Review: NextDoor brings back the boom-bap
REVIEW BY SHAWN “SPEEDY” LOPES / Special to the Star-Advertiser
If you’re lucky, sometimes major change means more of the same.
For eight years, NextDoor had been at the navel of the revivification of Hotel St. and Honolulu’s Chinatown arts district, attracting a wide array of followers to the area with compelling lineups of artists.
Last night, Sep. 13, in its third week under new governance and with several key renovations, the new NextDoor made a play for the island’s underground hip-hop community with Bay Area wordsmith Opio of Souls of Mischief and the Hieroglyphics collective; and Bicasso, known for his work with intra-Cali rap crew Living Legends and Oakland’s Alien Art Gang.
Billed as the evening’s appetizers, DJ Technique and homegrown outfit Angry Locals prepped the crowd with platters by Mos Def, Sound Providers and Ras Kass, plus a live rendition of “Locals Only,” the anthemic title track off their debut album.
Angry Locals, comprised of some of the Aloha State’s fiercest battle MCs, seem to be most persuasive when waiving contemporary convention and form, taking it down a notch, and adhering to the nuts and bolts of hip-hop: clever wordplay, audience interaction and a lively, infectious beat. With an incorporation of more of the kind of inspired, easygoing flow evidenced by tracks like “U Down” into their live product, greater renown could lie just on the horizon for this local quartet.
It was a much different approach for Alien Art Gang. Leave it to the quirky Oakland crew to make spacy, droning backdrops confoundingly funky. So stimulating was the interplay between Bicasso and cohort Black Mercury that one particularly tipsy partygoer, only seconds from being deposited onto a couch by security, stormed the stage to cavort behind the group.
When ushered back onto the floor, she attempted to make a break for it again before her sideways stride was stopped cold by a brick wall. Amidst all the fanfare, however, few seemed to care — or even notice.
It was almost 1 a.m. when Opio finally took the stage. His modest outfit (cargo shorts, sneakers and a Hieroglyphics logo T-shirt) belied the carriage of a seasoned showman and hip-hop veteran. The appearance of the man whose opening verse kicked off Souls of Mischief’s hip-hop classic “‘93 ‘til Infinity” two decades ago instantly galvanized the crowd on hand, who followed his every directive to “throw your hands in the air” and “say ‘Hie-ro’”.
“Any old school hip-hop fans in the building?” he asked. As the expected response came, the familiar intro to “‘93 ‘til Infinity” bounded across the exposed red brick walls to the delighted squeals of the growing mob. Ultimately, it was a teaser; a mere snippet of the well-loved tune, placed mid-set as an appeasement to those who came to hear Opio’s most famous verses.
That seemed enough to satisfy the NextDoor crowd, however, which, true to form, were still a convivial mix of scenesters, original heads, party people and social butterflies.
“We represent what real hip-hop is all about,” Opio affirmed, speaking as much about the diverse audience on hand as the performers on stage. “It aint about swag or how much money you got. I look into the crowd and see nothing but real hip-hop out there.”
He then implored those in attendance to raise their middle and index fingers in a “V” for victory.
“If you know me, you know I aint about all that hatred, negativity and divisiveness,” he said. “We’re gonna win with peace. One love.”