Nada Mucho

Security of the First World – Del Tha Funkee Homosapien

Posted by February 8th, 2004 No Comments »

Del quietly prepares to rock the party.Security of the First World
Blue Scholars / Sleep & Bishop of Old Dominion / Del tha Funkee Homosapien
Live at Seattle’s Chop Suey
By Matt Ashworth

It’s night three of my new gig moonlighting as a security guard at Chop Suey and I’m not only gonna get to see my first live hip-hop show in way too long, but I’m getting paid for it.

Not just any hip-hop, either. We’re talking Del here, the incredibly funky homosapien who helped satiate my voracious appetite for rap music over a decade ago with his signature track, “Mr Dobbalina,” and has continued to thrive in the critically-respected musical no man’s land somewhere below the Billboard-topping, hip-hop hit-making machines and somewhere above the constantly thriving DIY underground ever since.

Del quietly prepares to rock the party.Security of the First World
Blue Scholars / Sleep & Bishop of Old Dominion / Del tha Funkee Homosapien
Live at Seattle’s Chop Suey
By Matt Ashworth

It’s night three of my new gig moonlighting as a security guard at Chop Suey and I’m not only gonna get to see my first live hip-hop show in way too long, but I’m getting paid for it.

Not just any hip-hop, either. We’re talking Del here, the incredibly funky homosapien who helped satiate my voracious appetite for rap music over a decade ago with his signature track, “Mr Dobbalina,” and has continued to thrive in the critically-respected musical no man’s land somewhere below the Billboard-topping, hip-hop hit-making machines and somewhere above the constantly thriving DIY underground ever since.

This evening my post is backstage, where my instructions are “to keep anyone without a wristband out.” Unless, of course, the non-wristbanded person in question is accompanied to the aforementioned backstage area by someone possessing a wristband. Also allowed are any of the 20 Music For America volunteers on hand to encourage voter registration (it’s the third night of their Caucus Rockus series aimed at younger voters) as well as all of Chop Suey’s rotating staff and quasi-staff of about 40, and any members of said staff member’s posse. Do not, however, let some idiot in one of the band’s entourages bring thirty people back on one wrist band. Oh, the hot dog guy gets a pass too.

“Easy enough.”

There are at least six security guards on hand this evening – by far the largest crew with which I’ve yet had the honor to serve. This is, after all, a hip-hop show, and anyone who knows anything knows that hip-hop is, you know, all dangerous n’ shit.

If you’ve yet to shuck the media-proliferated stereotype associating this particular style of music to violence, humor me by considering the following experiential counterpoints:

1) Hip-hop has no direct casual relationship to violence.

Anytime you put 500 individuals in a small space, grease them up with liquor and provide them with a high-energy live music performance that makes casual conversation nearly impossible, some shit is bound to go down. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sepultura, Public Enemy or Yanni.

Yes, at one point a fight broke out. A few other guests were escorted out either because they were so fucked up they were a danger to themselves and others or because they did something designed to instigate something other than the unified party vibe shared by the rest of the crowd. The same thing happened the last two shows I worked, neither of which featured hip-hop performers and both of which were significantly less crowded.

The verdict? Seems to me that hip-hop shows STILL do not promote or inspire violence, intolerance or disrespect. Shitheads do. And if you own a club, it’s likely that on any given night, at least a couple of shitheads will show up.

2) Hip-hop may, in fact, be both more tolerant and inclusive than most other styles of popular music.

While the hipster and indie rock set have to consistently fight to shed their reputations as exclusionary and condescending, this particular hip-hop show dripped with a respectful and fun-loving party vibe that made this the most enjoyable show I’ve ever seen and not just worked at Chop Suey.

3) Hip-hop artists can be some of the friendliest, most gracious people on the planet.

As a paid employee whose main functions are to protect the club’s staff and guests and diffuse potentially harmful situations, my new job requires that I temper my sick lust for networking with performers and music industry types. I’ve left previous shifts wishing I could have had more of an opportunity to interact with the evening’s many performers, but, not surprisingly, “get to know the security guard” isn’t always high on anyone’s list of priorities for the evening. I fully understand that pop stars aren’t required to give a fuck about the dorky, super-sized goon hovering over the backstage area.

Friday night I didn’t have to – nearly everyone I encountered backstage shook my hand or gave me one of those patented “hip-hop half hug” deals when I introduced myself. In fact, people with fancy titles like “tour promoter” and “label head” introduced themselves to ME. Some even thanked me for my poorly-designed and produced NadaMucho.com business card.

Midway through the evening I had to tell two extremely hot girls they couldn’t come backstage without a wristband despite apparently being with DJ Scene. In my limited experience, hot girls dating performers generally do not like to be denied access to the super cool backstage room. Expecting attitude when they reappeared later (after Scene had sorted them out with a wristband), they caught me off guard by instead saying “no worries, I know it’s your job,” and “hey, can I get you a glass of water since you’re stuck back here?”

Shit, even Del gave me a bump and a thank you when I nervously muttered “good shit man” after his encore, and when you’ve sold out a good sized venue at the tail end of yet another successful national tour and have been a respected, internationally-known musician for over a decade you really DON’T have to give a shit if the club staff sucks up to you. These hip-hops heads are nice.

Props for enduring this long preamble to what should have been a concise and elucidating review of the night’s entertainment. I’m guessing nothing we’ve covered so far is news to local hip-hop heads, but it might be an eye opener to the oodles of hip-hop loving Nada readers and contributors who’ve never been out to see a local show. So consider this your: a) gentle prod to come on out and support Seattle’s hip-hop community, b) behind-the-scenes assurance that you too are welcome at Seattle rap shows, even though you might not own a stitch of vinyl, can’t name the group Mos Def left to go solo, and have blindly taken the music press’ word that Seattle ain’t a hip-hop town for years, and c) short introduction to what must be a much bigger pool of fantastic music than we could have possibly imagined.

