a peace sign, the group had the crowd yell, “F*** Soulja Boy.”

How very underground hip-hop of them.

Former Roots member and beatbox extraordinaire, Scratch, took the stage next armed with a sampler the he used to the delight of the crowd. After beatboxing a beat, he'd record it, replay it for the crowd, and then add a bassline with his mouth, as well as some vocal scratches. Moments later, freestyle master Supernatural appeared on stage, where he continued to dazzle the crowd with his off the top wit and impersonations of Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G., and Slick Rick.

Shortly after that, MURS took the stage again, this time with beatmaking wunderkind 9th Wonder. Prior to Friday night, the pair had performed together only two other times – and it showed. Even though MURS pulled out favorites from albums like MURS 3:16 and Murray’s Revenge, there was a lot of talking in between, waiting for the next joint. Hopefully duo will put a little more preparation into their set before the next time they perform together.

After that, when Sage Francis took the stage, his followers were hard to ignore. Francis has a rabid following, almost as if he were a cult leader. But there was also a group of dissenters who really weren't down with the unorthodox style of hip-hop that Francis presents. Some critics compare Francis’ style to the reading of a newspaper over a beat. Regardless, his fans were hyped.

Blackalicious was up next with guest Lateef the Truth Speaker. Those familiar with the music of Blackalicious most likely enjoyed the set, which featured familiar songs such as “Paragraph President” and “A to G.” For those unfamiliar with Gift of Gab, however, it was tough to follow what dude was saying. Half the set sounded like gibberish.

De La Soul finally took the stage sometime after 11 p.m. Surprisingly, the crowd didn’t seemed fatigued, even though a great deal of them had been at the venue for nearly five hours. Pos, Dave, and Maseo made the night memorable for true hip-hop fans, as they ran through a string of their of hits, everything from “Saturdays” and “Stakes Is High,” to recent cuts like “The Grind Date” and classics like “Me, Myself, and I,” which they still claim to hate performing.

– Quibian Salazar-Moreno

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: The pride of my music collection is my ownership of the entire De La Soul discography. Random Detail: Most of the artists on the bill were roaming around the venue mingling with the masses. By the way: There was a huge curtain that cut the venue in half -- what was up with that?

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