"Testify" from the album The Untitled LP (a.k.a. N*gger)
It's rare that major hip-hop successes run through the big venues of Charleston. In recent weeks, however, there has been a mini-explosion of hip-hop at the Music Farm like we've never seen before — and we're not talking about bullshit hustlers who spit ring-tone rap about guns, cash, and ho's.
Hip-hop pioneer Slick Rick was scheduled to perform on Thurs. July 24, but the show has been rescheduled for Aug. 21. The Hieroglyphics — with members from the Souls of Mischief, Pep Love, and Casual — have frequently performed in Charleston, most recently on Fri. July 25. This week, Nas, Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, and DJ Green Lantern are to grace the Music Farm stage on Wed., July 30.
Some may consider it monumental to have such a provocative group of conscious rappers visit Charleston. Nas (born Nasir Jones) has been opening minds with rhymes about street culture, social prophecies, and political commentary since his 1994 Columbia Records debut album Illmatic. Together with Kweli, of Black Star fame, New Orleans' innovative hip-hop artist Jay Electronica, and famed underground turntablist DJ Green Lantern, they comprise the "Jones Experience Tour."
Nas, Electronica, and Green Lantern are touring in between performances at the Rock the Bells festival, which this year brought together legends like De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, to promote Nas' ninth studio album, The Untitled LP (also considered a self-titled). The album was originally planned to be released under the title N*gger, but it received flack from the NAACP.
The change of name is inconsequential. Just the idea and promotion of using the N-word alone has given the record tons of publicity. A controversial title also proves unnecessary when the content of the album speaks for itself. Some of the beats on The Untitled LP are still not the most catchy or complex (what many hip-hop fans want from him). From taking stabs at the big brothers of Fox News on the track "Sly Fox" to exploring the irony and progress of a country built on slavery having a potential black president, Nas continues to reign as an empowered and profound poetic street king.
Where in some people's opinions, Nas' stage performances may be less entertaining due to his choice of instrumentals, the rest of the MCs add plenty of action. Kweli has more upbeat tracks, like the commercially successful "Get By" and "Waiting for the DJ" from his acclaimed Quality album, along with a funky, versatile vocal projection. Electronica uses scores from film soundtracks like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as the background to his raps, and DJ Green Lantern (who produced "Black President" and "Like Me" on The Untitled LP ) never ceases to mix and sample high energy beats.
Their elevated and aware style of rap ties the artists together and raises political, social, and religious issues to invoke positive change through hip-hop culture.
Nas says his goal for the Jones Experience Tour is to have a "big show in intimate venues." Perhaps that's why he's chosen to come to the Music Farm. Marshall Lowe of All-In Entertainment (who books the Farm) thinks it has something to do with his management extending its network to Columbia, Charlotte, and beyond. After kicking off the reopening of the Music Farm with a Wu-Tang Clan concert, we think he's right.
"There is a market for hip-hop here," says Lowe. With that in mind, Charleston may be about to witness something lyrically elite.