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Sage Francis
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wonderful Paid Dues 2008 review from Ice Cream Man  Reply with quote

Paid Dues Festival 2008 ReviewWords by Danielle Kelly
Photos by Nicolas Bates

According to his newest release, MURS is running for President. At least in the realm of Guerilla Union, he is the commander in chief of the Paid Dues festival yet again this year. Taking the acronym for Making Underground Raw Sh-t, MURS’ festival provided for independent hip hop prolifics to reap the benefits of their paid dues to the indie community. One of the best things to emerge from the Inland Empire since Rock the Bells, there was a multitude of independent rap lovers who flocked to the NOS Event Center for this spectrum of hip hop activity.

Along with many other concert goers, Nick and I missed such tastemakers as B. Dolan, Busdriver, Yak Ballz, Isaiah, P.O.S., and Mac Lethal due to unfortunate circumstances of a false startup time posted by the villainous monopoly, Ticketmaster. But a crowd had gathered and the joints had been lit by the time Kool Keith appeared onstage. To many people’s delight, another alias was also present: Dr. Octagon. Amidst the full flavor of smooth rhymes, he joked about his age, claiming he was thirty years younger than what his birth certificate would testify. One of the ending tracks was a Dr. Octagon dedication to women, “Girl Let Me Touch You There”, with ironically offensive content that would attest the maturity level he was claiming.

Next on the bill was Brooklyn’s own Boot Camp Clik, accumulating its five members over the course of a few songs, they steadily raised the onstage temperature to a boiling swagger. Soulful overtures of saxophone samples complimented the aggressive, crafty rhymes spit from the likes of Buckshot, using the front speaker as a soapbox. However, when Visionaries came out, they preached positivity while sustaining the rawness of their genre. With crowd stirring, old school DJ scribbles and a slogan, “Visionaries is for the kids”, the Visionaries worked to flip-switch-and-reverse the hateful fuel of many hip hop artists to create an experience of lyrical activism and love. But it was the classic all-star team, Hieroglyphics, who brought the anthems to maintain an excitable crowd. There was a slight void in the playback of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien choruses without the baritone flow of the man himself. Also, there was a notably recurrent influence of a Handsome Boy Modeling School track “It’s Like That” in the act. The amount energy and tribute paid to the festival throughout their hit-filled setlist roused the fanatical response from the audience.

Literally removing himself from the work suit of hosting duties, MURS was reborn into a tracksuit to join the seven other rag tag members of Living Legends. MURS was also, by far, the smiliest player of the night. I nearly became a casualty to the intensity of the Living Legends as one member earnestly worked the crowd after storming the press bench I was seated on. An energetic display involving picket signs promoting albums and a snapping, swaying Motown line invoked the integrity and protest that independent hip hop music stands for. It seemed like a completely natural response for the audience to boo upon hearing the act was over. Yet MURS exercised his executive abilities in keeping the Living Legends on for a few more songs, ending in a poised and memorable performance of “Never Fallin’”.

After catching the beginning of Jedi Mind Tricks, Nick and I decided to check out the VIP area for a quick break. This offered Paid Dues gnarly, a meet-and-greet section, exclusivity of privatized bathrooms, and a DJ station for the main stage spinners to encore. However, after some R&R it was back to the gig for more hip hop hysteria.

A fundamentally great quality of this festival was the perpetual love shown for the West Coast Southland, which obviously spoke directly to the attendees. True to their name, Dilated Peoples ruminated on their Los Angeles roots and actively provoked a high volume of crowd participation and fervor, especially with the climactic hit “Worst Comes to Worst”. Attending to the hearts of the audience, by the end of the performance, one of the Dilated members was practically submerged in the crowd.

Yet another positive characteristic to Paid Dues was the invitation for independent artists to promote their CD’s on site and, also, the implementation of acts not on the bill who were permitted to deliver their talent in a single song set. The most outstanding of these performers was the notorious, impromptu freestyler Super Natural. The rapper provoked uproarious crowd response by merging pop culture references with mere visual cues to create sharp, situational zingers - executing the task with the same equanimity of a rehearsed performance.

It should be noted that Little Brother was one the largest draws for the Paid Dues. With a huge festival schedule lined up for 2008, the act caused nearly as much buzz as the headliner and there was tangible electricity in the audience generated by collective murmurs. The Queen sample, “We Are the Champions,” created the tone for the surfacing of not-so-Little Brother. This particular duo of MC’s, Big Pooh and Phonte, charmed the crowd with their jovial and confident stage presence, whether flashing a huge smile or getting down to business. The sonic intensity was so fierce that my hair moved with the vibrations of the bass. When the set was over, smiling satisfaction swept the crowd and the praise was deafening. If you missed Paid Dues, you may want to check out Little Brother at such upcoming festivals as Coachella or Outside Lands this season.

However, the king of the evening was solely reserved for the renowned Sage Francis. The presence of the solitary rapper and social activist was enough to fill the entire stage and envelope the crowd. But it seemed that even the stage could hardly contain the antics of Sage. Exhibiting the kinetic energy of a WWF wrestler, all the audio equipment was subject to his jungle gym activity. Per usual, the socio-political commentary delivered from the Rhode Island MC was cutting, thought provoking, but, most prominently, hilarious. Maybe it was the team America anthem incorporated into the act; or the fact that he looked like an excitable boy with his trademark corporate-hate flag as a cape; possibly the mullet wig he used to mock Midwest metalheads; or even the display of break dancing by the same man who had joked about chubby chaffing from the day’s heat. The dynamics of his lyrical delivery and his comedic display went hand in hand to create a genuinely entertaining and witty set. Even with his new DJ, whom he continuously referred to as a “Redheaded Criminal,” Sage Francis made acerbic remarks about everyone from corporations to pop culture to playful quips about the rappers he shared the stage with that day. Highly entertained, call and response and laughter from the crowd were accolades to end the evening with.
Post Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:02 pm
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