« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Live: Paid Dues Indie Hip-Hop Festival in San Bernardino

Possibly discouraged by $40 ticket prices and a long drive east, only a few thousand fans show up for a generally solid daylong show.

Tech95_kha0bxnc

The fourth annual Paid Dues Festival, held Saturday at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, straddled the tenuous divide between serving as a celebration of the  leading lights  of the backpack breed of indie rap -- a movement formed in the late '90s as a response  to the rap that was being played on the radio at the time, which was perceived by some as too corporate -- and operating as a Petri dish for the flaws of the contemporary underground.

Despite an energetic slate  of performers, the 120-acre sprawl of the NOS Events center often felt gloomy and vacant, with a 40,000 capacity but only a few thousand in attendance. The one-two assault of the recession and the two-hour-plus drive from Los Angeles (in Saturday afternoon traffic hell), no doubt kept the masses away, but the $40 face-value tickets, $15 parking fees and exorbitant concession prices certainly didn't help either.

Even with the ill-chosen location, the glut of consummate professionals on the bill ensured enough compelling performances to justify the event's raison d'être.

In particular, headliner Atmosphere illustrated why, after a 15-year marathon grind, he's finally earned the radio play and Top 10 Billboard chart placement that had eluded him for most of his career. Rapper Slug's poetic heart-on-sleeve tangents always have struck a chord with collegiate crowds, and at Saturday's performance, which featured turns from fellow artists Brother Ali and Murs and DJ/producer Ant, the audience mouthed along to every word, hands perpetually in the air.

Meanwhile, Slaughterhouse -- a rap super-group composed of major-label refugees Joe Buddens, Royce Da' 5'9," Joell Ortiz and Crooked I -- made its West Coast debut, donning butcher's aprons, prison jumpsuits and splashing red-colored liquid on the crowd. Displaying a rowdy and raw energy worthy of Onyx or early Wu-Tang, the set was technically flawless and surprisingly well-rehearsed -- a performance providing an immediacy often lacking in the sub-genre, with each performer rapping as though he carried daggers in his teeth.

But the day wasn't without its disappointments. Hiphop190

Backed by two dancer/hype-men, Kansas City's Tech N9ne, one of the paramount independent success stories of the last decade, put on a rambunctious set of his Bone Thugs N' Harmony meets Bay Area hyphy raps. Although the audience didn't seem to mind, it  appeared that N9ne was lip-syncing, a regular occurrence in the pop world but an act of apostasy in the purist-oriented universe of indie-ground rap.

Cage and Blu and Exile, two of the days' most vaunted acts, were missed by most, thanks to their time slots early on the bill.

Festival organizers Guerilla Union and Murs 3:16 deserve praise for their preservationist instincts and tireless work to keep the torch of independent rap lighted. But conversely, there was something overly familiar about the affair, as though it occurred in an alternate 1999 time warp.

For independent rap to sustain its relevance beyond this generation, evolution is necessary. Too much time was spent on insecure boasts decrying corporate bogeymen, or self-aggrandizing claims about being "that real hip-hop."

The first tenet of the culture is staying fresh and maintaining that wild style. The only thing as important as paying your dues is continuing to push things forward.

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Tech N9ne’s set appeared to be a lip-sync job, but the audience didn’t seem to mind.  (Christina House / For The Times)

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

Tech does NOT lip-synch.

He has, in the past, used DATS with vocals and then rapped over them....but he doesn't lip-synch.

"Shout out to jeff weiss of the la times for writing one of the most misinformed and unsubstantiated reviews ever." quoted murs..... jeff your should put the pen down and try a different profession..you would get schooled on this article in front of anyone.hope the la times meets its 40,000 customer capacity with this info given. peace

wowww. you sir are in dire need of relaxation. you are not a true hip hop fan. what's with the fancy shmancy vocabulary you're toting around like a holier than thou hip hop head...this is nothin more than a trite, detached hipster reading of every an anything you can criticize. you are vague in your claims and hide behind your journalistic propaganda and though i do not know you...i can guess you are not truly a viable part of the hip hop culture.

