Thursday, June 12, 2008

RZA brings Bobby Digital and crew to Emo's

It must be unofficially "Real Hip Hop Week" here in Austin this week as this is the third hip hop show I caught in three days. What's nice about everything is that it hasn't been the over saturated radio stuff you hear on most hip hop stations these days. This week and this show was for the backpackers, old school lovers and edu-tainment genre lovers. The RZA is the super producer and MC for the greatest hip hop super group ever assembled, The Wu Tang Clan. He graced Austin with his presence Wednesday night at Emo's for his "RZA as Bobby Digital" tour. Bobby Digital, for those that don't know, is his alter ego.

RZA brought with him a crew of Wu Affiliates including the Black Knights, Solomon Childs and Stone Mecca. Truthfully, I had not heard of either of those artists but I knew I could expect decent music at the very least because RZA isn't going to let just anyone on his tour. He wouldn't damage his good name, reputation or credibility by bringing some whack rappers or singers. I mean this is the genius backbone of The Wu Tang Clan.

When I got to Emo's there was already a good amount of people in line and inside before me, but I still was able to get up front by the stage. As we all waited for the performers to get started, we listened to the sounds of Austin's own DJ Notion. He was alright, not terrible or anything. He had the crowd bobbing their heads, warming them up and doing his job. Nothing he played sucked and no one booed him, so he definitely knew the crowd he was catering to. Had he spun some D4L or Soulja Boy, he would have been booed at and harassed by this crowd. The RZA fans in attendance mostly consisted of hip hop purists that would eat you alive should you come with some "BS". After his set he gave away some cool posters he made for the RZA show. I didn't go get one in fear of losing my spot up front. Looking back, I wish I would have.

After DJ Notion was done with his set, another DJ for the rest of the show set up along with a crew setting up band equipment for Stone Mecca later. After another good DJ set, Staten Island Wu Affiliate Solomon Childs came on stage, claiming to be fresh of the airplane. He didn't have much to work off of in terms of music he would have normally performed to. Childs had the DJ go off previous recordings he did and did some freestyles. I posted one of them on you tube for you to check out. I liked him personally. His was flow was grimey and raw, true to the Wu Tang brand and style. It was a real short set but enough to spark my curiousity as to who how was and what music he's done. Hopefully if you catch this tour in another city, you will get to check him out. I hope that he gets to do a longer set and most importantly, the set he wanted to do last night.

Following Solomon Childs was a West Coast Wu Affiliate called "Black Knights", or RZA's West Coast Killa Bees. Despite the Compton ski hat and Raiders jersey, you could definitely tell from their sound they were West Coast. I really can't explain that to those who aren't hip hop afficionados, but they just had that flow and swagger that screams "West West". Now its been too long since I saw any West Coast rappers (not including the Dilated Peoples show Monday night) I think the last one was maybe Snoop at the old Austin Music Hall. Now the Black Knights had beats that were darker than the West Coast G-funk style beats typically associated with West Coast sound. Again, staying true to the Wu sound and brand. They had good energy despite the humidity and heat and the crowd seemed to be feeling them. The most notable moment for me during the Black Knight's set was when one of them started rhyming acapella. Their set didn't seem that long either, but that was fine as the crowd was hot and were still a band away from the headliner.

Stone Mecca, the co-headliner for The RZA, was not a hip hop act. They were a soul band or R&B collective if you will. Being unfamiliar with Stone Mecca and a fan of this sort of music, I was looking forward to this set. Plus I was hoping that their music was chill enough to calm the crowd a little because it was starting to feel like a rock concert with all the pushing and shoving. After over 10 years of mosh pits and craziness, I was starting to feel my age in the front row. I'm not 18 anymore, that's for sure.

I also started to wonder why or how it was a soul act was going on right before RZA. It didn't make sense to me as Stone Mecca wouldn't have been my first choice to go on right before RZA. They were really good though. They had a good band that included key boards players, a bassist, a guitar player, drummer, bongos...the works. They also had three lovely ladies singing what I thought would be back up, but they all sing individually on certain tracks. The lead singer, Jevon McGlory, fronted most of the songs. I would describe Stone Mecca to people as a mix of Toni Tony Tone, Maxwell, and Klymaxx. What won me over was a song called "A Walk". It was song featured in RZA's cartoon, "Afro Samurai". They were the best surprise of the night for me.

Speaking of surprises, RZA just came out of no where when he took the stage. Stone Mecca didn't break down their instruments, which is why I was caught off guard. As it turns out, Stone Mecca was the house band for RZA. Logistically it all made sense to me at that point. All RZA had to do once Stone Mecca's set was done was to just come out and start rockin' the crowd. That RZA is so smart I tell you...must be all that Wuchess.

Once RZA got started, it was like rock concert crazy. He started with his own music, mostly off his solo records and new forthcoming album "Digi Snacks". The song I remember him performing off that album was "You Can't Stop Me Now". He had the crowd responding and singing along with him the whole time, even the dudes stage diving and making a mosh pit. You can tell he was really feeling the love from Austin as all night the crowd were throwing up the signature Wu Tang W's and chanting "WU TANG" for him. He even said himself that he loved their energy despite how crazy hot it was.

Things really started to get crazy and people excited when he took off his top shirt to expose his Wu undershirt. At that point he got into some older Wu Tang classics which the crowd loved, getting the loudest it had been all night. The last time I saw anything Wu related was in 1997 during the MTV Sports and Music Fest at Zilker Park. That was the largest crowd of that three day festival, partly because Method Man headlined during the height of the Wu Tang's popularity....or so I thought. After last night, it was clear we are still at the height of the Wu Tang Clan's popularity and it will never die. I swear at one point I saw in RZA's eyes at one point where he was going to get emotional. I can't say I blame him. It was a beautiful thing. Austin had nothing but love for him and his whole crew. Someone even brought their Wu Tang Manual with them. I left mine at home.

Hip Hop was once again alive and well in Austin, real hip hop that is. Hopefully these past three days will be a wake up call for more hip hop acts to come by Austin. Mos Def anyone?

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