Hip-hop gets funked up at Sunday night show
Whether you’ve come to get down with some funk or throw your hands up to a bit of hip-hop, a show at MontBleu Resort, Casino and Spa this weekend has it all.
MC’s Chali 2na – the distinctive baritone in Los Angeles based hip-hop group Jurassic 5 – and Boots Riley – from Oakland’s oft-controversial The Coup – will join headlining Southern funk band, Galactic, for a genre-bending journey through the underground this Sunday night, Oct. 14
More well respected than well known, 2na and Riley appear on Galactic’s new album, “From the Corner to the Block,” which also includes distinguished hip-hop artists Juvenile, Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab, Ladybug from Digable Planets and Lyrics Born.
As for Galactic themselves, “they’ve definitely got the New Orleans funk vibe,” according to Dan Green, guitarist for South Lake Tahoe’s own Waiting for T.I.M., which will be playing the show’s after party at MontBleu’s Opal Ultra Lounge.
Green has seen Galactic perform live a couple of times in recent years and described them as in his “top 10” favorite shows.
Formed in 1994 Galactic has developed a following based largely on the strength of its live performances. Galactic’s up-close-and-personal proficiency can be heard throughout 2001’s live album “We Love ‘Em Tonight: Live at Tipitina’s.”
In regard to “From the Corner to the Block,” music that is likely to be prominent during Sunday’s show, Green said it’s “not the typical Galactic album.” He didn’t go as far as saying it was bad, only that he had “mixed feelings.”
The lukewarm reaction from longtime fans to the critically acclaimed album was not entirely unexpected, according to Robert Mercurio, Galactic’s bass player. He acknowledged there were “all these other things we could have done,” during a phone interview last week.
With the departure of their lead singer in 2004, Galactic saw an opportunity, deciding, “let’s do the album we’ve always wanted to,” Mercurio said.
Fans of old school hip-hop, Galactic used their new-found freedom as a way to invite multiple MCs into its signature funk sound.
“We wanted this to be a party album,” Mercurio said.
Not that it would be difficult to party with the deep grooves found in Galactic’s previous efforts, but expanding the festivities begged a new direction (think: a DJ digging up previously unheard sounds from old vinyl records).
A fan of hip-hop’s roots, Mercurio had grown jaded with the boisterousness found in much of the best-selling strains of hip-hop in recent years. The re-emergence old school flavors from groups like Jurassic 5 and artists on Bay Area record label, Quannum Projects, over the past decade saw new life breathed into the genre for the Galactic bass player.
Having developed friendships with some of the MCs now featured on “From the Corner to the Block,” tracking down prime lyricists for the album was not a problem, but the bass player encountered the occasional challenge in giving hip-hop the proper funk.
Working with the MC’s required the bass player to “put a little more room in the grooves” to allow the proper space for lyrics more dense than your typical lead singer’s, Mercurio said.
The effectiveness of the collaboration will be heard during a Sunday night set that will see Galactic playing much of their own material while inserting Jurassic 5 and The Coup classics into the mix, Mercurio said.
Lifesavas opens the show
Quannum Projects, the label at least partially responsible for bringing Mercurio back to hip-hop will also be well-represented on Sunday, with Northwest hip-hop group Lifesavas scheduled as Galactic’s opener.
Lifesava’s debut “Spirit in Stone,” was released on Quannum in 2003 and received widespread praise.
With anticipation running high, Lifesavas’ released “Gutterfly” in April.
Inspired by early 1970’s “Blaxploitation” films, such as 1971’s “Shaft,” the album sees Lifesavas’ Jumbo the Garbage Man and Vursatyl taking on the roles of hustlers Bumpy Johnson and Sleepy Floyd as they find their way through the seedy underbelly of Razorblade City, a moniker for their actual hometown of Portland, Ore.
An unusual concept, the album thumps with intricately produced beats and conscious lyrics on par with “Spirit in Stone.”
It is as progressive a hip-hop album as you’re likely to hear these days, and with Lifesavas’ having recently wrapped up their own national headlining tour, “Gutterfly” tracks like the bubbling “Double Up” and “A Serpents Love (Scene 2),” a secret agent sounding jam, shouldn’t disappoint live.
Galactic, featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 and Boots Riley of The Coup, play MontBleu this Sunday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with Lifesavas warming up the crowd at 8 p.m. Advance tickets cost $25 and are available at Mad About Music, the MontBleu Box Office, online at http://www.renegadeshows.com, or by calling (530) 583-2801.