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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lifesavas Tour Diary: Evolution Happens

posted by on May 23 at 16:10 PM


This is the first installment of a tour diary written by Seattle’s DJ Marc Sense, who’s on the road with Portland luminaries Lifesavas—MCs Vursatyl and Jumbo and DJ Rev. Shines—for five weeks.

Six days into the tour ya boy is tired, but with plenty of stories to tell. You’l get an inside look at life on the road with Quannum recording artists Lifesavas, plus everything else associated with the tour. At the very least it should entertain and provide some distinct insight into four hiphop heads and their experiences.

Monday, May 14 - Minneapolis

Unquestionably, Rhymesayers runs the independent hiphop game in this era. To figure out why, you have to visit the crew’s headquarters, which includes the record store Fifth Element, a basement warehouse, and offices upstairs. Economic efficiency at its best. But the real engine lies in the personnel that operate the grassroots company.

During Lifesavas’ in-store performance, the likes of Slug of Atmosphere, Siddiq (Rhymesayers co-founder), Kevin Beacham (Scribble Jam organizer), and J-Bird (Rhymesayers vice president) all came down to check things out. That core group has worked together as crew for over seven years and as peers for much longer. Their loyalty to one another and the label’s artists has pushed them to the top spot in the independent hiphop game.

Wednesday, May 16 - Chicago

J-Dilla’s impact on hiphop music runs so deep. Lifesavas’ good friend Ben took us out for a late dinner of tapas, which hit the spot. But as good as the food tasted, the guys lit up when we got back to his spot and they discovered his 500+ songs produced by Dilla, including many unreleased beat tapes. And when I say tapes, I mean literally cassettes with reels.

Shines mentioned that he had quite a few of them that had somehow gotten lost. So when Ben had some of those same beats it took Shines back to his brief stay in Connecticut in the late 1990s. One of the tracks sounded quite familiar to my ear, since One Be Lo had recorded a song over it. Even Vursatyl, whose main duty is rocking the mic, collects Dilla-produced vinyl.

Thursday, May 17 - Cleveland

What is good hiphop? According to this cat at the show it certainly wasn't anybody on Cash Money, after I had just played Baby's "What Happened To That Boy" featuring Clipse. Attitudes like that have played a huge role in hiphop music's demise and over-support of wack-ass backpack rap.

Can anybody really argue that Birdman & Lil Wayne's recent album doesn't smash 95% of all independent shit? It's got that same fire in the MCing and hard-hitting production of the golden era, except without that true-school flavor. Stylistically, hiphop has changed like any other art form. Evolution happens. The music has existed for nearly 30 years or longer depending on your perspective.

Little do these fans know that even their favorite artists bump 50 Cent in the iPod. On our drive to Boston a few days later, Vurs turned on some dopeness from 50's artist's last album The Massacre. And some G-Unit. Stylistically, that music certainly differs from his own Lifesavas work, yet still holds a common thread. Good or "real" hiphop's definition too often hinges on the false divisions that fans construct to boost their position as superior because they're up on Brother Ali or whoever.

Friday, May 18 - Buffalo

Sometimes a cell phone is a man's best friend. A huge responsibility on tour lies in an artist's ability to conduct business while on the road. Last night Jumbo stayed up late reviewing a contract on the phone with the group's manager, Ken Erlick. Today we delayed our departure so that those documents could get emailed, printed out, signed, faxed, and FedExed.

Instead of sitting on my ass, I stayed busy on the horn myself, making sure all of the DJ nights back home were covered. That and Macklemore also had a big show the next day at Seattle University in which he needed to be aware of every last detail to ensure everything played out smoothly.

Business aside, the celly keeps everyone in touch with loved ones who have either learned to or will learn how to deal with the two or three months minimum per year of touring. Jumbo's girlfriend seems to hit him up at least twice a day and Vurs calls home to talk with his wife and wish his kids well.

Saturday, May 19 - Boston

The best groups can play in front of 50 or 500 people. On this particular date Lifesavas performed for the former. Jumbo and Vurs still sweated out every verse and hook of their hour-long set. And the people responded to their energy during every song, especially the call and responses. Shines made sure things stayed on pace from behind the turntables and hyping on the mic. The set definitely displayed a level of professionalism that some artists don't seem to grasp when a limited number of people come out to see THEM put on a show.

Sunday, May 20 - Northampton

Ya gotta love the small racist towns. The ones where the 5-0 will bug out if they see any black dude, much less the three cats from Strange Fruit and Blu. And of course they all rap. So a cop passing by at least 10 times and then posting up 1/2 block down the way comes as no surprise.

Ironically (or not), our first encounter on the tour with the bacon came after the first show in Seattle. After meeting up with the guys at Jade Garden mad late, one of the homeless cats did his thing with the song and dance. Granted he sang in the middle of the street and we had the doors wide open. The paddy wagon rolled around and told us to keep it movin', as if trouble was on the way.

RSS icon Comments


bout time marc! goddamn boy.

Good or "real" hiphop's definition too often hinges on the false divisions that fans construct to boost their position as superior because they're up on Brother Ali or whoever.

real spit. the divisions in hiphop are such a new thing too- when somebody is hung up on that shit you instantly know that their history ends 10 years ago at best.

talking that mainstream vs. underground/
rap vs. hiphop/
conscious vs. negative
shit is wild '98.

Posted by lar | May 23, 2007 10:10 PM

great idea having marc do this journal.

word to larry's comment about '98. i specifically remember a friend's older brother telling me in 1998 that jay-z was "rap" and ATCQ was "hiphop" like he had reinvented definitions for the words. it sounded dumb then and sounds dumb now.

Posted by ndrwmtsn | May 24, 2007 5:43 PM

Stupid noobs. OMG! You didn't know?

Hip Hop is so fuckin' rad right now! Becky, it's like...totally in the building! I'm so excited!

But that KRS One guy still annoys me. What the hell is he talking about anyway? Nobody likes a know it all and he's just soooo nerdy like.

And what's up with graf? It's just so killer. Like, I'm soooo feeling Neck Face.

I'm totally going to Journey's at South Center right now to buy a pair if Dunks.


Posted by PFC Jessica Lynch | May 25, 2007 4:07 PM

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