Show Review: Mr. Lif with Willie Evans and Plan B, June 4 at the Gramophone
By Calvin Cox
on Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 10:42 AM
Okay, so the crowd wasn't exactly what I expected at last night's Mr. Lif show. Given the political and sometimes "radical" nature of his music, I thought the audience would be more -- shall we say -- diverse. Nonetheless, Lif has a message in his music, and if 30-something hipsters (mostly white) are the ones listening, so be it.
The mood was easy-going and relaxed as DJ Crucial played a mix of classic rap in the background.
The show opened up with Crucial's F5 labelmates Nato Caliph and Lyfestile (of Plan B). The duo played a short set to warm the crowd up, including a new song from Nato's latest EP, Power.
up was Willie Evans Jr., an emcee/producer out of Florida with an
original and entertaining take on the hip-hop stage show. He started
off with a tag-team style verse, which featured him trading bars with
rapper P. Locke, via a pre-recorded video on the projection
screen. The projector was hooked up to Evans' laptop, which was in turn
connected to his MPC, allowing for some clever mixing with video and
audio while he performed. The set was innovative and engaging, with a
great sense of humor.
My impressions of Mr. Lif from his older videos turned out to
be very different than the actual person; he was smaller in stature
than I'd imagined, and rather than baggy clothes he dressed in designer
jeans with a snug t-shirt and sunglasses. He was still easily
identifiable, though, thanks to his trademark feature, those
didn't seem to have been slowed down any from his injuries (he was
involved in a tour bus accident in 2006). He came on deck with his
wingman for the evening, New York rapper Metro, as the crowd quickly
settled in at the front of the stage.
While much of his music focuses
on the economy, the government, etc. Lif showed his lighter side with
"Washitup!", a song off his new album, I Heard it Today, intended for those
with questionable hygienic practices. At one point, while chatting the
crowd up, he took an audience poll on whether or not Marc Bulger should
stay in St. Louis (Lif's apparently a huge fan of the NFL).
the biggest response came from his heavier material like "What About Us"
and "Live from the Plantation"; Lif had plenty of crowd-pleasing material
to keep the fans energized. Metro was on-point as well, delivering his
hard-edged verses with impeccable timing. The set ended with Lif and
Willie Evans Jr. performing a brief freestyle session.
I did have one major gripe; although the venue was nice (as usual),
there were some issues with the sound that were never addressed. The
bass sounded muffled throughout, and the vocals were often difficult
(or impossible) to understand. It's much harder to enjoy the show when
you're straining to decipher the lyrics.