After concert hopping, performing, and photographing every show I could attend between 1998 and the present day, I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen my fair of live Hip-Hop shows. From crowd deafening boom bap snare hits at every KRS-One show, to the smallest most intimate dive bar shows filled with the most talented individuals most of the world might not have have a chance to hear. The live show is where all the magic lays, the moment you hit that microphone and let loose, you connect with your audience in a euphoric matter. After attending my first Tech N9ne show years ago, I realized how in tune and in touch an artist can really get with their audience. Forget your teenie bopper crowd crybabies, I’m talking about the people who take in the good, the bad, and the ugly and truly respect and grow with the artist through their work.
Strange Music Inc. grew from the masterminds Tech N9ne and Travis O’Guin spearheading Tech’s craft and Travis’ business antics into an independent conglomerate that’s boosted Strange Music to a paramount state in independent music. Growing since 99’, the label has grown an incredible roster of artists and constantly produce music that attract new fans worldwide every day. The live show is key for Strange Music artist, knowing that it’s that very experience that brings that connection between fan and artist to a pinnacle state. Touring more than most artists in the mainstream industry combined, it’s no wonder their live presence is an experience to awe over.
Fast forward, April 23rd 2013. With a power packed tour roster, Tech N9ne and the rest of the gang hit Chicago! Up first we have CES CRU, Ubiquitous and Godemis. Introing with their track PETER PARKER, they mesmerized the crowd with their very intricate canon play on the verses (row row row your boat style) without missing a beat (or octave in that matter!). Being in the photo pit, I couldn’t help but feel happily nauseated by the incredible sound system at the House of Blues as they performed MEDITATE and JUICE off their first Strange Music release, Constant Energy Struggles.
I float my friends / scuttle my enemies and we
Constantly in the struggle for energy
I rock steadily in the spot / ready or not
Pushin’ my pronouns / for plenty / plenty a pop
I’m getting guap my man / I got plans
To cop land / away / and lay in in the hot sand
I ‘Know the Ledge’ and I’m, playin’ my Roxanne
Another dollar another day in the rock band
Next up we’ve got the newest member of Strange Music, Atlanta’s own RITTZ. Representing the Slumerican family along with Yelawolf, Rittz caught the eyes of Strange Music with his fluid delivery and uncensored autobiography on the microphone. He’s an intimidating fellow on stage with his wild hair and rapid assonance, but when you listen in to the stories being fed to you at a rapid rate you get to see how far he’s willing to dig within his personal life to share his message. Accompanied by production by DJ Burn One, DJ A, and others; he took to the stage with a fury with my personal favorites, Bloody Murdah, High Five, White Jesus, and more. Teasing the crowd with new joints from his new album The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant including the single FOR REAL.
at first they wouldn’t embrace
me now their faced / with
admitting that I got what it takes
and I’m a stay killing records /
tell ’em murders’ the case
until the day / they consider me as one of the greats / I’m ’bout to…
maybe so I need to go / and take a / P.I.L.L.
They should lock me up / and throw away the key
and put me in a / C.E.L.L.
They say they don’t like the way I’m spitting
fuck em / they can go to / H.E.L.L.
For R.E.A.L. / LET’S GO!
Up next was the Kansas City Chief himself, Kutt Calhoun. Ripping the stage with that smooth finesse that Kutt is known for, he kept the ladies jumping with hits like STRANGE $ and SEE WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS off his new album Black Gold. I haven’t seen Kutt do solo sets much over the years but he was giving his A game and the new tracks off of his new album were complete bangers. A personal favorite being I BEEN DOPE, a huge array of style and word play on top of the story line.
*BREAK* now we have Strange Music’s own production manager / tour host SCENARIO conversing with a crowd goer in the balcony about her 10 years of teasing the world with her lack of participation to the crowd favorite “AREOLA”. Sassy and all, she noted tonight would be well worth his wait!
Back to the action, Scenario introduces long time veteran emcee BROTHA LYNCH HUNG to the stage in a cinematic fashion that had the crowd ready to get wild with the Coathanga Strangla himself. Representing Sacramento, he’s been hitting the scene hard since the early 90’s. Back to Chicago, he set the energy level high blasting into his set with his verse from Tech N9ne’s MY WORLD. Hitting hard with crowd favorites like D.O.A and Meat Cleaver off of his album Mannibalector.
At this point the crowd was primed and ready for the devastating duo of TECH N9NE and KRIZZ KALIKO. Dropping right in with Tech’s E.B.A.H., the crowd followed and mimicked every word to the syllable. No easy task for anyone seeing how intricate the Kansas City, MO native’s flow bellows out of the speakers. Krizz Kaliko joins on stage as they blast into Riot Maker, a heavy hitting guitar driven track throwing the crowd into a frenzy. A few tracks later Tech and Krizz jump into the crowd, a claustrophobic nightmare of fans, as Tech leads a medley of verses off of Midwest Choppers, Midwest Choppers II, and Worldwide Choppers. True skill in live delivery to a series of already difficult to record, let alone perform verses. The set list was literally a page long when I peeked over on stage from the safety of the photo pit. I’m unsure how anyone could retain and perform the huge array of tracks without stumbling over a single syllable. With that chopper style flow, just stuttering or missing a key breath can throw your flow off completely. Tech and Krizz are veterans no doubt and they pulled off a flawless showcase of music, skill, and energy. Bouncing around the stage with no signs of slowing down for over an hour of non-stop live music, most people envy this type of stage presence. Don’t let the stage show fool you though, dig deep within everyone’s music and really get to the core of the stories, concepts, arrangements, styles, and flows; an intensely talented label of artists that are on the rise to the top, it goes up!