DILATED PEOPLES, REFLECTION ETERNAL FEATURING TALIB KWELI
A year ago this bill would have been a showcase for the hip-hop underground’s best and brightest: when LA’s Dilated Peoples opened for Jurassic 5 last summer at Metro, they were paragons of hip-hop purity with three superb indie singles under their belt, while as half of Black Star, Talib Kweli was a bright light on New York’s principled underground scene. A year later Dilated Peoples are about to release their debut album, The Platform, on Capitol, and Kweli has become a minor celebrity shilling for Levi’s with his partner Mos Def. Luckily, the attention doesn’t seem to have distracted either act from the music. The Peoples–MC Iriscience, MC and producer Evidence, and DJ Babu (also of the World Famous Beat Junkies)–are still intensely focused on hip-hop fundamentals: lean grooves, deep scratches, and bumpin’ beats. The rhymes and the delivery aren’t flashy, and the MCs stick mostly to boasting about their skills (though in “Service,” Iriscience gives props to Babu: “It’s a fact this cat’s more felt than slipmats”). Babu has a deep trick bag, as he’s shown with the Beat Junkies, but with Dilated Peoples he keeps it efficiently old school. It sounds simple–it is simple–but the energy level is into the red. By comparison Kweli is far more restrained and erudite–on his classic “The Manifesto,” from 1998, he pretty much wrote the Ten Commandments of keepin’ it real, preaching lines like “Know your shit and don’t ever be blunted / If you don’t know what your words mean then your rhymes mean nothin’.” Reflection Eternal, his side project with DJ Hi-Tek, doesn’t differ drastically from Black Star in lyrical content, but Hi-Tek’s tracks are leaner than what he and others have produced for Black Star. If the forthcoming album is as good as the new single, “The Express” (Rawkus), it should at the least reinforce Kweli’s status as one of hip-hop’s most vital plain dealers. Monday, 7:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Block.