Ever gone out to see a touring rock band with a comparable pedigree to Del tha Funkee Homosapien (see Guided by Voices, Built to Spill or the reunited Camper Van Beethoven’s upcoming Croc show) and wondered how the starry-eyed hipster doofi passing for an opening band managed to get on the bill? If not, it probably means you’re either studied enough to know which of the city’s countless rock bands are worth showing up early for, or that you saw enough unmemorable opening sets in your early twenties to have prompted a “don’t show up until at least 11:15” rule long ago. In fact, if you’ve actually been out to see touring hip-hop acts recently, you probably stretched that until midnight, cause after all, Seattle doesn’t have any good local hip-hop, right?

Wrong.

Hopefully you’re aware of the city’s two most recognizable independent hip-hop collections – Stuck Under the Needle, the label that sponsors local shows and releases records by Old Dominion, Onry Ozborne and others, and Source of Labor, a loose collective that’s been fostering an extremely creative and well-respected scene for over a decade. Having known about and enjoyed Needle’s releases for the past couple years, I had high hopes that Sleep (of Old Dominion) and Bishop would provide an acceptable warm-up for Del’s crew, and crossed my fingers that the first group wouldn’t embarrass Seattle too terribly in front of such a rap luminary.

I met Geologic and Sabzi from openers Blue Scholars shortly before they took the stage after confirming that they were, in fact, of age and in possession of pink wristbands. Peeking out at an already near-capacity crowd with me just before they took the stage, Sabzi copped to being a little nervous. “It’s all good man, just go out and have fun,” I mutter, secretly praying that the hungry and boisterous crowd wouldn’t eat these two nice young kids for lunch.

Ten minutes later I’m sneaking out from behind my backstage post to get a glimpse. Strong rhymes. Good chemistry. A minimal reliance on standard rap cliché’s. Good start.

By the fourth song I’m peeking back in to see if they somehow snuck a third member by me – these guys have a lot of potential as MC’s but the beats and hooks behind them are way too good for two Seattle kids in their early twenties. I grab the first guy I think is associated with Old Dominion’s crew backstage and ask, “Yo man, did Scene hook up the beats on this or did someone at Needle help ‘em out?”

“Nah man, they did all this shit themselves.”

By the end of the set I’m having trouble simultaneously assuring a backstage environment free of the wristband-impaired and simultaneously bobbing my head along with most of the Needle crew, who gave the kind of support I wish more established bands would give to the young talent prepping the crowd for the headliners.

By the time I return from the front of the club, where my amazing physical strength and intimidating demeanor are suddenly required for the removal of an intoxicated military personnel unhappy with the club’s policy of charging set prices for alcoholic beverages, the Scholars are getting mad props for a great set. Having stood outside the door of the green room for more than two hours picking up on just how much everyone here reveres this cat “Sleep” (living up to his nomenclature he was “Sleeping” on the couch when I got to the club and literally had to be woken up for his set), I’m getting mighty curious to get a peep at this local hip-hop hero. I do a double take when it becomes clear that Sleep is the friendly five-foot Mexican guy who introduced himself to me earlier.

Since this is shaping up to be my longest review ever – undoubtedly a vain attempt to unburden my guilt over having not paid close enough attention to Seattle hip-hop in the last few years – I’m gonna cut to the chase here: Sleep is one of the best rappers I’ve ever seen live. He opens with a lightning quick bit of solo word-play leading into the first hook. It’s the kind of flawless, rapid-fire display of verbal prowess that I’d always just assumed only Dre 3000 and a few others were capable of executing. Not the kind where you vacuously display the speed of your tongue in a self-indulgent technical drill that never adds up to more than vacuous, rapid-fire nonsense (see Fu-Schnickens, Onyx), but the kind that makes you spend the next five minutes unraveling what the MC managed to say in just fifty seconds.

By the time I’m caught up, he and Bishop (who’s utilitarian straight man counterbalance is so flawless and well-executed that you know he’s got a solo album in him too) are fuckin’ GONE.

Furthering the inclusive and communal spirit of the evening, joining the dynamic duo near the end of their set is Abstract Reality. Despite his confident, laid-back demeanor and the fact that he’s definitely the number one answer on the board if someone asks “which of these guys back here looks most like a rapper,” I’m nervously wanting to hold him back: “Don’t go out there dude,” I say to myself. “It’s too dangerous. These cats are gonna cut you up.”

Luckily for me, Abstract Reality has done quite well as an emerging hip-hop star without me and has no problem trading verses with the Old Dominion crew. When the set’s over I’m bummed he didn’t get more time.

Del’s set is everything I expected – polished, sophisticated and a whole lot of fuckin’ fun. He’s not in a rush to claim his title as the phattest MC in the building, his style having always been more subdued than the other MCs in the house tonight. Running through tracks from each of his solo albums, as well as tracks from the Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gorillaz records he was an integral part in creating, he leaves absolutely no room for complaints.

Just before he and his crew go back out for an encore, TCU looks at me and asks “The curfew here is two, right?”

“Yeah man, we gotta get everyone out by two and have all the drinks backstage, but we only need a half hour. So just keep rockin’ the party until 1:30 and we’re all good.”

As he and Del saunter back on stage, just before the crowd noise starts to sound potentially-riotous, I realize that not only was he asking me how long they had to rock the party, but that he seemed to be fully aware that they needed to finish in time or else it would put the club at risk and fuck up our night. It was both a professional and considerate gesture, but I guess I shouldn’t have been at all surprised. After all, this was a hip-hop show. George Quibuyen aka DJ Geologic. Photo by Jimmy Clark.


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