The X Games concerts: How extreme are they?

Brother Ali

Brother Ali Adam Stanzak

Extreme sports and extreme music go together, and they always have. So once again this year, the X Games x-travaganza will be accompanied by a series of musical events that’ll let you thrash and groove and otherwise move your body in extreme ways. Three concerts will take place at the Armory this weekend: Kaskade on Friday, Ice Cube and Brother Ali on Saturday, and, on Sunday, Zedd.

Now, I know what you’re wondering: Just how extreme is this music? Do I have an answer? Yes, I have an answer. Using lab-tested, proprietary scientific methods, I scrutinized each artist’s catalog to determine both their most extreme song and their least extreme. On that basis, I’ve evaluated the extent of each artist’s extremity, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.


Ice Cube

Who’s he?: A crazy motherfucker straight outta Compton.

Most extreme: “The N**** You Love to Hate”

courtesy of the artist

courtesy of the artist

There’s some serious competition here. In his heyday, Cube was among the most fearsome of rappers, dissing “Amerikkka,” standing up to the police, and (unfortunately) helping rap earn its rep for misogyny. But this track is Cube at his most raw, setting himself up as a rage magnet and inviting all your scorn.

Least Extreme: “It Was a Good Day”

No contest. Over a laid-back groove that captures the absence of stress, Cube relates his exploits as he rolls through town, scoring on the basketball court and in the bedroom. I mean, he didn’t even have to use his AK—how unextreme is that?

Is Ice Cube extreme?: Extremely extreme. He may be best known now as the genial middle-aged actor in the Barbershop movies, but at his core he’s still ice cold.


Brother Ali

Who’s he?: A standout on our hometown Rhymesayers crew, a devout Muslim, and an activist.

Most extreme: “Uncle Sam Goddamn”

Ali has rhymed harder than this, but lyrically he’s never focused his righteous beliefs as sharply as on this politically charged 2007 single, which denounces our nation’s “billion dollar a week ‘kill brown people’ habit.” So extreme it actually lost him a Verizon sponsorship.

Least extreme: “All the Beauty in This Whole Life”

The title track to the rapper’s 2017 album is a gentle, poetic expression of love, the epitome of the graceful and mature Ali’s art.

Is Brother Ali extreme?: When he needs to be. He’s mellowed with age without softening his political commitment. Let’s say moderately extreme.



Who’s he?: A big-name progressive house DJ



Most Extreme: “Fun”

A nasty bassline and tricky cowbell pattern set the rhythm before the beat builds up steam and goes full EDM, while a frisky-voiced woman named Madge elaborates on the timeless lyrical theme “I wanna have some fun.”

Least Extreme: “Almost Back”

Here’s Kaskade’s m.o.: Gently rolling beats you can get lost in building to a chorus where an uncharismatic female voice delivers a melody you’ll almost remember afterward.

Is Kaskade extreme?: Extremely moderate, maybe.





Who’s he?: An adorably elfin European fellow who crafts whooshy pop hits.

Most extreme: “Break Free,” with Ariana Grande, which will always be remembered for the cryptically almost-English lyrics: “I only wanna die alive/Never by the hands of a broken heart/I don’t wanna hear you lie tonight/Now that I’ve become who I really are.”

Least extreme: “Stay,” with Alessia Cara.

But really, only because Alessia is less extreme than Ariana.

Is Zedd extreme?: Did you miss the part where I said he was an adorably elfin European fellow who crafts whooshy pop hits? Extremely unextreme.