Organic hip-hop’s good and good for you
Crown City Rockers
Way before Audible Mainframe snatched the title of Boston’s dopest live hip-hop group and bolted for the West Coast, Roxbury’s Mission pursued a similar course of action. Formed in Boston circa 1998, the band — who flipped their name to Crown City Rockers after relocating to the Bay in 2002 — were fortunate enough to emerge before music critics began comparing all organic rap outfits to the Roots. Now staffed by producer Woodstock, keyboardist Kat O1O, drummer Max MacVeety, producer/bassist Headnodic, and MC Raashan Ahmad, they can be indie-rock raucous or teem with flawless throwback panache. Short story shorter: eclectic-minded plastic hippies who think they’re heading to the Paradise just for Galactic this Wednesday (October 15) should be delightfully surprised.
Crown City Rockers, “Restless”
Here goes the triumphantly melodic B-side of the new Crown City single “Body Rock.” Whereas some of their cuts could be mistaken for sample-driven hip-hop (that’s a compliment), with this one you can imagine Max reclining on his drum set and Headnodic plucking with conviction. A lot of comparable boom-bap crews lapse into monotonous loungy mediocrity; Crown City Rockers are not one of them, even when they’re kicking jams that you can bang to.
Moe Pope and Headnodic Are Megaphone, “Zuh Zuh Zuh”
Regular Phoenix readers should already know that Boston MC Moe Pope of Project Move and (formerly) Electric developed his knack for tap-dancing on beats as an original member of Mission. He even moved to Cali with the group before returning to the Bean for his daughter. After he’d had minimal contact with Headnodic for several years, the pair convened for two weeks in Oakland last winter and put down what I contend is the best hip-hop disc of 2008. This track is just one example.
Raashan Ahmad with Paper Plane Project, “Let It Bang”
It’s not easy for an MC who’s tied to a live band to excite fans on solo missions. But Raashan Ahmad pulls it off; his recently released freshman joint, The Push, was one of the best-reviewed indie-rap albums this year, thanks to his thoughtful delivery and calm but resounding production from DJ Vadim, Headnodic, and Stro from the Procussions. “Let it Bang” is a random collabo with Australia’s funk-fueled Paper Plane Project, but it shows that he can adapt across the sonic spectrum.
Off the 2001 disc One, “Transit” is an example of the drum-and-piano-driven groove that Moe Pope and his former group have maintained on their separate but æsthetically intertwined career paths. The track finds Moe and Raashan trading Bean-centric vignettes about the Red Sox, Huntington Avenue, and $1.10 subway fares. I dare you to bump this loudly and not be inspired to write fan mail begging them to reunite, or at least for Crown City to transform back into Mission for a home-town encore at the Paradise.
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