The bass thumped so loud inside Atlanta’s Roxy that it made my chest rattle. Hell, it made my eyeballs rattle—but it didn’t bother me long. Maybe that’s because Blackalicious features not only a hip-gyrating fly girl, but also a fly dude; not pumping up the volume would’ve been an insult to the Bay Area ensemble.
represents everything quality in present-day hip-hop, from its classic one DJ/two MC setup to the sense of raw, unbridled energy that flows from the stage and keeps the audience grooving. Gift of Gab lived up to his name, spitting rhymes so fast you could barely catch his lyrics. As the Blackalicious crew tore through selections from its new album, The Craft, a sea of arms bounced to the beat, responding dutifully to Gift of Gab’s call to “put your hands up.” Though the members of Blackalicious consider themselves “state of the art hip-hop,” there’s something comforting in the old-school familiarity of their shows. The frenetic and ingenious “A to G”closed a set I wasn’t sure headliner G. Love could top.
Before I have a chance to catch my breath, Garrett “G. Love” Dutton III saunters onstage in what can only be described as full UPS-man regalia—right down to his brown high-top, yellow-striped Adidas. That is, of course, until you get to the electric-blue guitar slung over his shoulder. The skinny-as-a-rail Philadelphia funkster and his band, Special Sauce, launch immediately into their head-bopping, hip-hopping blues fusion, a style G. Love cohort Jack Johnson has raked in big bucks imitating. Though several decibel notches quieter than Blackalicious, the trio—G. Love on guitar and vocals, Jimi Jazz on upright bass and Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens on drums—still keeps the crowd moving.
G. Love plays a mean harmonica and knows it, and the sellout crowd can’t seem to get enough of his shuffling stage charm. The band tackles an eclectic array of musical styles, from reggae grooves and Latin two-step to honky tonk, all tied together by the soulful frontman’s quirky rhymes. He teases the audience during fan favorite “Cold Beverage” by adding a modern-rap twist—Kanye West’s infamous hook, “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger,” then five minutes later he takes the stage with an acoustic guitar and plays a few lilting country ballads.
But the show ends on a disappointing note: an overblown harmonica solo carries on interminably and G. Love’s homeboys, First Born Crew, join in for a free-styling, mic-passing, old-school MC battle (that was probably enjoyed more by its participants than the crowd). I’m left wishing it was G. Love vs. Gift of Gab instead—but maybe G. Love just knows when he’s likely to be beat.