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Friday, March 25, 2011

Paid Dues in 8 Days

The title says it all. I’m going down to Hawaii for a family vacation on Saturday, and then flying to LA on April 1st for the Paid Dues festival. The set times were released last week, and for those of you curious about who we’ll be seeing (and subsequently featuring in the write-up), I can give you a little preview of some of those artists. Of course, the set times are subject to change, and there are still a few conflicts that remain unsolved. For that reason, I don’t want to make this a full run down of our planned day, but it’s hard to say how it will turn out.

For those of you who haven’t followed Paid Dues, let me give you a bit of background. Paid Dues is an independent hip-hop festival run by Murs. It goes all day, and has expanded to three stages this year, playing host to numerous types of underground hip-hop artists. The 2011 festival is being headlined by the duo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, known collectively as Black Star. They released one of my favorite hip-hop albums back in 1998, and it’s pretty rare to see them perform live together. Without question they are my most anticipated act, so barring a cancelation or other extremity, Black Star should be the group that ends our night.

Right before Black Star, we plan to see Immortal Technique, who was the first hip-hop artist I ever saw live in 2008. Tech always puts on a great show, so while I’d love to see Murs, who plays on the Dues Paid stage at the same time, it’s an easy decision to catch Technique again.

Another late main stage act that we plan to see is Sage Francis. Sage’s set conflicts with Slaughterhouse, a hardcore hip-hop collective that should be on a hell of a show, but my love of Sage’s early work helps him win out here. Plus Sadistik told me to go with Sage here, and when one of your favorite artists gives you advice, you take it.

While the headliners are great, there are a couple of early main stage sets that have me just as excited. At the top of that list would be Heavy Metal Kings, a collaboration between Jedi Mind Tricks emcee Vinnie Paz and La Coka Nostra’s Ill Bill. I think it goes without saying that I’m a huge metalhead, and as such I have a fascination with hardcore hip-hop. I know that my seem like an odd comparison to some, but there are strong similarities between the two. Jedi Mind Tricks are one of my favorite artists in any genre of music, and they scratch the same itch for me that extreme metal does. I always have a desire to find heavier and brutal death and black metal, just as I’m always looking for the hardest of hardcore hip-hop. Once I hear something shocking in hardcore hip-hop, the next step is to find something that can top that. Vinnie Paz and Ill Bill together would be like listening to an Emperor and Darkthrone split in the 90’s. Obviously, I can’t wait to see what they can do live.

Binary Star, another classic underground duo who recently reunited, is also a major highlight for me. Their Masters of the Universe album from 2000 has been on heavy rotation for years, and they’re a group that I’ve been waiting to see since I first got into hip-hop. P.O.S. is the other main stage act that has me excited, andwhile I’ve seen him twice already (including an 2+ hour set with his Doomtree collective), he always put on a hell of a show. I’m going with a friend who has never seen him before, so if you’re reading this Tad, prepare to be amazed.

There are plenty of other artists we plan to see- Rhymesayers emcee Grieves, Detroit’s best female emcee Invincible, Musab (founder of Rhymesayers), a round or two of the Grind Time Now All-Star battles, possibly Andre Nickatina, and some other early acts on the side stages. Of course, there are a few big conflicts as well, which means that some of my most anticipated artists likely won’t be on the write-up. DJ Exile vs. Blu & Fashawn will likely be a casualty due to conflicting with Heavy Metal Kings, and I’ve already mentioned the likelihood of us missing Slaughterhouse and Murs.

However, one of the most interesting conflicts is between an intriguing DJ/MC combination and hip-hop’s weirdest comedian. Many Paid Dues attendees have taken to the internet to express their hatred of Lil B the Based God, an up-and-coming artist who has turned heads in the underground. However, the turned heads aren’t due to his skills, but more because of his borderline insane videos and songs. Honestly, it’s impossible to describe all of the strange things Lil B does. From creating over 150 Myspace pages to post his free songs, to making dozens of tracks of him repeating a celebrities name while “swag” is said in the background, to videos of Lil B in the nude teaching you how to “cook.” Recently he released a hilarious album of “conscious” hip-hop, clearly parodying hip-hop that takes itself too seriously. I mention in my review of the album (which should be posted soon, by the way) that Lil B will start stories and then end without finishing them or making a point, and he’ll often repeat “positive” sayings over a pseudo-ambient beat. Then in his music videos (which are all just Lil B lip synching to the studio track in front of a shaky handheld camera, despite every video being tagged as “directed by Lil B”), he lets the listener know that it’s okay to cry to his music. Add in his ""based” philosophy, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever (it has something to do with being “rare” and “positive” apparently), and you have hip-hop’s biggest troll, who is going over the heads of some “real” hip-hop fans, who are incapable of recognizing that Lil B is a joke. Regardless of whether Lil B is an intentional comedian or a strange man on hard drugs (I’d vote for the former, but both are possible), his music and persona is extremely entertaining and intriguing.

The question then becomes whether we should see Lil B over an artist will actual musical talent. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Psycho Realm, I enjoy some of their music, and a set with DJ Muggs and Sick Jakcen performing alongside Bambu and Planet Asia sounds like it could be a great show. It’s a tough decision,and one that has me thinking. Honestly, I don’t which one I’m leaning towards, but I do know that I want to share the aforementioned video of Based God “cooking” in the nude.

So I guess I will leave you with that question. Lil B or DJ Muggs? Let me know what you think, and I hope that this preview has been entertaining in some way. Regardless, it helped me vent my excitement for this festival, so I suppose it’s already served a purpose.

As always, thanks for reading.