He talked and rapped a lot about “the oppressed” -- and of course he wasn’t talking about people from another country or even another city. He touched on the heavy impact of the foreclosure epidemic and the unmoving unemployment numbers. He spouted off about there being “a whole generation of people that are locked up” because of unfair and overzealous convictions.
Yes, I Self Devine crammed a lot of bleak subject matter into his album release party, but the Minneapolis rap vet still left plenty of room for bright revelry and an impressive lineup of opening acts Friday at 7th Street Entry.
Headlining his fourth show at 7th Street Entry in as many months, the rapper also known as local activist, artist and mentor Chaka Mkali not surprisingly focused on material from “The Sound of Low Class Amerika,” his first album in seven years. The record officially drops Tuesday via Rhymesayers, when Fifth Element is also hosting a signing appearance. Foremost among the new songs on Friday was “Power,” an especially wicked and seething view of the ghetto that culminated with his two hype men and the crowd chanting the ambiguous one-word title – part powerless plea, part call-to-arms. On the other end of the sonic spectrum, “Stuck” riffed on merciless prison terms with a slower and more Impressions-istic groove (as in Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions). I Self also threw in “In the Physical,” one of dozens of tracks he dropped via download-only mixtapes leading up to his album release.
While Friday’s set certainly had plenty of pay-off, the culmination of Mkali's busy spring will undoubtedly be his high-profile set at the Soundset fest on May 27. Along with I Self’s fellow educator and Rhymesayers star Toki Wright – who played a subdued, cool-headed set, seemingly in deference to his fiery friend -- two new names on the Soundset 2012 lineup also performed Friday in the Entry: MaLLy and Audio Perm, each seemingly gearing up for what could be their breakout years.
MaLLy (south Minneapolis native Malik Watkins) seemed to be channeling everyone from Kanye West to Radiohead as he previewed songs off his upcoming album, “The Last Great,” which he’ll promote with his own Entry release party on May 18. Highlights an innovative remake of an earlier nugget, “The Renaissance 2.0,” as well as the more basic but sure-fire party starter “Bounce.” The young bucks of Audio Perm – three barely legal producers/DJs, and about a half dozen of their rapper pals -- pretty much bounced through their entire set. As rowdy and hyper as the AP fellas came off, they maintained a sly, cunning approach while they continually swapped microphones and traded off verses, sort of like a Wu Tang Clan on Red Bull and video-gamer adrenaline instead of weed.
Kudos from Friday night should also go to Mike 2600, who joined his fellow DJs in the Get Cryphy crew two doors down in the Record Room to spin a special set of Beastie Boys jams. The news of Adam “MCA” Yauch’s death had only gotten out 10 hours earlier. While Mike put some fun twists on what was essentially a greatest-hits list, the real joy from his set simply came from watching the crowd get off and sing along verbatim to the songs – a largely underage crowd, mind you, including many fans who were born the year “Sabotage” came out and are 10 years younger than “Fight for Your Right” (!). Yauch’s legacy has already proven to be one for the ages, in other words.