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by Don Crispy

Alternative Hip-Hop Past and Present

The Pharcyde

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-hop’s 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 ’90s.

Booked for tonight at Yellow are the MCs of NYC’s Definitive Jux, the label founded just a few years ago by rapper El-P. One of contemporary hip-hop’s 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 Rocha’s solo album, El-P also found the time to release his own debut album, Fantastic Damage, in 2002.

El-P

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 Boston.

Providing counterpoint to the verbal musings of the Def Jux posse, Japan’s champion turntablist Kentaro, the 2002 DMC World Final Champion, will be on hand to demonstrate his scratch athletics...

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 Hasebe’s weekly Fowl events.

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 1992’s gold album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde did, 2000’s Plain Rap was given generally high marks by the music press.

The album saw the loss of one of the group’s 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. www.club-yellow.com

credits: Yellow