The four-piece indie rock/hip-hop crew Astronautalis picked up on the high note that The MC Type left for them. With frontman Andy Bothwell’s fiery vocal delivery and one of the most successful pairings of hip-hop and rock I’ve ever heard, they’ve likely been turning heads at every leg of the tour. Despite the challenges of altitude on Bothwell’s lungs, he and his band worked the room with almost excessive fervor, until the crowd favorites “Dimitri Mendeleev” and “Trouble Hunter” closed out their impressive set.
Street-smart hip-hop/comedy duo Prof and DJ Fundo provoked the crowd into laughing fits and convulsive head nodding to their complex, yet steadily grooving, beats. Refreshingly, the DJ played no small part in the stage banter or aural draw. Old-school scratching skills, layered deep bass, tight grooves and even some soulful backing vocals are about all you can ask for in the back half of a rap act. Still, on some numbers, the rhythms and barrage of layers worked against the pair. Their footing only slipped intermittently, though, and with the final song, a doo-wop flavored ode to whiskey, Prof and DJ Fundo’s musical romp was followed by a considerably less pleasing pre-pubescent scream fest.
Trash talking on looping samples is a tried-and-true way to draw a line in the sand for hip-hop haters. Unfortunately for those who stand on the far side of that line, it’s about to get blurry. Budo—Grieves’ (infinitely less idiotic) answer to Flavor Flav—assimilated his trumpet, weirdo-synth keyboard and lead guitar into the soulful drum-and-bass samples like ice melting in a glass of hooch. Budo’s hype and multi-instrumental skill amplified the conscious, quick-witted delivery of Grieves’ raps from the moment they hit the stage. The rapper confessed to stealing his pop’s Motown records, trading Hebrew school for Ice Cube (then proceeded to cover a song by Westside Connection) and dedicating his life to his music. Walking the walk, he unleashed a masterful flow, impressively soulful voice and the stage presence and passion of a true, natural-born musician.
Saturday night, the roof of Kilby Court was vibrating like so many car windows on State Street. Thanks to the volume, even the girls working the door, who claimed not to be into “this kind of stuff,” seemed to have warmed up to the experience. Like alternative and underground hip-hop by and large, it was full of musical talent, profound statements and kids losing themselves in the music.