by The Spin
The Rock Block was a veritable hot spot of bohemian hip-hop on Saturday night. With the monthly KDSML Review featuring seasoned DJs and turntablists pumping sub bass through Exit/In's cavernous digs, some of Music City’s lesser-known MCs and beat-makers were strutting their stuff across the street at The End.
The Spin walked in just in time to catch the last two numbers from openers Magnetic Forces — apparently it was their first ever performance. If underground hip-hop is good for nothing else, it’s reminding you that rapping is hard. The effortless swagger and impeccable delivery of greats like Jay Z, Emenim and Wu-Tang make it easy to forget how tough it is recite a 2,000-word song from memory, not to mention staying on top of rhythm, poise and finesse. Hence, Magnetic Forces' monotone delivery and dragging meter were simply human flaws in some otherwise intelligent jams. Besides, our punk roots dictate that practice as performance is a perfectly acceptable method of getting your shit down.
Next, all the way from LA, beat-maker and word-sayer Adder followed up as the night’s only touring act. Armed with a sequencer, sampler, synthesizer and expression pad, Adder twiddled the knobs himself, tweaking beats and improvising on his grimy electro instrumentals while laying down socially conscious lyrics he claimed to have mostly written under the influence of mushrooms. With two acts down and five more to go, local duo Last of the Horsemen were the first to make us really feel the hot fire. Fierce, bombastic beats laid the groundwork for some impressive lyrical interplay with calls, responses and backup affirmations all tightly woven into a semi-political, mildly hedonistic, and fairly punk rock performance.
After that wilin’, energetic display, local laptop soloist Binaural Beats’ set served more as an intermission than a follow-up. In all fairness, a dude with a computer following two hype MCs will rarely make for the best pairing, but that isn’t to say a substantial crowd didn’t linger to hear Binaural’s chirpy glitches and scattered beats morph into a dirty electro dance rock oeuvre. Though the acts were flying past in rapid succession, we were barely halfway through this program. We watched the crowd dwindle and swell repeatedly as folks braved the rain to toggle back and forth from across the street. Meanwhile, lyricist Capsize managed to wow us a little with some dazzling, tongue-twisting wordplay,
After a plug from Scene/Cream contributor Sean Maloney via his Party and Bullsh*t column, Mage the Blackheart was the only act that night with whom we were already familiar. His Faceless Generation is a sample-heavy, scathing, politically charged beast of self-described “fuck the government shit." His set was a scattered yet impressive, off-the-cuff mix of tunes off his Jeffery Drag-released cassette and tweaked-out instrumentals, over which Mage would freestyle seemingly on a whim and without warning.
We caught a few jams by closer Xyon before we’d essentially had our fill (eight acts makes for an exhausting bill). There were topics and song titles both surreal and endearing, beats as textured and intricate as we’d heard all night and a flow that was easy on the ears, but our underground hip-hop journey had run its course for the night.