My Winter Hip Hop Adventure

SupportLocalHip-HopMy name is Jeremy Lopez, but I’m better known as DJ Lochini at KSSU. On my show I play mostly underground hip hop, and I spend a lot of my free time promoting and going to different shows around Sacramento and the Bay Area. Over my break I made it to two memorable shows: Casual from Hieroglyphics at Cooper’s Ale Works in Nevada City and Talib Kweli at The Independent in San Francisco.

The first show I attended was headlined by Casual of the legendary Hieroglyphics crew, and opened with a few of Sacramento’s favorite artists.  Among them were J*Ras of Soulifted, a hip hop/reggae artist from Sacramento who has been getting quite a bit of buzz. He released his most recent album, City of Trees mid last year and has been actively touring around the nation ever since. He brings together positive and meaningful lyrics over some reggae/hip hop fused instrumentals. He held the audience captive with the passion he put into his performance.  J*Ras is a member of the Auburn Hip Hop Congress, which is a network of writers, photographers, and artists who all contribute to the Sacramento music scene. Another artist from the Hip Hop Congress that performed that night was DLabrie. His music has more of a party feel, which made the crowd move.  My favorite track he performed was “Maniac”, of his album MR NETW3RK. He definitely brought a good vibe to the venue. The third Hip Hop Congress member that performed was Odapt. I’ve seen this guy perform in a few shows and freestyle battles around Sacramento, and every time I’m blown away. When his set began the crowd seemed a bit unsure of what to expect, but dispelled all doubts with an incredible performance.  The Hip Hop Congress did a fantastic job warming up the mic for Casual.

Finally, it was time for the headliner. Casual has been active in the underground hip hop scene since 1991 both as a solo artist and with the Hieroglyphics crew. With the crowd chanting, “Hiero, Hiero!” Casual finally rushed  to the stage. At that moment the energy in the venue was at its peak. He performed a wide variety of his work from his classic track, “That’s How It Is” to his newest track “Respect Game or Expect Flames”.  As I was standing in the back of the venue looking toward the stage, all I could was Casual and a sea of hands in the air. This was the first time I got to see him do a solo performance. The two previous times I’ve seen him he was with the whole Hieroglyphics crew and only performed a few verses. After his full solo performance he exited the stage with roaring applause, showing me a true hip hop contender.

The second show I attended over break was headlined by Talib Kweli. He is one of my favorite hip hop artists out there because of the ideas and messages he puts behind his rhymes.  Despite all of his international fame he has gained over the years, he has made always made music that teaches and inspires his listeners. Talib released his first album, Black Star, costarring Mos Def back in 1999, and he released his first solo album, Train of Thought, in 2000. These were two incredible albums to have right at the beginning of his career. Since that point, he has only continued to amaze his listeners with every subsequent project.

This particular show was the third time that I had seen him, but it was equally as memorable as the previous ones.  I remember anticipating this show the entire week; partially because my friend was joining me, and it was going to be his first time seeing Talib Kweli. We both have loved his music for over a decade, so to us, it was certainly worth the two hour drive from Sacramento. That night, Talib was performing at The Independent, which is a distinguished venue in San Francisco. I really enjoyed the club’s atmosphere, and with an array of photos from previous sold out shows, you get the idea they were one of the top clubs in San Francisco. It was the first time we both had been to The Independent, but after that show, it definitely will not be our last. One thing I’ve experienced at all of Talib’s shows is that he never puts on a dull performance. You can always feel how much passion he puts into his music by the energy he puts into every performance.

It was actually a relief to see there were only two opening acts scheduled for that night. The first opening act I saw was DJ Mark Divita, who I had seen before at Harlow’s in Sacramento. He is the DJ and and manager for the well-known hip hop duo, Camp Lo. I remember he played a lot of popular east coast hip hop songs, which brought me back to my teenage years for a moment. I really enjoyed his set because he incorporated a lot of scratching to really transform the other artists’ tracks into his own. After him, came a Bay Area duo by the name of RGLND & DUCKWRTH, who brought the club’s energy to the next level. For some younger artists, it was refreshing to see they had a style of their own. Their sound was a nice mixture of conscious and club hip hop. They used their quick lyrical tongue twisters to grab the attention of the now near full venue. By this point, the crowd was in and ready to hear some hip hop. As they finished their set and departed the stage, the crowd showed their appreciation with their cheers.  With a few minutes passing, now the crowd was screaming for Talib Kweli to hit the stage. Suddenly, the room darkened, and then came back on with him on the stage. Right at that moment the crowd was cheering full force. Talib performed for over an hour, which is great because he covered songs from his entire career.  Nothing is comparable to hearing your favorite songs live, and especially being able to sing along your favorite parts with the artist. He is also incredible at the way he can talk to and connect with the crowd. He would pause every one or two tracks to share a story, or to share some powerful pieces of advice.  When he finished his set, he received a standing encore for 3-4 minutes. This was the crowd showing appreciation for his exceptional performance. That show will remain unforgettable for both my friend my and I.

Overall, I had a good dose of hip hop during my winter break. Both of the shows I attended showcased the skills of many amazing artists, both old and new. I have a lot of respect for performers who work to make their music inspiring to their listeners. I still look at hip hop as an art, so I can appreciate that these artists use it to display their true talent and creativity. Real hip hop culture is about expression, and people like Casual and Talib Kweli remind us to keep the music true to its essence.


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