Live Review: gift of gab, ether xoxo, mostafa, dj wordswell

Nov. 2, 2013 • the shakedown

A plethora of hip hop acts took the stage at The Shakedown on a cold and blustery evening, warming up the decent sized crowd with fat beats emanating from the speakers. First up were local acts Ether XOXO, who made his hometown proud, and Mostafa (featuring Josh Blake on trumpet) who got the crowd fired up. Both MCs entertained, but I enjoyed Mostafa’s set more thanks to the trumpet work by Blake. It added an extra element to the music that really caught my ear.
Third on the bill was Oregon MC Landon Wordswell. Wordswell came out with a force thanks to Tim Hoke, who added live bass, guitar and drums to various tracks. The first song of the set came out blazing and Wordswell didn’t slow down from there, offering a rare rock vibe you don’t normally find at hip-hop shows. Wordswell’s flow was tight and Hoke’s energetic vibe kept the crowd into it. It was by far my favorite set of the night and I’ll definitely keep my eye out for the next time Wordswell returns to town.
Following Wordswell was the main event. Exploding onto the scene 20 years ago with DJ Chief Xcel as Blackalicious, Gift of Gab was thrust into the spotlight thanks to his lyrical prowess. Big, both in skills and girth, Gift of Gab offered lyrical assaults over Xcels fat beats, creating a duo to be reckoned with. While the years have passed and Gab still has the flow intact, the vibrant energy of seeing Blackalicious live (I’ve seen them a few times in their heyday and more recently last year at a festival) has long but disappeared. And I actually felt bad for the aging lyricists, as he was slowly helped to the stage. But after reaching the stage and getting settled in, Gab awoke from his slumber like a bear leaving hibernation and the ferocious lyricist I once knew and loved had returned. The small but appreciative crowd hung on his every word, repeating everything Gab ordered them to say (which was a lot). Mixing old classics and new solo tracks, Gab offered an array of tunes, and the loudest cheers easily came when Blackalicious’s biggest hits – “Rhythm Sticks” and “Deception” – burst from the speakers.
Overall, it was a decent night of hip hop. I was a bit disappointed with the headliner as I’ve seen much better shows from Gab. Luckily, Wordswell saved the evening and has given me an artist to keep my eye on in the Pacific Northwest.
–Jared Curtis