Strange Doom Sayers Tour at the Triple Rock, 4/10/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Strange Doom Sayers Tour
With B. Dolan, Mike Mictlan, and Toki Wright
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The Strange Doom Sayers tour seems like such a natural combination of underground talent that it's surprising the artists involved haven't made it an annual gig. Part of the reason the team-up seems so effortless is that Mictlan, Toki Wright, and B. Dolan all represent relative anomalies in the sound that their respective indie hip-hop labels built their names on. Always eager to push boundaries, these three MCs are consistent innovators, blending a wide variety of new influences with their boom-bap roots.
One of the most enjoyable things about witnessing Mike Mictlan perform is that he never, ever lets the audience out of the palm of his hand. Whether rocking an older solo cut like "Prizefight" or a fresh new banger like "Foolio Iglesias," Mictlan brings a roguish swagger and pit-bull charm that's simply irresistible. Working the undersized crowd for every drop of energy, the Doomtree representative really shone when he got the chance to play with some of the grimy, party-ready material off of his Snaxxx mixtape.
Photos by Erik Hess
The new beats give the already gifted rapper a chance to really show off the technical skills he's honed from years in the game. Mictlan's trademark bark lent itself well to the skipping, Southern-influenced flows that he tries out on Snaxxx. Fellow snaxxxer Spyder Baybie brought the grime to a new level for "Scottie Pippen," kicking off an impressive blast through some of the mixtape's best tunes, like "Give It to Mikey." During a shout-out to his Strange Doom Sayer teammates, Mictlan called out DJ Fundo from the stage for being "even more of a creep then I am" and launched into "Creeper Status," gunning up high speed raps and changing patterns with ease. A solo jaunt through the undeniable local rap anthem "Get Down" lured the audience in with a familiar hook until they were literally jumping on command. Closing with potentially the title track of his new album, "HELLA FRREAL," Mike waved goodbye to the crowd and Doomtree's utility member Baby Ander, who held down the decks.
Mictlan and Toki Wright both carry heavy reps within the local rap community for keeping their respective crews' ears to the street. In Toki's case, that meant years of fighting for recognition and honing chops in the bad old days of the TC hip-hop circuit. Hailing from the mighty North Side of the 612, Toki has just as many block bonafides as his Doomtree colleague, but has drifted toward a more soulful, occasionally electronic sound as he's aged. He was backed by his usual team of Kevin Washington on drums, Mayda on bass, Tasha Baron of Black Blondie fame on keys, and the legendary Reggie Reg of Soul Tools cutting and running the samples.
While it's a set he's been performing for a while now, Toki's performance had a lively, friendly vibe last night that isn't always present. Shaking hands all over as he began "Set Up to Go," the MC made an instant connection with the front row that would carry him through the rest of a solid show. Be it on the dred-shaking "Sun Is Shining" or the moodier "No Option," Toki radiated a compelling confidence and was quick with a warm, wide grin. After briefly sending his band offstage, Toki showcased his versatility, rocking over just the turntables with a gutter-honed swagger. "Higher Ground," produced by Bobby Raps of Audio Perm, was the standout banger from this mini-set, and the performance made a strong case for the rapper's individual prowess. The band handled itself admirably, grooving through the two set-closers of "Mo Fiya" and "Devil's Advocate" with professional skill and flair. Kevin Washington owns a rather stunning falsetto voice that he put to good use, acting as Toki's hype man and providing much needed harmony support on the mellow numbers.
Photos by Erik Hess
B. Dolan could totally be mistaken for a local rapper if you managed to overlook the rich East Coast heritage in his flow and mannerisms. At one point the monolithic MC quipped that he always felt pressure to perform well in the Twin Cities. "You see a lot of great hip-hop here don't you?" he asked the crowd, "I bet at least half of you are rappers, there's probably some bloggers in here too." Guilty as charged, but it's quickly apparent that the pressure he feels is born from a deep respect for our musical community. According to Dolan, we were his first ever touring gig, back in 2002, and just over 10 years later the love seems to have grown even stronger.
Like his labelmate and friend Cecil Otter, who happened to be in attendance, along with some big-name Rhymesayers, the Rhode Island/New York rapper likes to explore the dark and complex zones where hip-hop and poetry intersect. Weaving dense and often cynical narratives with a black sense of humor and a simmering intensity, Dolan's edgier material would be right at home here in our land of mercury retrograde depression.
However, the brooding qualities only make for half of the B. Dolan persona, with the other being made up of good old-fashioned NYC undeground flavor. The best tunes of the night were tracks like "Economy of Words," a stinging indictment of corporate welfare that gave the MC room to spit each syllable like a bullet aimed for a CEO's cranium, taking the cadence from semi to fully automatic at the song's climax. A physically intimidating bull of a man, eyes often shrouded with his trademark sunglasses, Dolan filled the stage up with more than just mass. The strength of his conviction is palpable, even when he wades into thorny issues like critiquing homophobia in hip-hop on "Which Side Are You On?" which samples the classic folk tune of the same name. Inviting his tourmates up to the stage for a explosive rendition of "Film the Police" featuring Mictlan in the place of Jasiri X, the trio pulled out all the stops and made for such an enjoyable combination that I hope all three get on a record together at some point.
Photo by Erik Hess
The end of the set featured a return to some of Dolan's more poetic material, diving deep into the conflicted legacies of two men he found inspirational: Evel Knievel and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Spinning eloquent tales of how both men lived on the edge of sanity and were often reduced to mere characters because of it, B. Dolan's may have had his greatest moment of the night in his new piece "Who Killed Russel Jones?" that he delivered in leiu of an encore. With a structure something like a children's tale, Dolan's song traces the exploitation of ODB to a myriad of sources, including his own fans.
It's a shame the show was relatively underattended, even for a Wednesday night. The Twin Cities should be able to field a much larger crowd for underground talent of this caliber, but Dolan summarized things well: "I make music for working people." Maybe the working folks just decided to stay home and turn their records up loud.
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