Let’s just say, you missed out. Although I’ve listened to Brother Ali since the beginning of his career, I’ve never had the opportunity to cover his performance. This past Wednesday night, I amended that problem as Ali brought a special treat to the city of San Francisco: himself, and his newly appointed band.
Before any music commenced, Ali came out on stage to explain the evening: After his DJ of ten years (BK One) had a child of his own, he decided it was time to stop touring and spend time with his family. Ali explained that he respected it without a doubt, but found himself wondering, “What the fuck am I gonna do now?” He decided then to form a band. And just like that, Blank Tape Beloved was born. “Since this is only our fourth time playing together, we decided to make this show only eight-dollars, and not really tell many people about it,” Ali explained. He then thanked the sold-out crowd for their overwhelming support, and for being “part of the evolution” of their music.
As if a newly-appointed live band wasn’t enough, Ali invited out Aesop Rock to open the night by performing a few songs, and generally kill it in all aspects of rapping. Seeing these two legends share the stark, intimate stage at Cafe Du Nord, was an experience no one will soon forget. Aesop came out with tidy and ferocious performances of “None Shall Pass,” and the unreleased “Homemade Mummy,” among others (watch his performance of “Homemade Mummy” ). The new track is a fresh cut from his upcoming record Skelethon (due July 10). His stage presence and energy set the tone perfectly.
Blank Tape and Ali started their set “from where it all began,” playing songs from his first two records Rites of Passage, and Shadows on the Sun. The fresh and vivacious sound of the trombone, guitar, keys and trumpet balanced perfectly over Ali’s commanding projection and dominating wordplay. “Room With a View,” was the first immediate standout, which was followed by hits like “The Truth is Here,” and “Fresh Air.”
If you’ve never had the opportunity to see Ali perform, it is something to behold. His lyricism is impeccable, but his character and demeanor on stage are what make him arguably the most engaging rapper in today’s music scene. Borrowing inspiration from legends such as Rakim and KRS-One, his performance is a beckon and call to all the over-saturated, mediocre rappers that have taken over the hip hop scene in the past decade–step it up. The mixture of special guests, the quaint Cafe Du Nord, and the enthralling presence of Ali, left all those in attendance feeling like they had just experienced one of those rare, intimate live events you always remember.