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[whitespace] The First Element

Human drum machine Rahzel takes on scratchers and rappers at Palookaville without missing a beat

By David Espinoza

THESE ARE EXCITING times for hip-hop--a notion easily understood April 1 at P-Ville when the "godfather of noyze," vocal percussionist virtuoso Rahzel, returned for a sold-out performance also featuring turntablist Mixmaster Mike. With just a single microphone and a DJ (who hung back most of the time) the East Coast native made the sound system come alive with heart-stopping bass lines, thick drum beats and quirky robotic clicks. If there has ever been any question about the merit of beatboxing as a legitimate art form, it was answered in full when Rahzel took the stage.

Widely known for his skills as a member of the prolific organic hip-hop outfit the Roots, Rahzel's most recent effort, Make the Music 2000, released last year, has cemented his status as one of the genre's most gifted beatboxers. The thing is, Rahzel's music is much too cosmopolitan to be confined to one style--hip-hop is where his heart's at, but he can also do an insane cover of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." Prepping the crowd for Rahzel's set was turntablist JS One, who got at least a good 10 minutes' worth of adept scratching that mixed Edie Brickell, Queen and Otis Redding, among others. As he introduced the main MC, JS One broke into Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," giving the scenario an ominous vibe. Wearing baggy pants, a long-sleeved shirt, vest and baseball cap, Rahzel came on stage rhyming to JS One's beats before challenging him to a battle. This was an impressive feat since battling is usually between two DJs or two MCs. But we're talking about Rahzel here. For every sound that came out of JS One's mixer, Rahzel mimicked it perfectly, adding his own flavor as if to say, "Let's see you do that."

It is often assumed that the drum was the first instrument. Not true. It was the voice, and Rahzel can prove it.

Gold Record

If you were the least bit surprised to find a local "underground" band named the Lonely Kings taking the gold in last months' Metro Gold Awards for best album (with their What If?), you definitely weren't the only one. I bumped into lead singer/guitarist Jake Desrochers right after a bouncer tossed me out of the slam pit for doing a hardcore Macarena at the AFI show a couple of Sundays back, and he (Desrochers, that is) said he was very "surprised" and "stoked" to receive such a prestigious award. After dodging a few well-directed accusations of voter fraud, Desrochers broke down and admitted that it was all the work of the West Side Pacific Avenue Mafia (aka Wu-PAM), which currently has operations in Streetlight, Saturn, the Bagelry and, of course, Café Pergolesi.

Seriously, though, the forever-toured Lonely Kings have a four-song split EP with Divit coming out on Cold Front Records soon. The split, entitled Feel It, will be available on gold vinyl as well as CD. When? Hopefully April 25 at Streetlight Records, says Desrochers--not quite in time for their next big gig at the Catalyst on April 14.

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From the April 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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