I’ve been to my fair share of “underground” hip-hop shows, and a fair share of them usually play out the same way: MC squats a spot in the middle of the stage, wraps mic cord around his/her wrist, furiously rhymes (while rarely leaving their middle of the stage position), and curiously forgets one of the tenets of live hip-hop–the hook. If you can’t sing-a-long, what’s the point?
Friday, April 10, 2009
Webster Hall (Studio)
New York, NY
Fortunately, Mr. Lif doesn’t share all of these traits, although if you’re familiar with his work, you’ll know a good portion of his stuff isn’t hook heavy either. But what Mr. Lif lacks in hooks, he more than makes up for in stage presence. Another complaint I have about “underground” hip-hop shows (geez, I’m starting to sound like a whiny old man) is that many of them lack the zest that would appeal to a first time listener. However, on Friday night, if a friend brought a friend to Webster Hall–who had never listened to Mr, Lif before–there’s a really good chance they went home a Mr. Lif fan.
(above: Mr. Lif working the crowd with his homemade noise-o-meter.)
Though touring on a shoestring budget, Mr. Lif does have a few bells and whistles up his sleeve, including a projector screen that syncs up a handful of his songs to a multi-media presentation. This works mighty well, especially when Mr. Lif is trying to nail home a political point. Besides using it as an educational tool, Mr. Lif has some fun with it as well, especially during his performance of “Washitup!,” which featured myriad commercials of people showering–everyone from Craig “Ironhead” Heyward to Ernie (of Ernie and Bert fame!). Later in the show when Mr. Lif was talking about our country’s economic cdownfall, he showed a Credit Wizard commercial and told the audience, “These are not actors–they’re assholes!”
Mr. Lif’s live show never comes off preachy, as he does a great job of balancing fun with seriousness. It’s hard to feel talked down to from a guy who forms a claw with his hand and uses it as a noise-o-meter (the more the crowd cheers the higher he raises it in the air). Mr. Lif’s message is also easy to digest, cause he always looks like he’s enjoying himself. How can you not like a guy who smiles during most of his set?
On Friday night, Mr. Lif busted out some new material from his soon-to-be-released I Heard It Today. The whiny old man in me loved “What About Us?“, because–yes–it had a hook! I also felt guilty for bobbing my head so much during a song about our country’s housing crisis, “I Heard It Today.”
Mr. Lif’s only “underground” hip-hop sin of the night, was not recognizing his hits. Three of my favorite Mr. Lif songs: “Home Of The Brave,” “Brothaz,” and “Party Hard,” were all ignored (although I can forgive the later, since it was a song he did with his group The Perceptionsists). And for someone who put so much detail into his live show, and it was disappointing that Mr. Lif’s set came to such an abrupt ending.
At the end of the night Mr. Lif told the crowd he was going to sell his new CD after the show–a couple weeks before it hit the streets. As he said this, the projector screen displayed the opening frame of his music video for “Brothaz.” I thought to myself: I guess Lif’s not gonna do an encore, but ending with “Brothaz” is a nice way to go out.
Gearing up for the grand finale I was a little shocked when Mr. Lif thanked the crowd, wished them good night, and began selling CD’s while “Brothaz” played on the video screen. I guess the whiny old man in me can’t have it all.