Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13

Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Hip Hop Harambee 
with International Reggae All Stars, Psymun & K.Raydio, Lizzo and Lazerbeak, Vandaam, Dred I Dread, Toki Wright & Big Cats, Devin the Dude, Shabazz Palaces and Big K.R.I.T.
Nomad World Pub, Minneapolis
Saturday, September 22, 2013

The Hip-Hop Harambee once again provided a big show and a great community space outside the West Bank's Nomad Pub. It was a long, varied day with a wide range of hip-hop fans congregating together in the same space.

See Also: Slideshow: Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad World Pub, 9/21/13

Opening DJ Kulcha Human spun some Atmosphere classics as the crowd arrived into the Nomad's lot space, which was slowly building a bustling group of people. To the left of the bar, in a free space open to anyone with or without a ticket, artists and graffiti muralists were painting and the DJ was setting up for a breakdancing performance. Some delicious smells wafted from the Assase Yaa food truck. Volunteers handed out examples of rank-choice voting as a public service to educate voters on the concept, with informal ballots asking things like if Chance the Rapper was better than Earl Sweatshirt. A big board asked people what they'd like to do before they die, with responses that varied from "Bring Peace To The Middle East" to "Sip Wit Tity Boi." Chalk drawings adorned the sidewalks, and the gates were covered in drawings by small children who defined "Harambee" however they felt appropriate. ("I saw a drawing of a big buff naked dude that a kindergartner made," said the events co-host P.O.S. at one point during the show. "That's awesome.") Even before things really got going, there was quite a commotion all over the West Bank.
Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13

Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Once the music kicked off with the famed International Reggae All-Stars, it was already evident that this year was going to be expanding on last year's sound. The first of two reggae outfits of the day (Dred I Dread would hit the stage later), the Minneapolis institution brought some smooth roots sounds to what was sadly a small showing of people at the start. Still, the vibe of the day started off on the right foot. Hosts Tish Jones and P.O.S. were a great pairing, bringing a good amount of humor and gravity to the day's event, reminding the audience of the importance of community locally, worldwide, and today specifically, as well as how the greatness of hoodie weather. 

Psymun and K. Raydio took the stage next and continued the previous band's close attention to deep bass. K. Raydio has been floating around the scene for some time but really started to catch some national attention when she linked up with the deep glitch-groove producer Psymun, who has managed to facilitate her best work yet. With her mellow yet sultry melodies complimenting Psymun's subtle beats, K. Raydio's understated grooves made for a quieter antecedent to Lizzo's performance with Lazerbeak which followed shortly thereafter.
Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Propelled by some horn-and-drum heavy live MPC beats from the Doomtree producer, Lizzo and her hype-man Cliff powered through a slew of new tracks from her upcoming solo debut Lizzobangers. This set was right in the midst of an insane schedule of shows: After a short tour, Lizzo returned to Minneapolis to perform both as opener and band member for Har Mar Superstar, with whom she'll be on tour for the next three months. She seemed slightly enervated but pushed through to deliver one of the strongest sets of the day. Lizzo's vicious flow burst forward with a second wind of adrenaline that shined through in both singing and rap performances and her audacious stage presence. GRRRL PRTY joined on stage for the huge tracks "Wegula" and "Batches and Cookies," waving flags and generally owning everything in sight. It was a grand performance from the most exciting act in Minneapolis rap.

Three-piece electronic band Vandaam followed and decidedly brought the energy to a chill with a nice blend of styles underneath Lady Midnight's spacey vocals. Producers and knob-twiddlers Adept and sloslylove shifted all across the EDM spectrum smoothly. The beats were danceable yet ambient, as Lady Midnight poured out gorgeous reverberating vocals and sashayed her knit vest, covered in multi-colored wigs. The sound is hard to pin down which seems like the point, and reflected on the eclecticism of the day. Inside the Nomad local producers showcased their work, even battling with one another, during the Last of the Record Buyers segment, highlighting a side of Minnesota talent that is often not given a public face. 
Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Keeping things down-tempo back outside on the mainstage were Toki Wright and Big Cats, who unveiled their new collaborative material for the first time, with the help of Lydia Hoglund, keyboardist Eric Mayson, and Voice of Culture on drums, with dancers Kenna Cottman and Titus "Tazzrae" Henderson. The material was fairly down-tempo, with slower low-key beats that allowed Toki to switch between fast rapping and drawn out lyrics as the mood suited. "I was on ecstasy the day after they shot Abdulle" he rapped at one point as the backing band sunk into a solely organ section; with the mural in the background that said "RIP Abdulle," it was a powerful, striking moment. Certain songs brought the energy level up, and lyrics wove between topics both solemn and shit-talking ("you're stealing more shit than Azaelia Banks" was a shots-fired highlight). It's an interesting new direction for all involved and stood out among the day's performers.

There was some question as to whether Devin the Dude belonged at an all-ages show. Known for his distinct stoner croon, marijuana is obviously one of the Dude's favorite subject, but so is sex. The raunchy toasts to pussy got a generally positive response from the appreciative audience, but the misogyny felt too far for some. The good vibe Devin continually carries with him made his tight performance, which included some of my favorites like "Fuck You" and "Doobie Ashtray," a fitting addition to the day but certainly one that walked a line. As he made his way off stage he dapped up everyone in the front row.
Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13

Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Shabazz Palaces were flat-out incredible. The sun was down at this point and the cool air added atmosphere to the polyrhythmic futurist sound. Rapper Palaceer Lazaro has such a synchronicity with percussionist and backing vocalist Tendai "Baba" Maraire that their boundary-pushing hip-hop music feels loose and natural. The instrumentals have an undeniable experimental tone but the raps are a clear push into new territory, finding a throwback smoothness in a modern approach. Afterwards, in the back of the lot the Isphyre fire spinners caught attention in the typical way pyrotechnics will.

Hip Hop Harambee at Nomad, 9/21/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Finally, headliner Big K.R.I.T. arrived to close out the night. As he ran through some big crowd favorites, he brought the energy level of his normally laid-back material up to festival standard. The audience was at it's thickest point of the day and everyone was moving. K.R.I.T. is an animated performer with a deep backlog of quality songs, and his production makes it difficult to stay still. Though it was a full and lively set, it felt like it cut short. Screams for an encore after closer "Just Last Week" went unanswered, but people seemed satisfied with the quality of the show. 

Musically, the show was a definite step up from last year, but the overall feel again captured the essence that the curators and organizers envisioned. A beautiful day and a highlight of the summer.

Personal Bias: For full disclosure, I played beats during the Last of the Record Buyers portion.

Overheard In the Crowd: Shortly after Devin the Dude's set - "I wanted to light this up but nobody's talking about smoking weed right now."

The Crowd: Very diverse, many recognizable faces.

Setlist (Big K.R.I.T.):

Talkin Bout Nothin
Just Touched Down
Sookie Now
Me & My Old School
My Trunk
Moon & Stars
What U Mean
Only One
Money On The Floor
I Got This

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