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SXSW 2011: Battle of L.A. featuring Freddie Gibbs versus Matthewdavid at the Mohawk

March 18, 2011 |  7:13 am

Freddie Gibbs and Matthewdavid are seemingly a study in opposites. Gibbs is an ex-drug dealer and convicted felon turned rap godzilla who has spent the last two years building a big-tent fan base made up of trap-rap fans, '90s boom-bap aficionados and white hipsters that lamely chant "swag," unsure whether or not they're even being ironic.

Matthewdavid is a Brainfeeder-signed, ambient-music- and Mississippi Records-loving pacifist who has become one of Low End Theory's leading lights off the strength of his eclectic sensibilities, unchecked creativity and superior mixing abilities. But the two of them randomly faced off in random rooms at Mohawk's on Tuesday night.

Yet each displayed more similarities than superficial differences might reveal. Both Gibbs and MD rocked with supreme confidence, and managed to get heads bobbing. Gibbs opened with "Highway to Hell," his new track produced by Texan dubstep killer Mexicans with Guns, and proceeded to perform a rap clinic for the next hour, playing "National Anthem," "Slammin," "What It B Like," and "The Ghetto."

He rhymed over the beat for Masta Ace's "Born to Roll," for people who think Delicious Vinyl is a new sandwich/record shop in Silver Lake. He had horn-rimmed Pitchforkians murmuring lyrics about esoteric locations in Gary, Ind. And that's one of the things that hip-hop is (or should be) about, building bridges between seemingly antithetical groups and bringing to light realities that you shouldn't have previously known existed.

As for David, he displayed a new-found array of dance movies that seemed to draw from '60s "Beach Blanket Bingo"-style movies with far more swag. For his set at the Anticon showcase, he cut up an array of beats and glitchy rhythms, chugging Miller Lite in a polo shirt and having the whole crowd bobbing their heads and dancing. It was a little bit of L.A. transported to Austin. Behind him was a projection screen of the Mohawk, backed by a grove full of pines. In the end, both David and Gibbs turned in performances ideal for forest fires of a different kind of tree.

-- Jeff Weiss in Austin, Texas