BEAT CRAZY: Poorly Drawn People stock up.
This could be a defining year for the revered Providence-based hip-hop collective Poorly Drawn People. Or not. Check out this post from lyrical frontman Storm Davis at poorlydrawnpeople.blogspot.com: "It's either going to be a beautiful year or a beautiful disaster. If nothing else it will certainly be a year to watch. We will either blow the roof off of 2009 or it will cave in upon us, and you can come visit the rubble and reminisce in the years to come." Poorly Drawn People were forced to cancel a New Year's Eve gig at Local 121 thanks to inclement weather, but bounced back a few weeks ago at a packed Jerky's, opening for veteran wordsmith Apathy. PDP closed out '08 with their second mixtape, Shoot For the Stars, Hit the Ceiling, the official follow-up to '07's Nothing Stays Gold. PDP resident emcees Dox, Reason, and Storm Davis bob and weave seamlessly atop beats provided by longtime 'RIU turntablist DJ Sterbyrock and in-house producer Entity. The result is 80 minutes of hip-hop sure to satisfy indie-hipster backpackers, aging suburbanite rap fans, and street-corner solicitors alike. Storm in particular sounds more feisty and hungrier than ever since his acclaimed 2006 solo debut Kegstand Poetry for the Recovering Alcoholic, with a vocal inflection somewhere between Everlast and Group Home's Lil Dap.
PDP will return to Local 121 on Valentine's Day in what Davis dubbed "The Billy Ray Valentine's Day Celebration," with family tree cohorts Labeless Illtelligence supporting. It's fun to shoot the shit with a fellow ol-skool fiend like Davis, and one track in particular on Shoot For the Stars, "No Interruptions," bombarded me with goose bumps. Those in-the-know may recognize the sample from "Somethin' New" by an obscure Golden Era emcee named Grand Daddy IU, a Hempstead, NY rapper with a molasses flow who released his debut album Smooth Assassin on Cold Chillin' Records, then home to Juice Crew heavyweights Kool G Rap G Rap, Master Ace, and Big Daddy Kane. I caught up with Storm and asked him what differentiates a Poorly Drawn People performance from the typical rap show.
"Energy — above all else," Davis said. "Our mission is to have a good time on stage, and we invite the people to join in. Plus, if you pack the place with enough ex-girlfriends, it creates a palpable tension that could develop into chaos at any moment.
"The Living Room was definitely our favorite spot in Providence, and right now we're still trying to find our footing in a world without it," Davis said. "We've done really well in Brooklyn and Baltimore, and the crowds are definitely more responsive on the road at this point. Providence is rightfully sick of us to a degree, and it seems they'd like us to go make a name for ourselves nationally or be done with our little charade."
I asked if the passion for hip-hop music remained a few decades after guys like Grand Daddy IU helped pave the way for underground rap music. "That passion for the music other people create has faded from that 'fanboy fever' that you feel when you first discover it, but not the passion for actually making the music," Davis said. "I feel like there comes a time when it's no longer your job to be inspired by albums, but to try and make the albums that inspire other people."