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SXSW 2010 Highlights: A really fucking late update

By Zoneil Maharaj, Photos by Ariel Zambelichfeatures
Apr 17, 2010 - 1:07 AM


Before you start typing your lame-ass comment, yes, I realize it’s been a month since the SXSW 2010 music festival went down in Austin, TX. (Some of us got day jobs, dunny. Is that cool?) For those not up on SXSW, it's an annual weeklong cool kid consortium where many emerging artists get to show and prove in front of thousands of fans, industry folks and journalists bloggers. This year it ran from March 17 to 21 and featured a host of newcomers (like Boston-based ‘80s R&B/funk/soul throwback Bad Rabbits, Chicago dance rockers Hey Champ! and Jay-Z protégé J. Cole), along with some veterans (such as dirty south king Bun B, Matt Pryor of 90s emo outfit Get Up Kids, and…Bone Thugs-N-Harmony). Though last year’s lineup might have had some heavier hitters, both officially and unofficially—no Erykah, no Kanye, no Billy Bob?!—there were some undisputed legends gracing the stages: Smokey Robinson, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Nas.

Oh-ten was our second jab at South By. While last year’s virgin confusion left us dumbfounded and slightly defeated by the time it was over, photographer Ariel Zambelich and I tried to go in with a better game plan this time: take it easy. We didn’t try to cover everything and interview everyone or hit up every open bar/bbq. Yet somehow we still managed to find ourselves at dozens of showcases and, once again, scrambling from venue to hotel to venue to knock out interviews.

Keeping with the Oh Dang! tradition, we stuck primarily to the hip-hop trail. We caught some amazing performances (see Ariel’s slideshow below), along with many lackluster ones that made me reconsider being a rap fan. Turns out the stronger hip-hop presence this year wasn’t such a great thing. And this whole hip-hop/pop/house fusion thing that's going on right now? Mad annoying after a while. Here’s where you score: I sat through countless shitty new acts so you wouldn’t have to. Following the slideshow are Oh Dang!’s top picks of SXSW 2010. Find out who you should definitely see when they’re in your city. And because I like to hate, I threw in a couple that you should avoid like herpes. (Note: I’m only talking about new artists that haven’t been covered on Oh Dang! previously. Folks like Fashawn, iLL-Literacy and Curtains, though still fresh to the scene, have already been featured.)



Bad Rabbits
Saw ‘em at: Elitaste and NUE Agency’s “Best of All Worlds” Showcase, Aces Lounge, 3/17 + Lawyers4Musicians x Karmaloop showcase, 3/20
Download: Stick Up Kids EP

My favorite new find at SXSW. Blending late ‘80s new jack swing, R&B, funk, soul and rock, this Boston five-piece band captivated a primarily hip-hop crowd with their fierce party-rocking proclivities. They didn’t lose the audience like some of the other non-rap acts on the bill did. I mean, you can’t not shake your ass to their music. It was a throwback to the era of Morris Day, Prince and a pre-crack Bobby Brown. It was unexpected—lead singer Dua Boakye looks more like P.O.S. than Teddy Riley—and welcome; nostalgic yet fresh. I made sure to catch them again later that week.


Yelawolf
Saw him at: Beauty Bar, Giant Steps Productions Daytime Party, 3/17 + Peckerheads, Nahright X The Smoking Section’s Grand Ole Party, 3/18 + a couple other shows.
Download: Trunk Muzik

Coming in at a close second is Yelawolf. I never heard of dude before, though word is that he’s been holding down Alabama (reppin' Gadsden) for several years with a series of mixtapes. Tatted up with a rat tail, skinny jeans and a long Krew tank top, he kinda reminded me of Travis Barker. I think a part of me didn't want to like him because of that. Whenever a white rapper steps on stage, he’s an open target for ill advised prejudgment, but any doubt of dude’s skill was immediately squashed by his rapidfire flow, ‘Bama twang and untamed energy. Plus, his producer supplied him with some undeniably hot 808 knockers. The man can rock a party. Even Ariel was feeling it. We were so impressed, we grabbed him for an interview and shoot a couple days later (which will be posted soon). But we weren’t the only ones—a week or so after SXSW, he signed to Interscope.


Ninjasonik
Saw ‘em at: Beauty Bar, Giant Steps Productions Daytime Party, 3/17
Download: Darth Baño

Ninjasonik’s been my shit ever since I saw their “Tight Pants” video a couple years ago. I keep missing the Brooklyn trio whenever they come to SF, so I was excited to see ‘em. And no doubt, their raging party rap got the little club crunk, with the whole crowd moshing and shouting “Ninja fucking Sonik, we are sonic fucking ninjas” at the end of “Bars,” their ode to seedy dives and PBR. At one point, Rev. McFly got on his knees to serenade one of their female fans. His eyes were closed most of the time though. Like the crowd, he seemed thoroughly blasted. Did I mention this was during the day? Ninjasonik’s proper debut, Art School Girls, drops on 4/20.


