by Don Crispy
Alternative Hip-Hop Past and Present
In contrast to the commercial hip-hop on offer at Harlem
in Shibuya, this week Yellow in Nishi-Azabu plays host to
two of alternative hip-hops more unusual forces. One
of them represents the current cutting edge in intelligent
rap from New York, while the other was one of the most imaginative
groups to emerge out of South Central Los Angeles in the early
Booked for tonight at Yellow are the MCs of NYCs Definitive
Jux, the label founded just a few years ago by rapper El-P.
One of contemporary hip-hops pioneers, El-P first made
his mark with the groundbreaking trio Company Flow in the
mid-late 90s. Collaborating with Harlem (the real one
in NYC) rappers Cannibal Ox and participating in former Rage
Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rochas solo
album, El-P also found the time to release his own debut album,
Fantastic Damage, in 2002.
In the meantime, he had also signed a number of MCs who shared
his interest in pushing the boundaries of hip-hop, and in
taking on the establishment with politically charged lyrics
that contrast starkly with the bling-bling ethic of top-sellers
like Jay-Z or the self-absorption of Eminem. Among them were
RJD2, who has just released the moody The Horror, and Mr.
Lif, perhaps the most touted rapper ever to emerge out of
Providing counterpoint to the verbal musings of the Def Jux
posse, Japans champion turntablist Kentaro, the 2002
DMC World Final Champion, will be on hand to demonstrate his
Coming soon on the heels of Def Jux, West Coast stoner rappers
par excellence, the Pharcyde, appear on Tuesday as part of
influential Japanese hip-hop producer DJ Hasebes weekly
Along with Cypress Hill perhaps the leading West Coast counterpoint
to the dominant gangsta rap of the early 90s, the Pharcyde
had faded from view, but are now back in rotation with a series
of fresh recordings and tours. While nothing seems to have
captured the zeitgeist in the way that 1992s gold album
Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde did, 2000s Plain Rap was
given generally high marks by the music press.
The album saw the loss of one of the groups four MCs,
Fat Lip, to a solo career, but the original trio, Slim Kid
Tre, Imani and Booty Brown remained intact. Leading website
All Music Guide called it a highly emotionally tangible
album that combines delicate content with tight production.
Definitive Jux@Yellow, 3/21, 10pm,
¥3,000 (adv), ¥3,500 (door).
The Pharcyde@Yellow, 3/25, 10pm, ¥2,500. Tel: 03-3746-2368.