Dilated Peoples and Brother Ali lay down socio-political diatribes at East Village Arts Club, Getintothis’ Sean Bradbury reports on two hip hop icons marrying music to their message.
“Welcome to the United Snakes, land of the thief, home of the slave. The grand imperial guard where the dollar is sacred and power is God.”
Brother Ali doesn’t mince his words.
Built on a funky head-nod swagger, it is impossible to ignore the potency of Uncle Sam Goddamn – his verbal critique of the hawkish tradition of American foreign policy and its attendant worldview.
Ali’s swaying delivery builds with the attack of an evangelical preacher and adds a light Ol’ Dirty Bastard quiver when really hitting home his point, but is otherwise a slick mix of teasing wordplay and measured polemic.
Dropping material from his fifth full length Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color – which features the controversial cover image of Ali kneeling to pray on the Stars & Stripes – the Wisconsin-born rapper seeks to join the dots between being a practicing Muslim and an American citizen.
Ali is just as upfront about his albinism on Forest Whitaker, his call to accept people as they are: “I’m albino man, I know I’m pink and pale/And I’m hairy as hell, everywhere but fingernails.”
He is an entertaining raconteur between songs too, telling tales of teenage days inspired by Rakim and KRS-One.
Brother Ali at East Village Arts Club, Liverpool
After his half hour support slot has East Village Arts Club nicely warmed up, Ali hands over to DJ Babu, Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience.
Dilated Peoples have been a cornerstone of the underground hip-hop scene for more than 20 years and the tireless innovation of the LA three-piece is unrelenting.
While their set naturally includes their mainstream successes – This Way, Worst Comes To Worst and You Can’t Hide, You Can’t Run in particular – it is the more elemental moments that seem to enliven performers and purists the most.
Babu was casually snacking on a burger in the bar before the gig in readiness for his extended scratch spot, which was based around a rework of The Seed (2.0) by The Roots and peppered with the rare spoils of his crate digging career.
In respect for his handiwork, Evidence and Rakaa take to the wings, air scratching and absorbing the atmosphere.
Dilated Peoples at East Village Arts Club, Liverpool
Evidence is so boundlessly energetic he is practically his own hype man, hurling himself into the crowd and later imploring them: “Do me a favour, give me everything you’ve got and I’ll do the same.”
Rakaa stalks the stage with engaging menace, routinely stopping to lock eyes with someone in the audience, point at them and nod vigorously.
EVAC is even treated to a familiar “1,2,3,4” count in, which gives way to a chopped up Come Together by the Beatles as a backing track for the emcees to go to work.
Other highlights are the brutal beat behind Back Again with sharp and precise interplay from Evidence and Rakaa over the top, an impassioned Kindness for Weakness and a take on War which loops with clever lines and a building message of futility: “War is suffering, war is bluffing/What is it good for, absolutely nothing.”
Evidence can barely control the crowd after a frenzied set as he calls for silence with his spoken sign off: “Fuck the microphone, thank you for having us tonight.”
Pictures by Getintothis’ Ian Gamester.
Further reading on Getintothis:
- Tony Broke, Lee Scott & Bill Shakes, Ape Cult, Bang On, Innuendo, 4saken, Loki: The Zanzibar, Liverpool