Andre Nickatina: April 20th at Wild Buffalo

A highly-anticipated show, Andre Nickatina always brings a crowd to the Wild Buffalo and this night, a lovely Earth Day, was no exception. The opening DJ, spinning beats for the local support, Jaywalk, opened the doors with some classics until Jaywalk hit the stage and performed a short but high-energy set with lots of unison lines and synchronized raps. They had a lot going on, sometimes too much to keep it all together, but they’re a local group to keep an eye on.

Following them was Mumbls, a bay-area lyricist who performs in more  of a drawling, poetic style reminiscent of Cage. In fact, I was pretty sure it was Cage until I checked it out later. He didn’t elicit a huge response from the crowd but he had a good energy and some interesting, grimy tracks. He seemed to lack the bravado and charisma upon which this genre relies heavily.

Bringing that charisma in spades were Roach Gigz, the penultimate act. With two vocalists and a dynamic, interactive DJ, they ran around the stage, incited the crowd, and got the mood up. They featured a more refined version of the kind of tandem, rapid-fire, tag-team style Jaywalk were going for, but the beats were more polished and left more space for the multiple vocals. They clearly knew what they were doing and had a good time. Moreover, their set had a healthy balance of statement lyrics and positive messages, so the mood wasn’t spoiled but they were still taken seriously.

And of course, the reason everyone was there that night, Andre Nickatina. Truth be told, I had no idea who he was besides the name and I had a very backwards preconceived notion of his style; I expected a more bombastic and poppy, cheesy rapper. Andre came onstage, all 6’5” of him, spouting rough-voiced doctrine of life on the edge balanced with fun and moral values. He summed up all of the typical rap and hip-hop themes to the utmost degree, but he epitomized why those are the tropes. The beats were impressively tight, as were his deliveries of line after line of well-though-out lyrical verse. His command of the stage and the crowd was exceptional, and the chemistry with his DJ and wingman (or whatever you call the clinger-on in a rap crew) was such that, the instant he stopped a line, everyone knew something was up when he stopped performing in order to stop some altercation in the crowd. “Whoa, hey, that’s not cool, get out of here” and on it went, spirits never broken, everyone back in the mood. He played his hits about drugs, alcohol, and sex, and he also delivered some good values in there about loyalty and finding meaning in things.

This kind of show is all about having a good time and it certainly seems, at least judging by the smoke plume and bar-back queue, that was accomplished by all in attendance. Except whoever started that fight.