Curren$y
Saw him at: Aces Lounge, Elitaste and NUE Agency’s “Best of All Worlds” Showcase, 3/17
Download: Smokee Robinson

Known for a weed habit that rival’s Snoop’s, the much hyped/blogged about St. Louis emcee isn’t a “new” artist, nor is he new to me, but it was my first time seeing him. Dressed in an LRG sweat suit and fitted, he looked almost like he rolled out of bed, rolled a blunt and jumped on stage. And that might have been the case. While Spittah didn’t have the most energetic set, it was far from boring. There’s something admirable about an artist who can step on stage without an entourage or hype man and just feel himself. The dude was happy (the weed again), unconcerned with being cool or hard or whatever. He just kept bobbing his head, rapping in his blunted southern drawl. There were a lot of Curren$y fans in the building, including the dude next to me who tossed a specially rolled blunt on stage for him.


J. Cole
Saw him at: Aces Lounge, Elitaste and NUE Agency’s “Best of All Worlds” Showcase, 3/17
Download: The Warm Up

Jay-Z’s Nas to Weezy’s Drake, J. Cole may be the next "next big thing" in rap. The dude has a major buzz, having been featured on Hov’s Blueprint 3 on “A Star is Born” and XXL’s Freshman 10 list. But could he hold his own on stage? With the show running late, he was forced to rock an abbreviated set, performing three or four songs at most. He didn’t waste the audience’s time with any rants and got straight to business with mixtape hit “Lights Please,” followed by an acapella of “World is Empty.” While his performance wasn’t anything extraordinary, he showed promise, and the amount of love the dude got from the crowd couldn't be ignored.


Homeboy Sandman
Saw him at: Nahright X The Smoking Section’s “Grand Ole Party”

I almost mistook dude for a soccer player. He was tall and lanky, rocking a soccer jersey, camouflage shorts and bright red Reeboks. Homeboy flipped some really ill shit. He actually rapped—you know, clever lyrics, intricate rhyme schemes, crazy flow and witty wordplay. He kicked rhymes about eating healthy, then shit on radio rap with “Airwave Air Raid.” Sure, rapping about rap can be just as boring as rapping about money and hoes, but Sandman filled each slick, multi-syllabic rhyme with so much heart that I couldn’t help but have a geeky backpack moment: this is the textbook definition of an MC. You know the kid in the back of the bus with a notepad and headphones on, nodding his head and mouthing lyrics to himself? I'm willing to bet he was that kid. He closed with a freestyle with Mazzi of S.O.U.L. Purpose over “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” changing it to “Freestyle o’ Mine” of course. The Good Son, dropping June 1, just made my anticipated albums of the year list.


Nikki Jean
Saw her at: Light Bar, URB x Fadia Kader's SXSNext, 3/18
You know her voice from Lupe’s “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” and “Little Weapon.” The sweet, sultry and soulful singer rocked URB’s SXSNext with a live band. In between her mellow pop tunes, the band would break into jam mode. At one point, they flipped 2Pac’s “I Get Around” with some random cat from the crowd jumping on stage to recite Pac’s first verse. She knew her audience, and knew exactly how to work them. For the most part though, the men in the audience were already entranced by Nikki’s beauty and soothing voice, myself and Moe Green included (sorry for cheating on you Kid Sis).


Womp womp womp…

You can’t have winners without losers. I hate to hate on people doing their thing, but there were a few acts at the Elitaste x NUE Agency showcase that were too MTV for me...

All Out

I wasn’t sure if this was a parody or not. I was staring at two “Dude, bro”-looking frat boys: one a corny rapper, the other a singer with one of the whiniest wails this side of Coheed and Cambria. The beats were kinda catchy, but they sounded like Fall Out Boy meets everything you hate about rap. I wasn’t paying too much attention but I heard things like “We make it rain,” “Girl, where you get that ass from,” and something about “hoes.” I wasn’t a fan. But then again, I’m not a fan of MTV-variety pop. I’m sure millions of teenage girls are going to eat this shit up like it was Justin Bieber’s jizz. And, from the looks of All Out’s MySpace, they already are.

Mike Posner

I can’t hate too much on Mike Posner. I like some of the “hip-pop” singer’s jams, but dude is criminally overhyped—a bootleg Timberlake at best. His live show turned me off. He came off as too cocky, sporting sunglasses—and I don’t trust motherfuckers who wear sunglasses at night—and spewing something about success and record deals as if music had saved him from his harsh Duke University homework. It was just a little too cool for me, though, ironically, he’s got a current radio hit with “Cooler than Me” about people who act too cool. He took off his shades while performing the song (the second or third in his set), so maybe it was a prop and he’s just a really good method actor? If so, good job; I’m fully convinced you’re a douche bag. His “Drug Dealer Girl” is a pretty fucking catchy tune though. And much like last SXSW’s white boy du jour Colin Munroe, Mike Posner’s got some heavy industry co-signs, which includes Bun B, who later brought him on stage for a song. Either Bun B’s wrong, or I’m just a hater. Here’s a video to help you decide…


********

Zoneil Maharaj is editor-in-chief of Oh Dang!

Ariel Zambelich is a contributor to Oh Dang! Check out more of her work at www.arielzambelich.com



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