This past Saturday, the good fellas of the Lyricist Lounge invited all the Los Angeles Hip Hop heads out to celebrate their 20th anniversary. With Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli headlining and back on their Black Star game, the night lived up to its exceptional expectations. Aside from these two, the Lyricist Lounge brought out some of Cali’s finest and Cali brought some of theirs too, if you know what I mean.
As for me, I made the two and a half hour trek up the coast all the way from my San Diego digs to Club Nokia. This night was not one to be missed and a little distance was no excuse. At any rate, I made it up just in time as the crowd started to file into the venue where Gang Starr was bumping through the speakers. From that point on, it felt as if I’d stepped into a time portal. The vibe of the room was starting to settle in as were the people; taking it back a couple decades, the DJ had Afrika Bambaata, Kriss Kross, and Slick Rick join the playlist too. Before I got too carried away with the old school, the Lyricist Lounge’s leading men, Danny Castro and Ant Marshall, hopped to the stage and introduced their first guest, Medusa.
Garbed in baggy shorts, a big chain, and a zip up sweatshirt that was soon to come off, “Medusa the Indigenous” made her way front and center. For those of you who don’t know Medusa, she has been called the “Angela Davis of Rap” and that’s no joke. She’s been around for quite some time and has the talent to back up the reputation; a product of LA’s 80‘s and 90‘s Hip Hop scene, Medusa is one of the most raw MC’s out there never to grace mainstream status, for she could never be just that. To see her up on stage (which, by the way, I was not expecting until the fact) was surreal, as was her performance. Interrupting her rhymes with sporadic spurts of a cappella, Medusa set the night off on the right note and brought Hip Hop back to its organic roots. Next up was freshman group Pac Div who reminded us of, well, the contrary. It might have been “just another day in sunny LA”, but when a crowd member threw up the finger the sun wasn’t shining no more…It happened so quickly that I didn’t really grasp what was going on until the deed had already been done. Long story short, one of our Pac Div dudes decided to jump off the stage and disturb the peace, so to speak. So they got their 15 minutes of fame (more like 10) and were quickly swooped back stage. Consequentially, Ant Marshall came out and was soon to have the crowd chanting the mantra most representative of the night and throw up its accompanying sign: “Peace, Peace, Peace”. And the peace was there to follow, running through each individual as heads nodded simultaneously to the rhythm.
Next up was DJ Nu Mark of Jurassic 5; let me just say, this man takes “playing” to another level. But first, let me pause and reflect on the night thus far. Our lady, Medusa, provided the intoxicating feminine vibe while our new school kids, Pac Div, were quick to combat. Ant settled the score with peace and then came along this guy, the man of few words and quick hands, DJ Nu Mark. His set consisted of kids play toys, a monkey and a hamster for instance, all audible nonetheless. Spinning classic Hip Hop tracks and boasting a quick set of musically inclined hands, Nu Mark stole the show and made the failed attempt of trying to slip off the stage before anyone got the chance to commend him. Three acts down and three more to go, next up was Freestyle Fellowship and then, Del. Freestyle Fellowship hit us with that which they do best – freestyling – and then some, while the latter kept it funkee, fresh, and unusual. My only complaint there is that “Mistadabolina” never showed, but that said, Tha Funkee Homosapian can never do wrong. At this point, the West Coast Hip Hop flow was coming on so strong you could almost run from it and the room was getting heated with anticipation for the final two.
Sooner or later, the East coast came through and added some respiration to the equation: Yasiin and Talib as Black Star, 20 years later, 20 years better. “You Already Knew” and its fresh counterpart, “Fix Up”, were the first two performed; also on the track list was “Brown Skin Lady”, “Auditorium”, “Ms. New Booty”, “Definition”, “Get By”, and more. Performing both their solo and collaborative tracks, the appreciation of one another and charisma between the two was apparent and abundant enough for the crowd to feed off of. Yasiin (still hard for me to refrain from calling him Mos) stood bearded, swagged out in all white, and clutching his signature Super 55 microphone. With so much stage presence and personality, one would think his parter overshadowed. However, such was not the case as Talib brought a personality of his own that only furthered how dynamic the duo and perfect the pair.
Hats of to the “best alliance in Hip Hop” for truly deeming the night legendary and personally, one I’ll never forget. The show concluded with the gathering of all the night’s artists and a final bow to celebrate 20 years deep for the Lyricist Lounge.