Real hip-hop fans accept that hip-hop comes in many forms and at SOB’s Thursday night, real hip-hop fans were definitely in the building. Though the crowd was drawn to the event by Elzhi, the people’s champ of Detroit emcees, they accepted the various acts that preceded him with open ears.
The night began with a brief set from Joe Cool, a young emcee from Louisiana. Cool started off with some technical difficulties, but his charismatic set and frequent acapella verses kept the party people enthused and animated. The highlight of his set was his track, “I Wanna Sell Drugs,” a painful song about the difficulty of being patient when [legal] opportunities are limited.
Cool was followed by 4th Pyramid, an emcee from Toronto. Accompanied by local artist Double AB, Pyramid promptly started his set, sans introduction. He wasn’t as energized as Joe’s, but the party people’s buzz stayed alive throughout. The most memorable moment of his set was when he donned a boxing robe to perform his song, “So Balboa.” Pyramid looked kind of corny in the robe, but also looked comfortable, as if he was really channeling Rocky, so things worked out. Kind of.
Most members of the crowd expected Elxhi’s entrance to follow Pyramid’s exit, but that wasn’t the case. New York based rapper Sene was next up. Audaciously rapping and singing during his set, Sene was a confident performer. He didn’t manage to quell the anxious crowd – only Elzhi could do that – but he did manage to keep things as sane as possible.
After Sene wrapped his brief set up, Elzhi finally emerged. Humble and respectful, he addressed the crowd with true appreciation for coming out to the show. Because brief introductions were the theme of the night, he began his set posthaste. “I been hotter than these pen jotters,” he spat in his first song. The line stood out because though he is informally known as “Detroit’s Best Kept Secret,” that didn’t seem to be the case last night. The audience effortlessly and excitedly rapped along to his verses throughout the night. The secret is definitely out.
Elzhi mostly performed songs from Elmatic, but songs like “Guessing Game” and “Motown 25” from his debut album The Preface also got some spins, greatly pleasing the crowd. The plucky emcee even performed his verse from the Slum Village song “Do You,” afterward shouting out to his former comrades and wishing J Dilla a peaceful rest.
The crowd was exuberant throughout Elzhi’s set, but songs from Elmatic had the crowd particularly amped. The album’s fusion of the old with the new really resonated with the SOB crowd, an intriguing mixture of hip-hop “purists” and “futurists.” Simultaneously embodying various hip-hop legacies — Detroit’s, New York’s, Nas’, — the Elmatic song “Represent” resonated most strongly, especially when Elzhi’s DJ intercalated the song with the Wu Tang classic “C.R.E.A.M.”
All in all, it was a night to remember. As hip-hop progressively bleeds more and more into different genres and styles, it doesn’t lose its life force, but becomes stronger, more vital. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but definitely a positive state of affairs. With artists like Elzhi and fans like the people who came out to SOBs, things will only get better.
Look out for exclusive concert pics in the near future.
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