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[whitespace] Black Is Black

Blood of Abraham and Blackalicious steal a Palookaville show

By David Espinoza

IF THERE IS such a thing as an indie-rock-influenced hip-hop group, it has to be Blood of Abraham. Thankfully, not another trailer-thrash metal­meets­rap-core outfit groomed for the masses, the L.A.-based sextet somehow managed to pull off a style that could fit on a Matador Records compilation CD May 13 at Palookaville--only the band's focus was rapping instead of singing. Opening for Del tha Funkee Homosapien, BOA's rock-derived rhythms weren't an immediate hit with the early crowd. But the band began to win fans by the end of the set. Like the few underground hip-hop groups that dare to sport a live band, Blood of Abraham recognizes that the key is not to let the instruments overshadow the MCs. A sweet mix of reverb-laced '60s guitar (think Hendrix's "Waterfall"), impeccably timed turntable scratching and simple-but-steady bass and drums worked like a charm behind MCs Benyad and Mazik's thoughtful double-team rhyming.

Following BOA's set were the always-inspiring underground favorites Blackalicious. Although it seems as if the group has been around for forever, things have only recently begun to heat up for MC Gift of Gab and DJ Chief Xcel. After last year's brilliant "One of a Kind" track on the Quannum Spectrum compilation, and with a compelling independent full-length CD, Nia, just out, Blackalicious could soon be selling out its own shows at Palookaville. Indeed, it appeared that a good portion of the packed house had come out to see Blackalicious, which took the stage along with Quannum Projects' Lateef (Latryx), Joyo Velarde and Verastile. (MC Lyrics Born was a no-show.) Credit should go to MC Gift of Gab, who can spew a jumble of positive rhymes faster than your ears can register.

In the studio, Blackalicious stands out as an exceptionally dynamic, rootsy, soul-funk hip-hop group. Onstage, the band is 10 times better. From the superb "The Fabulous Ones" to the band's critique of the materialism of mainstream hip-hop, "Deception," Blackalicious is as tasty as the name.

Stray Cats Step Aside

They say good things come to those who wait, but don't tell that to rockabilly meister Gary Marsh--he's been waiting for years. Longtime leader of local "swill-billy" boys the Chop Tops, Marsh has seen more lineup changes than the staff of that other Santa Cruz weekly. With a new permanent roster that boasts Brian Berman on lead guitar, Shelby Legnon on rhythm guitar and Austin, Texas, émigré Dylan Cavaliere on stand-up bass, things are looking up. Last year, on the first day of an eight-state, 10,000-mile road tour, the Chop Tops did what most groups only dream of by winning a battle-of-the-bands contest that earned the band a year's contract with a major rockabilly record label. At the end of this month, the foursome heads to the Rolling Rock Records recording studio in Vegas (same place that's hosted Bill Haley's Comets, among others) to begin work on the band's second full-length album, tenatively titled The Chop Tops Always Wild. Marsh fancies the new effort as anything but "cookie-cutter rockabilly," with 22 all-original tunes aiming to inspire listeners to grease their hair back, cuff dem' jeans and holler. In the meantime, the Chop Tops play the Aptos Club Saturday with buddies the Del Royals and begin a weekly spot at Servino's starting in mid-June.

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From the May 17-24, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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