I’ve heard complaints that the Occupy movement doesn’t have a clear message, but Saturday night you could read it from a passing car. At an intersection off of Broadway, where a large crowd had gathered, a few people held up a giant banner on the corner that read “FUCK THE POLICE.” And as we passed groups of officers in riot gear and searched for parking among the cop cars on nearly every block, it was also obvious that a confrontation was brewing.
It may have been N.W.A. out on the streets, but inside the New Parish where a show was taking place, it was strictly no beefing. Rapper Phonte and DJ/producer 9th Wonder, formerly members of North Carolina’s alternative hip-hop group Little Brother, were finally performing together after settling some outstanding public grievances.
Addressing the crowd midway through the show, Phonte -- in a playfully straight-forward manner -- explained that he’d done a lot of growing in the last year, and that he’d learned that mistakes have a way of living on the Internet. Recalling some Southern gospel preaching, he asked the audience to repeat the word “perpetuity” after him, on top of turning to their neighbors and saying “You got to own up to your own shit.”
Support included local openers including Richmond’s Locksmith and D.U.S.T. from Zion I’s crew as well as tour mates Median and Rapsody, but the focus of the show was definitely Phonte and 9th, who ripped through a set of material including both LB and more recent solo work. Part of their speed was necessity. “Grown man rap time,” Phonte called it, explaining that being an aging artist meant that you have an aging audience, with children, bills, and responsibilities, well past the point where “you can spend the whole god damn night at the rap show.”
On the plus side, having an older audience means that they are also likely to be more familiar with your work. When the beat dropped on “Lovin’ It,” a major track from LB’s 2005 concept album, The Minstrel Show, the whole crowd went off.
But what really surprised me was to see a couple upstairs singing to each other the call and response section of “Make Me Hot,” a short proto-soul/Percy Miracles from LB’s 2003 debut The Listening. There was a sense of coming together (if you put the civil unrest an police action going down half a mile away out of mind.).
And considering that Phonte said it was his first sold out “solo” show in the Bay Area, definitely a long time coming. Which may have been why, despite expressing a plan to “Come to the show, spit these raps, take my ass home,” he didn’t seem to be rushing it.