Edan at Kutshers Country Resort, Monticello, New York, September 19-21, 2008
At a festival like All Tomorrow’s Parties — a reminder of why so many of us entered the new millennium with tinnitus — an act like Edan might have seemed way out of place, nested as his throwback hip-hop stylings were last Saturday between the aggressively budget-electronic onslaught of Fuck Buttons and the elegant revival skronk of Polvo. And, to be sure, he was out of place — not just as an MC in a sea of black-rimmed glasses and Thurston haircuts (EPMD were the only other hip-hoppers in three days of programming), but also in his staunch, exuberant refusal to take himself too seriously. Hey, the particular generation of indie rock largely represented at ATP was lovingly/cynically known as shoegaze for a reason.
Fortunately for the small but rapt audience (lots o’ Brits at this festival, and the guy is way bigger there than he ever was when he lived in Boston), Edan not taking himself seriously never amounted to Edan not being serious. If anything, the technical and æsthetic finesse demonstrated by the MC and his partner Dagha was among the weekend’s most dazzling. Trading perfectly portioned fragments of verse after verse with Dagha at machine-gun speed (“Clinical Rhymes”), retrofitting formative joints with fresh live energy (“Syllable Practice”), dropping one druggy psyched-out, categorically non-hip-hop reference after another (“I Can See a Rainbow”), cutting on two tables while rapping and working a delay pedal for sporadic robotic bursts, and, a couple of times, throwing on a wig and playing an acoustic guitar and a kazoo, Edan slips out of the expectations laid upon rappers without ever slacking on the responsibilities of a battle rhymer. (How many MCs have their partner hand out roses during a song — and how many MCs conjure Woodstock?) Lines like “Syllable practice/Is never a chore/Never a bore/Immature/literature/Litters the floor,” spat at dizzying speeds, show a flair for flashy wordplay, but they’re also Exhibit A in a heap of evidence that Edan may well be as bad-ass as he says he is, “Humble Magnificent” or not.
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