The Southern trio of Kno, Deacon the Villain and Natti backed up by DJ Flip Flop gave fun, rowdy show. The crowd up near the front jumped, shouted and put their arms up like very few shows I’ve seen at the Urban Lounge. The band seemed pleasantly surprised by the energy of the crowd, especially during call-and-response sessions. It must feel powerful to have, as Kno did last night, a crowd chanting “fuck yes” to everything you say.
Kno took over the majority of the crowd-warming duties, but that didn’t mean Deacon and Natti were shy. All three delivered tight, clever rhymes and kept fairly close to the audience, even jumping up on the speakers to loom over us. From the very first song (“Late at Night”) straight through to the encore (the ever-popular duo of “Gates” segueing to “Hellfire,” the audience was dancing and shouting lyrics. Some shows, one finds oneself checking the clock and wondering how early one can appropriately leave. Not here.
Also very, very impressive was opener Tonedeff. I admit that was fairly unimpressed when I walked in to his set. After some slight cajoling by a friend, I walked inside and gave the emcee a chance. I was rewarded with funny, creative rhymes delivered at freakishly fast speeds. (This is, apparently, Tonedeff’s specialty.) Homeboy Sandman failed to get me going, but Tonedeff must be a hard act to follow. Also, I was saving my energy for CunninLynguists.
If you’ve never heard of CunninLynguists and you’re not one of those hard-headed “no hip-hop, no way, ever” types, I highly suggest giving Oneirology a listen. Having only ever been a peripheral hip-hop fan, I have found myself converted to their pairing of smart, expertly delivered rhymes and eminently creative beats. “Stars Shine Brightest” and “Enemies with Benefits” (the latter featuring Tonedeff) were fantastic examples of the group’s latest work and high points of the (awesome) show.
DJs are often the under-appreciated backbone of the hip-hop set. Without a great DJ, the whole show is usually lacking. (Have you ever seen someone rap over a track on their iPod? It’s a sad, sad thing.) If the DJ is sub-par, if feels like something’s off. But DJ Flip Flop held his own behind the three wonderfully boisterous emcees. This feat was made even more impressive by the fact he was apparently working on unfamiliar equipment. Awesome.
If you like underground hip-hop and/or if you’re sick of going to great shows where the audience nods comatosely like so many sedated wobbly-heads, then come along to a hip-hop show. You’ve missed some great ones, but strangely enough, Salt Lake seems to be a magnet for them. The crowds are great, the emcees are talented and you will find yourself dancing for much longer and later than you ever thought possible. Obviously, this rule only applies to awesome hip-hop, so find some friends in the know and start tagging along. It’s good for the soul. And if CunninLynguists come again, don’t miss it.