I Self Devine at 7th Street Entry: The Culture Series Part 1, January 22
With Brother Ali, Muja Messiah, and Alicia Steele & the Endevours
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Better than: The sounds of high-class America.
Three of arguably the top five local rappers were on the bill at 7th Street Entry last night, and the packed and lively crowd suggested the lineup appealed to a number of people. The tight venue proved a powerful locale for each Doomtree member in December, and it seems I Self Devine took to heart the power of such an intimate venue to display his latest material. The night marked the premiere of the live portion of his four-part Culture Series, a monthly set of shows and mixtapes which precede the release of his sophomore solo effort The Sounds of Low Class America. It's been nearly seven years since his first solo record, Self Destruction, and the promise of all this new music shows that the pioneering hip-hop icon hasn't lost any of his hunger or run out of things to say. The rapper's name -- he's known by his government as Chaka Mkali -- is known in a number of circles, and his impact is not to be underestimated. Big Zach of Kanser asserts in his recent book that had I Self Devine not relocated from Los Angeles, "there is a chance Minnesota would not have a hip-hop scene." He was equally pivotal to local rap's burgeoning beginnings (check his work with Dynospectrum) as he is to its current growth, aiding the craft of a number of the newer names through his work at Hope Community Center. If it seems YouTube commenters haven't quite done the knowledge, it was clear last night that local heads still appreciate and show out for a true MC.
Backed by I.B.E. and Akrite, I Self slammed through his tracks with little pause. His style has the lyrical precision of a knife and the impact of a shotgun. He's a real presence onstage, booming hard-hitting lyrics at a steady pace and bringing energy levels up and down as need be. The new tracks sounded excellent live, though they lacked some of the immediate punch of standards like "Ice Cold" or older Micranots joints like "Illegal Busyness", which got some play later in the set. For how long he's been in the game and how long it's been since his last musical output, it's especially striking how consistently on point I Self Devine remains.
By the way: If you missed this time around, I Self Devine will be doing it all over again next month, this time with Carnage and Desdamona, in celebration of his next chapter, The Upliftment Struggle.