The Resident 46: The Roots Picnic, Summer Jam ’09, LL Cool J, Estelle

estelle08_cd-736899By Mawuse Ziegbe

Puberty would not have been the same without LL Cool J. Honestly who was hotter than shirtless, lip-lickin’ LL in 1995? Coolio? Tag Team? Exactly. And yet when Estelle and LL Cool J took over Terminal 5 for the Grammy and T-Mobile tour I was not prepared for how totally phat it would be. Estelle was aiight – she was two-steppin’ and bitching about her ex-boyfriend – entertaining but all things I could see any sloshed slag do on a Saturday night. LL weaved through his 20-year-plus repertoire flexing to hits like “Doin’ It,” “Rock The Bells,” “Phenomenon,” “I Need Love,” “Headsprung,” and “Radio” with the energy and abs of a delusional MySpace MC. I spent much of the time jonesing for FUBU, Dunkaroos and general nineties awesomeness. So, mad props to LL and the booty-quaking potency of his def beats.

The Roots don’t score as many mainstream snaps as LL but they continue to prove their legendary status with events like the 2nd annual Roots Picnic. Following a typically grizzly Chinatown bus ride to the illadelph, I caught Antibalas’ fairly uninspired set. Philly’s own Santigold often relies on her fussy downtown b-girl look and heart attack-serious dancers to carry a performance. But she actually smiled and flicked her hair a bit more than usual through songs like “Find A Way,” “Unstoppable,” and “Say Aha.” Throngs of mall-accessorized girls thrashed along to “Creator” and Spank Rock made [Read more...]

Giant Step’s Resident 45: Fischerspooner, Keys N Krates, Blaq Poet, Little Boots

keysBy Mawuse Ziegbe

The chance for the absurd is the reason droves of misfits migrate from middle America to Manhattan. So, I’m sure flaming fashionistas from Peoria would have been reveling at Fischerspooner’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The arty, dance duo recently released their third album, Entertainment, a pulsing electronic epic that the group matched with an equally grand stage show. Be-wigged dancers slid in and out of jumpsuits, tutus and other fabric concoctions to the militaristic throb of songs like “The Best Revenge.” Even Madonna (the most famous ex-Midwesternite) braved outer-borough traffic, studiously watching the dancers flex to perfectly synced rehearsal footage. Easily the best show I’ve seen in ages.

Toronto collective Keys N Krates also brought an intense stage show to Williamsburg taking over the back room at Public Assembly. After a heartbreakingly terrible show by Planet Rump (I thought I was watching a Mad TV sketch) Keys N Krates knocked out live remixes of classic jammy jams. With a DJ, drums, bass, and guitar, the band reinterpreted gems like Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check The Rhime,” often banging out a riff of the song’s obscure sample. They also shook up a downtempo version of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” with frisky syncopation and throwback scratching.

The king of livening up any flaccid track with murderous scratching is DJ Premier. At a recent listening session for Queens artist Blaq Poet he vowed to bring back the coarse, wiry beats of yesteryear. Blaq Poet’s latest album The Blaqprint is a cacophony of cagey rhythms and heavy lyrics coursing with the gritty, boot-stomping, ashy-knuckle allure of hip hop artists like M.O.P. and Mobb Deep. I mean, I love me some Soulja Boy, but I kinda miss when rappers used the word “glock” and post-apocalyptic decay seemed to influence the set design of all hip hop videos.

At least when it comes to real hip hop ish, we have Little Boots! Okay, I was making funny. But she did make a genius piano cover of Kid Cudi’s “Day N Nite” and has been enchanting fans with YouTube covers of songs by Cyndi Lauper and Lightspeed Champion often shot from the comfort of her bedroom. Already topping charts in her native UK, she had a rapturous public waiting at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge. However, her live show was sadly upstaged by her outsize buzz and rollicking openers, Heartsrevolution. A barefoot drummer pounding inhuman BPMs, a wailing frontwoman swilling from a bottle of Jack the size of her head, and shimmery dance rhythms of rave-like proportions preemptively kicked Little Boots’ behind. The intimate, cheeky dazzle of her viral videos was completely lost amongst the heaving screams and flashing lights. Even though the crowd panted along to songs like her single “New In Town,” her walk-around-and-sing-the-hits routine didn’t pack enough of a wallop to convert newbies. Not enough to get droves clamoring from Peoria.

Giant Step’s Resident 42: Peter Bjorn And John, Melo-X, Omar, Maiysha and Phil Asher

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Photo of Phil Asher © Jaecyne Howell

A most curious thing occurred at the office one day. Ambling down the halls I happened upon a bin of unwanted swag. While it’s usually chock full of crap like cookbooks by convicted felons and posters of small-town yokels named Lil’ No No, this time teetering at the top of the heap were three albums from artists that apparently no one else in the office cared about: 88-Keys, Peter Bjorn & John and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ roiling SNL performance the week before was the highlight of my recent sojourn to Boston and I’ve been diggin’ the shimmery, disco gloss they’ve slathered on their signature reckless glammy rock. I’m all over the way the slightly sinister opening strains set up the rumbling and unexpectedly groovy “Dragon Queen.”

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