Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Review: Big Boi & Killer Mike at the House of Blues
The last 2 weeks have been a blur for me. Got to witness my sister receive her law degree in Atlanta and my mother get her doctorate in Educational Leadership in the same week. To end it all, I returned to Atlanta somewhat when I went to go see Killer Mike and Big Boi at the House of Blues.
I hadn't been to the HOB on Sunset since 2007 when I interviewed Chuck D and sadly had to leave before Public Enemy took the stage. Yes, I chose a date over seeing PE up close and personal but if it makes you feel better, I had seen them a week prior at Rock the Bells.
Anyways, I got there right before an opening act started. Fishhawk was a pretty cool band but the sound made it hard to appreciate them until their last two songs. Their lead singer definitely was a character on stage with his curly hair and stage antics but I dug their sound. I may give them a listen on Spotify to see more.
Then it was time for Killer Mike. Soon as I heard the opening seconds of "God is In the Building" Mike came out spitting his opening verse from "Big Beast", the lead single from last year's "R.A.P. Music."
It was on from there as Mike's booming voice raced through the album, hitting on tracks like "Ghetto Gospel" and "Don't Die". With only a DJ behind him, he let his voice and oversized persona carry the show. Having never seen him before, I was impressed and hearing El-P's production in surround sound only added to the fury of his lyrics.
It's funny that Mike said at one point, "Y'all didn't think you were getting an Ice Cube show, did you?" To me, as a diehard Cube fan, Mike's the closest thing we have to early 90's Cube - an MC with the voice and presence to say what he feels without fear.
He showed that when he broke into his verse from "Never Scared" and had the whole crowd going nuts like that song was recent instead of 10 years old. He showed it also when he told the NFL rookies in the building to invest their money wisely in the community.
When it came time to do "Reagan", his critical ode to our 40th President as well as the government/inner city, he surprised me by doing it acapella. Every word came out clear and being that California is Reagan's home state, I took pride in hearing Mike say every word since Reagan's legacy continues to be exposed every year.
He mostly performed songs from "RAP Music" but dipped into "Ric Flair" from 2011's "Pl3dge"
Before he ended his set, he preachws to the crowd about how he's never been afraid to mention God in his records. That brought it back to him doing the first verse of "God is in the Building" and he did it again acapella among the crowd.
For a bombastic set that felt intimate and personal, that was the perfect ending. After a brief interlude, we got ready for Big Boi.
One thing you need to know about a Big Boi show. 1) There's a live band, 2) There will be dancing, 3) The set list isn't predictable - meaning biggest hits aren't going last.
Case in point? The first 8 songs ran the gambit being released in 2003 to 1996 to 1998 to last year and 2010. Only somebody with a rich, fun catalogue could weave in and out and not miss a bit and in hip hop, that's rare to see.
He opened with "Bust" from Speakerboxxx before jumping into two classic OutKast records in "ATLiens" and "Rosa Parks" He then dipped into his new album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors with maybe my favorite song off there, "Apple of My Eye." I've wanted to see how this record would sound live and with Jake Traut there to deliver vocals, it was hitting on all cylinders.
After doing "CPU", he went back to 2010 with "Shutterbugg" and "Follow Us" from his solo debut. To me, those records still sound funky today and I was going nuts just enjoying the groove and fun of it all.
But how do go from that two of the most crunk singles in OutKast canon? If we weren't already going nuts, Big turned up the energy even more doing "GhettoMusick" and "B.O.B" back to back!!!
Killer Mike later came back out for three songs, including "The Whole World" and the newer "Thom Pettie". It warmed my heart because several years ago, the two had a falling out. They've been patched up for years and to see them on stage together, it was a proud moment for Atlanta hip-hop.
The rest of the night was Big weaving back and forth between his solo records and OutKast records. As I noticed in 2011 when I saw him, he's grown more comfortable as an artist and establishing his own identity. Hearing him rap his verse on "Players Ball" or "International Players Anthem" and you remember that as much as I love Andre as a rapper, Big Boi is no slouch either.
Yes, you could complain about missing Andre 3000 but then you couldn't appreciate hearing Sleepy Brown croon on "The Way You Move". You wouldn't appreciate how Big commanded the stage and showed his own vision. If there's anything I gained from seeing him, it's that we need to stop wishing for an OutKast reunion and appreciate Big Boi in his own right.
The only thing disappointing was the crowd. I expected a bit more energy considering we know that OutKast has created some of the coolest, most fun music around. But alas, while some folks were getting hyped and I was dancing around, most folks were standing, nodding and enjoying it calmly.
That said, Big Boi put on a great show. He closed with "In the A" and it was fitting end to a great show that took me back to Atlanta.
(All photos by Evan Barnes)