Area hip-hop fans still reeling from Jay-Z”s no-show in Detroit had a chance to boost their spirits at the Blind Pig with the arrival of the Live Lyrics tour. The tour, which began June 19 in Chicago, features artists familiar to people with knowledge of Midwest underground hip-hop. In attendance were Detroit/Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area artists ID, DJ Virus, Prhyme #”s, Young Bastards, One Man Army and SUN. In addition, O-Type Star and JUICE (Chicago), the Artfull Dodgers (Flint) and Anthony Mills (NYC) represented for the out-of-town people.
The night”s master of ceremonies was O-Type Star. In his normal manner, he mixed witty banter with his freestyling capabilities to keep the crowd into the performances. By the time the second act was set to perform, the Blind Pig was still sparsely populated. O-Type warned the early comers to be ready to answer the inevitable question: “What did I miss?”
Unfortunately, those who arrived late missed the first part of Anthony Mills set. Mills, who mixes a dancehall style with a soulful crooning similar to artists like Bilal, made up for his last Blind Pig outing that got cut short. In an extremely energetic performance, Mills, with the help of the live band Prhyme #”s, freaked Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and the Furious Five”s classic “The Message” over a dancehall beat. Later on, Mills returned to the stage for those who missed his first time out. He did a moving tribute to slain New Yorker Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by police, to remind people that Diallo could have been any one of them.
One Man Army held his own, covering material from Binary Star including “Reality Check” and “Honest Expression.” In “Honest Expression,” OMA critiques “hip-hop hypocrites,” who have conformed to or accept without question hip-hop”s seeming obsession with the all mighty dollar, hurting the art form. This sat well with the “anti-bling” backpack toting crowd. So maybe these people wouldn”t have gone to the Jay-Z concert.
The night”s last performer was JUICE, who teamed up with his Chi-town partner O-Type Star. Of all the acts on tour JUICE may be the most well known after his now famous freestyle battle against Eminem. JUICE won the battle but hasn”t achieved half the notoriety. After going through several tracks, SUN joined the pair to do “Radiate,” a track off of his latest release. Borrowing a piece of Marvin Gaye”s “Mercy Mercy Me,” O-Type declares SUN as the man with the “Ypsilantidote” for hip-hop. It was a fitting compliment for someone who”s been in the game for a while and not garnered the deserved recognition.
If the tour is successful, especially in cities like Philadelphia and New York, the Midwest artists who represent the bulk of the lineup will get their due bringing attention to the often-neglected-yet-thriving scene in this area of the country.