J-Live, Wordsworth, Mr. Complex, C Ray Walz @ S.O.B.'s, NYC
written by NewJeruPoet - June 3rd, 2003
"This is how we do it from the underground up" says Mr. Complex. On an extremely rainy night in June, my girl and I went to S.O.B.'s in New York City for an entertaining underground hip-hop show. First, Dub-L (of DJ JS-1's "Ground Original") set the mood with DJ-ing plenty of late 90's tracks by Gangstarr, Common, Masta Ace, M.O.P. and Pharoahe Monch. Almost every other beat was produced by DJ Premier. The beautiful thing about S.O.B.'s is that it is intimate enough but classy enough too. We had a great seat on the side of the stage and could see the sweat on the emcee's face.
First up was Chase, a newcomer who just signed to Battle Axe Records. "I just got laid off from my job yesterday!", he shouts. Clean cut and bald, this young one had good energy and he annunciated his words clearly. He did his opening verse over Gza's beat for "4th Chamber" and did a song about people who always say they will help you but never follow through. The set was short, sweet and never boring.
Second, C Ray Walz (from Def Jux) comes out wearing an Uncle Howie zip-up hoodie sweatshirt and a red and yellow face mask. He was introduced onto the stage as if he was a boxer. "I never performed in front of this many people before", he remarked. There couldn't have been more than 50 people in the place so far. The energy and the confidence were there but the 20 minute set did drag on. He kept things interesting by bringing up another emcee and for one song, he held up record covers, as he rhymed about them. He brought a chair up on stage earlier. Then, in a middle of a song, he rapped: "I can't stand it, so I'll sit the f*ck down." Of course, he sat down. Lyrically, he fits with Def Jux. Unfortunately, his performance was all energy and lyrics and the annunciation of the words was sacrificed. We could not hear the actual words. For an opening act and a newcomer, I have to give him credit. When his set was over, he gently placed the mic on the stage floor and let the instrumental play.
The show truly began with Mr. Complex. He may be a mellow cat in person but on the mic and on stage, he has this juggernaut-like energy. The place filled up by now and he made everybody get close to the stage. As soon as the beat kicked in and he began rocking the mic, the crowd was his. "Visualize" was very well done. Then, this sexy female hype-woman named Ayme comes up on stage. They worked extremely well together. She wore tight jeans and a cut up "Mr. Complex" shirt that was tied in the back. The live version of "Underground Up" was incredible. I always loved that song but now, I love it even more. The bass line moved everybody. Crossphader did an excellent job on the turntables too. His scratching techniques were not only original but also very entertaining and exciting. He wasn't just playing the records or just scratching. He was literally apart of the beat. The crowd loved him. Complex performed a bunch of new songs from his upcoming "Twisted Mr." Album. There's a song called "Glue" that includes Biz Markie. While Biz was not there, this song was incredible live. Mr. Complex and Imae sang the hook: "You don't know how I feel about you! / You ain't going nowhere ! / This here is glue…" Supposedly, Biz Markie started a new dance for the song and Complex and Ayme were doing it together. It's a special track and I cannot wait to here the album version. Summer Jam X was also going on that same night. Complex said, "If some idiot comes up to you bragging that he was at Summer Jam, punch him in his jaw." Mr. Complex also did excellent versions of "Desire" and "Why Don't Cha". He also did a medley of Polyrhythm Addict tracks. "Motion 2000" and "Take Me Home" also had an incredible energy that had to be experienced in a live setting. I was hoping to hear "I'm Rhymin" or "Divine Intervention" but I was very satisfied. To put it simply, Mr. Complex personifies everything I love about dope underground hip-hop.
Before J-Live came on stage, 2 unexpected guests grabbed the mic. First, a drunk white boy who called himself "Chase, the corny white boy who is not that same Chase as before". He did a pretty good beat box. The only problem, he stole Rahzel's act. He did the "If Your Girl Only Knew" with the beat and the words at the same time. Then, a very thin Black woman did some spoken-word poetry. Shouting pro-Black sentiments, she recited a very long piece about how African Americans are "musical people." While her flow and rhythm were exciting, we could not understand her words because she was not annunciating them clearly.
J-Live and Wordsworth came out on stage together. J-Live commanded respect for his talent. With his glasses and baseball cap, he rocked the mic. Wordsworth played the hype-man for many songs but did many of his own songs. Many of the J-Live songs were new and from his upcoming album "The Hear After". He had the crowd chanting "Oh-la, oh-la, oh-la!". Wordsworth's current single "On Ya Feet" (produced by Da Beatminerz) had the crowd chanting the hook. The energy was very impressive. Wordsworth is not extremely well-known (doesn't even have a solo LP out) but still, people felt his music and his performance. J-Live did a terrific version of "Satisfied" and an amazing version of "Break It Down" from DJ Jazzy Jeff's "The Magnificent" LP. Wordsworth then rocked the b-side to his current single called "That Way" (produced by Curt Gowdy). He went off the stage and into the crowd and rapped to some girl like while he was surrounded by fans. The true highlight of this double performance was J-Live's talented display of hip-hop multi-tasking. He got behind the turntables and scratched all the way through the song "Bragging Writes" while reciting the lyrics at the same time! It was an amazing experience. This man has talent!
Overall, S.O.B.'s is an intimate and fine place for an underground hip-hop venue. While every emcee could be appreciated, Mr. Complex's energy blew people's minds. J-Live and Words work extremely well together and their talent drives their show. Still, energy-wise, Mr. Complex rocked the house. When it comes down to it, it was a night of good and intelligent hip-hop music. It is a night like this that makes me love underground hip-hop.