More often than not you have sound-systems jacked up so high that the bass triggers involuntary cardiac responses while your favorite MC literally screams over the EXACT SAME beat that's on the record as the obligatory hype-man i.e. Emcee Rappafool (childhood friend that can't be gotten rid of) amplifies end-rhymes and interjects plugs for some horrendous mix-tape. And yet, touring is more lucrative than ever for hip-hop acts; especially those who get themselves gigs on the ever-expanding festival circuit. This is because the novelty of seeing something performed live is something that cannot be understated, and when it's done right, the energy of a hip-hop show can be addictive. The current state of affairs regarding the live hip-hip show is rather ironic considering that the physical act of rapping developed as a response to live DJ sets being performed in inner city communities. Community. Hip-hop was originally intended to be a communal activity. The eMC show last month at Harper's Ferry was more successful than your average hip-hop show in part because of the quality of performance. However, the involvement of the community was what set it apart from the rest.
eMC performed on June 27th, 2008 at Harper's Ferry. eMC is a hip-hop super-group comprised of four MCs, each with their own respective solo career in music. Masta Ace was a member of the legendary Juice Crew and also recorded with the group Masta Ace Incorporated, in addition to his own solo projects. Wordsworth and Punchline are best known for their performances at the Lyricist Lounge, an underground freestyle landmark of New York City. Strick is most notably from Milwaukee. eMC is arguably his biggest accomplishment, thus far, as a recording musician. eMC formed in 2005 and are currently touring in support of their first album The Show, which was released this past spring. Simply put, The Show is a concept-driven commentary on the struggles of independent touring musicians. The heavily nostalgic beats are reminiscent of hip-hop's coveted "golden age", the period in the early nineties when A Tribe Called Quest and the rest of the Native Tongues ruled New York while the Souls of Mischief and the Hieroglyphics held it down on the west coast. Socially conscious lyrics over soulful buttery beats. eMC's lyrics can be described as the culmination of each individual artists' most lucid writings. In contemporary terms, eMC's sound is similar to 9th Wonder or Pete Rock.
The opening acts began at around 10:30 P.M. An overwhelming total of eight groups performed in the two-hour span that occurred before the headliners took the stage. Though it seemed slightly excessive to endure eight openers, this was the time that the community really shined. The crowd was enthusiastic and supportive of its homegrown talent, giving each performer their proper respect and attention. The venue was crawling with an impressive number of representatives from the local music scene pushing flyers for their upcoming projects, hawking mix-tapes, or supporting friends that were performing that night. It was a very positive and tight-knit scene. Edo G., behemoth on the local scene, known currently for his work on Special Teamz served as master of ceremonies that night and could be seen all over the venue telling jokes, taking pictures, and generally enjoying his unofficial role as the of mayor of Harper's Ferry. The sticky summer night along with the kids smoking and networking on the street outside made the evening very redolent of the legendary Bronx block parties that occurred during the inception. Of the opening groups, Viceversah with The Arcitype, Snyd One/Dro-Man, and Wally Sparks with Fat Pimp were hands down the hottest of the bunch. Keep your ears open for these cats.
Edo introduces the headliners at around 1:00 A.M. eMC explode onto the stage, all four dipped out in desert storm brown meets construction orange. Visually at war for the working class, the four tore through a high-energy rendition of "Who We Be", the opening cut off of The Show. Everyone that was milling about ten minutes prior was now crowded around the stage being reminded of why they really went out that night. Hands were thrown in the air. Then waved as without care. The energy was classic and new at the same time. Like after the dinner rush, cuts were made, and only Wordsworth and Punchline remained onstage. Each performed their individual cuts off of The Show, which was a shame considering their collective freestyle accomplishments. Masta Ace and then Strick gradually returned to the stage, allowing for the four to launch into "EMC(who we be)", another group track off of the album. A few rotations occurred during the set giving each member a moment to shine, which made the performance unpredictable and exciting. A surprise glimpse of Blackstar's hit "Definition" in addition to a very dramatic run through of a non-album song over Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" were definite highlights of the show. The set-list was limited to the group's only LP, so in that regard, they pretty stuck to the script. The only disappointment of the evening occurred when the group gave their touring DJ a few minutes by himself and he completely dropped the ball on an uninspired attempt at an "Apache" beat juggle. However, the group reemerged decked out in uprock-era b-boy gear complete with Addidas, Kangol, and rope chains. Everything comes full circle. They finished their set, through in a few dubious freestyles, and the called it a night. Someone find Nas. Tell him that hip-hop is alive and well in Boston.