HAHAHA!!! Damn, Jeff!! No wonder the LA Times is in the toilet. Tech N9ne lip synched??? Are you sure you were at the Paid Dues concert? Because I was there and Tech certainly wasn’t lip synching nor have I ever seen him lip synch in the more than 50 shows I have been to from coast to coast. In fact, in case you weren’t aware, Tech’s live show is one of the main reasons of Tech’s profound growth and success. He is universally regarded as having one of the greatest live hip hop shows of all time. You know why the audience “didn’t care”? Because no one saw what you did. If you wear glasses, check the strength of your prescription because I think you might need some new lenses. Lasik is always an option, too. You should update your resume, because there were probably more people at that show then subscribe to the Times now.

I am all for an objective review but this just seems to be written by someone who doesn't understand what Murs is trying to create with the festival and doesn't appreciate the talent performing on stage. How could you disrespect Tech N9ne by saying he is lip-syncing? This isn't a Britney Spears concert, it's a hip hop festival put on and paid for by a true hip hop artist - have some respect! Also, would it have killed you to use your media pass and been a real journalist and found out the truth about your "hunch" that Tech was lip-syncing before you published the article?

As to your comment about it feeling like 1999 - have you heard the rubbish on the radio lately that's being called hip hop? I'm sorry but that's NOT hip hop and if that's evolution I would much rather watch these artists in 2009 saying things that take me back to 1999 because Paid Dues is REAL HIP HOP. You want evolution? then go see some of the hip hop "stars" of 1999 live and tell me how genuine/real it feels now that they've been corrupted by the commercial music scene. I will take Paid Dues over a commercial "hip hop" concert any day.

Murs is doing it right - a peaceful hip hop festival about the music and lyrics. Don't let reviews like this deter you Murs, we love you for what you are doing.

Here's some lyrics from Can It Be off the Murs for President CD (I hope Murs doesn't mind me posting his lyrics here but I have been listening to this album all day and this section just seems appropriate with regards to this review).

Murs - Can it Be lyrics

From the independant hip hop scene
now they talkin' like how I'm not a hip hop fiend
needle in my arm, can't they see I'm odin'?
you'll never take these stripes from this triple OG, an'
I blaze trails, create a festival
lost 50g's on Paid Dues is that acceptable?
What? I'm not down for the cause?
(Can it Be...)- Hold on Mike, I'm a need a few bars-
I could've done a Nas and screamed "Hip Hop is dead"
I got up off my ass and I did something instead
signed with the devil brought the scene
up a level, killed the beast within
I'm a born again rebel
trying to save the youth from the way of the gun
and if I only save one then my job is done
so you should say what you will but you should judge me none.

I had to tell someone (they shall remain nameless) from the LA Times the names of the members in Living Legends because they didn't know. I'll leave my comment at that!

All hail to the N9ne.the best live shows in music not just rap

Murs - Can it Be lyrics

From the independant hip hop scene
now they talkin' like how I'm not a hip hop fiend
needle in my arm, can't they see I'm odin'?
you'll never take these stripes from this triple OG, an'
I blaze trails, create a festival
lost 50g's on Paid Dues is that acceptable?
What? I'm not down for the cause?
(Can it Be...)- Hold on Mike, I'm a need a few bars-
I could've done a Nas and screamed "Hip Hop is dead"
I got up off my ass and I did something instead
signed with the devil brought the scene
up a level, killed the beast within
I'm a born again rebel
trying to save the youth from the way of the gun
and if I only save one then my job is done
so you should say what you will but you should judge me none.

******
hats off to murs


TECH DOES NOT LIP SYNC!!!!!!!!!!!

Good job on disrespecting Tech N9ne on the lip-syncing.... i know for a damn fact that he dose not lip sync....

i will no longer be reading the LA Times because of this, good job.....

Ok, who is this Jeff Weiss character. note to self: when criticizing legitimate art, performed at an event called 'PAID DUES', refer to your own paid dues before talking spit on the so-called "tenets of culture". Especially when you have Daniel Krystosek give you the heads up on one of the largest, most successful, independently-run, hip hop collaborations of the last two decades.

I was there. Were you?


Advertisement
Connect

Recommended on Facebook



In Case You Missed It...

Video



Recent Posts


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.

Categories


Archives
 



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: