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Review Wed Sep 25 2013

Review: Brother Ali and Immortal Technique @ Metro, 9/22

"We're here in the name of hip-hop," host Poison Pen declared, as the diverse throng of people inside of the Metro cheered. Even on a Sunday night, a rowdy crowd was packed in from the front to back of the venue.

After a somewhat brief performance by Poison Pen, Hasan Salaam was the first rapper on the bill to hit the stage. He announced that 100 percent of the profits made by his most recent album, Music is my Weapon, go toward funding a school, well and clinic in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

He asked the audience, "If America was a woman would you date her?" A large handful of people in the crowd yelled back, "F*** no!" Then Hasan played "Miss America," a song about the hypocrisy of American democracy.

(Photo by Brianna Kelly)

He switched gears to perform a song that he dedicated to his mom, followed by a song that he said was about house parties. In the middle of his set, he jumped into the crowd and handed out fliers with some of his info on it as a little shameless self-promotion. "I represent the rebel army," he said when he hopped back on stage.

Poison Pen came back out to talk to the crowd, as a transition into the next rappers' performance. He let everyone know that he would be hanging out at the merch booth throughout the night so they can chat and shake hands with anyone who wants to stop by. He explained that it's important to make yourself available to fans because it's "rude shit" when other artists ignore the people who support them.

It was really cool to see all of the rappers who performed throughout the night go out of their way to give high fives to people in the crowd. That simple acknowledgment really meant a lot to them. A girl in the front row was so happy to touch the rappers that she probably hasn't washed her hands since.

(Photo by Brianna Kelly)

I Self Devine came out with two other rappers and DJ Todda. He sang a song called "Diamond Movement," which he described as a recollection of important character-building moments in a person's life. "We run a campaign to perpetually educate the hearts and minds of people," he said.

Then came time for one of the brightest stars in Rhymesayers Entertainment, a true force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop world, Brother Ali. His calm, cool stage presence was like a breath of fresh air. So, it was truly fitting that one of the first songs he played was "Fresh Air," which begins with the line, "I'm the luckiest son of a bitch that ever lived." He made it quite apparent that he was grateful to earn his living as a rapper.

A girl in the crowd yelled, "I love you," and he replied, "I love you first."

Brother Ali also played "Uncle Sam God Damn," which points out pretty much all of the shadiest things in American history, including moral corruption, slavery, thievery and greedy capitalism.

Call me biased about my home state, but Brother Ali possesses a fine quality that we like to call "Minnesota nice." He bitches like everyone else, but he does it ever so politely. He speaks the truth without inciting complete chaos.

(Photo by Brianna Kelly)

Unlike Immortal Technique, whose sheer presence caused the crowd to literally go insane the second he stepped onto the stage. It seemed as if something in the cosmos had shifted and all of a sudden people were so excited to see him that they were gripped by anger. Obscenities were tossed about as often as people were waving their hands in the air.

Since the people who surround you at a show can really affect the overall experience, the negativity that I felt in the crowd was hard to shake.

This girl, who was holding a book, wanted to get closer to the stage and ended up standing next to me. I thought it was kind of odd that someone would bring a book to a concert, so I tried reading the cover to see what it was. She then proceeded to scream in my face and accuse me of giving her "a dirty look." I immediately apologized and said that was not my intention. But, did she accept my explanation? No, she just continued to yell at me. That's when I decided I'd had it with being in the thick of the crowd.

When I got to the balcony, I sat down and watch another awkward scene unfold. Some guy in the second row was booted from the show for apparently doing something to piss off one of the rappers because he held a hand up to the stage for a solid minute and the rapper just glared at him, but wouldn't accept his handshake, like he would with everyone else. Then security was called to take the guy out.

(Photo by Brianna Kelly)

It struck a chord with me when Immortal Technique played "Rich Man's World (1%)" because the unequal distribution of wealth is a huge problem in this country, but is it really necessary to use the N-word multiple times in every single verse? I like what Immortal Technique is trying to do with his music, but he needs to tone it down a bit.

About half of the material that was played by the five main rappers who performed throughout the night was plagued with unnecessary cuss words and angst. The messages are powerful, but they're clouded by the overuse of those infamous four and five letter words.

We all have our qualms about this country and the people in it, and we have every right to express them. Freedom of speech is actually one of the greatest things about America. So, go ahead and rant about seemingly every other thing that you think isn't just. But, try to do so productively. Provide some possible solutions to the problems maybe. Don't just stand on your soapbox and gripe.

It's obvious that a harmonious world would be a happier one. But, if you're going to preach peace, you must first and foremost be peaceful.

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Josh / September 25, 2013 9:49 AM

Just gonna throw this out there: perhaps someone squeamish about "cuss words" should not be reviewing rap shows.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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