In the late 80s New York’s Native Tongues crew–De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Jungle Brothers–injected hip-hop with a dose of worldliness, introducing a broad array of subject matter that put the old boasters to shame. And when the posse re-formed a few years back, it avoided the easy rush of nostalgia by bringing in new blood, including Chicago’s Common and New Yorkers like the Bush Babees and Mos Def. As a result, hip-hop has once again seen a new generation of vital artists rise up from the underground, acts that keep a firm grasp on hip-hop’s rich past while forging their own styles. Three of them open for Common here on Saturday night: Mos Def first broke out with a stellar cameo on De La Soul’s Stakes Is High, but he made a lasting impression last year with a series of singles on the Rawkus label. On Reflection Eternal’s “Fortified Live” single and the new “Body Rock,” with Tribe’s Q-Tip and Tash of Tha Alkaholiks, he recalls the entertainment values of old-school hip-hop and brings a new intelligence to MC battle rhymes, with a distinctive lazy drawl and subtle rhythmic accents. The group Mood doesn’t have a lyricist as gifted as Mos Def, but its debut album, Doom (Blunt), has lots of other things going for it. Like most underground hip-hop, the music is appealingly lean: tough beats, a simple bass line, and loops of guitar or piano is as deep as the accompaniment usually goes. The raps are filled with messages about keeping hip-hop vital, mostly by resisting the corrupting lure of the music industry; one of the best, “Cincinnati,” calls Mood’s hometown on its white-breadness: “No culture, no hip-hop / Black business stopped by cops who roll blocks / Niggas scared to pop, this shit’s got to stop.” On No Additives, No Preservatives, the self-released debut album from Chicago’s All Natural, MC Capital D and DJ Tone B. Nimble display a real knack for wordplay–in “This Is How It Should Be Done,” Capital D spits, “Like Fred from Welcome Back, Kotter / I go boom boom washing tons of MCs like dungarees”–but their delivery is not particularly strong. Saturday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Mos Def photo by Franck Khalfoun; uncredited photos.