Crown City Rockers, Mighty Underdogs and Blackalicious October 27, 2007, Fox Theatre Better than: Dropping a grand on tickets to the Museum of Contemporary Art opening.
There were only a handful of people in the building for the all-ages show when the Crown City Rockers hit the stage, but the five-person group still managed to rock the house. An interesting amalgamation of rock band and hip-hop crew, Crown City (headed by MC Raashan Ahmad) did an admirable job prepping the crowd for Blackalicious; highlights included a battle between Ahmad and Crown City's drummer, Max MacVeety. "This guy is a Red Sox fan," Ahmad told the audience, and waited for the chorus of "boos" before matching his words against MacVeety's drumsticks; toward the end of the battle, the two switched position, with MacVeety rhyming and Ahmad keeping the beat -- and each of them doing the name of the band justice.
Impressive as all that was, it was just a precurser to Blackalicious. The Fox was starting to fill up by the end of Crown City's set, and when Blackalicious finally hit the stage at around 10:45 p.m., it was packed. When Chief Xcel appeared behind the decks, everyone was more than ready to see Gift of Gab spit his game. The group drew heavily from their 2002 album Blazing Arrow, kicking off the set with "Paragraph President" and moving through "Blazing Arrow," "First in Flight," "Sky is Falling," "Make You Feel That Way" and "It's Going Down." They also threw in some favorites from 2005's The Craft, including "World of Vibrations" and "Rhythm Sticks." And, of course, Gift of Gab entertained the crowd with his freestyling skills and ability to get an entire building calling back according to his instruction -- the most memorable being the "party over here, fuck y'all over there," battle between the right and left side of the Fox, made all the more entertaining with such characters as a pot Brownie, Danny and Sandy from Grease and other costumed revelers enjoying the scene. Keyboardist for the Crown City Rockers Cat Ouano even appeared back on stage to contribute to a song or two.
But perhaps the best (and certainly the most old-school hip-hop) aspect of the evening came smack-dab in the middle of Blackalicious's set, when the soul singers and Chief Xcel disappeared to make room for Gift of Gab's new project, the Mighty Underdogs. Comprised of Gab, Lateef the Truthspeaker and DJ Headnotic (who, by the way, plays bass for the Crown City Rockers), the Mighty Underdogs had every hand in the house in the air, pumping with the beat, for their entire thirty-minute set. It was also the first night you could get your hands on the Mighty Underdogs EP (titled The Prelude), which features such hip-hop heavyweights as DJ Shadow, MF Doom, Ladybug Mecca of the Digable Planets and the Crown City Rockers' Rashaan Ahmad. It's just a precurser to their 2008 album Dropping Science Fiction, which will include collaborations with Damian and Julian Marley, K-OS, Lyrics Born, Chali 2na and more. Whew!
Xcel and the Blackalicious soul singers reappeared to wrap up the night, and the encore included a freestyle session between the Gift of Gab, Raashan Ahmad and Lateef the Truthspeaker. -- Amber Taufen
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Full disclosure: Blazing Arrow has been my all-around favorite album for about three years now. Random Detail: Part of the encore was supposed to include "Chemical Calisthenics," but they ran out of time. By the Way: The security at the Fox was fierce, with two people stationed where they could see all around the building. Were they expecting some trouble on Halloween?