As an amazingly prolific season of live hip-hop in Buffalo hit its stride, the action-packed Throw Back Series -- Volume 1 takes the Buffalo Icon on Thursday in what may be the beginning of a legacy.
While local hip-hop fans salivating over the fall lineup that has already welcomed Fat Joe and the Roc-A-Fella crew and Atmosphere, and fills out with upcoming shows from Ghostface Killah, Lyrics Born, Cage, and Common and Kanye West, the first Throw Back event stands tall with a diverse bill of some of the genre's greatest trendsetters and torch carriers.
Wu-Tang Clan alum Raekown the Chef takes top billing for his past association with that legendary crew that brought the spotlight back to the East Coast in the early to mid-'90s. But while his ne'er-do-well nuances and off-kilter cadence have served him well from his 1995 solo debut Built for Cuban Linx to his most recent release, "The Lex Diamond Story," he'd be lying if he told you that he'd be where he was without the influence of Kool G Rap, by far the most anticipated artist on the bill.
First breaking through with the Juice Crew in the mid-'80s, Kool G Rap became known as "the godfather of hardcore hip-hop" by baring his seedy soul and birthing gangsta rap in the process. The Queens native's stories were deeper, and turned typical flow patterns upside down with a rapid-fire delivery that ran circles around standard battle rappers and rhyme spinners. "He shaped lyricism so profoundly," said local cratedigger DJ Cutler, one of many fellow artists on the bill showering praise on G Rap. "He had a lot more wordplay and complex structures -- when he broke out there was no one in his league."
RA the Rugged Man is another underground legend from downstate (Long Island) whose grimy monotone first turned heads on the Rawkus Records "Soundbombing" compilations.
Forced to spar with these heavyweights are two deserving emcees from our own Deep Thinka Records in Rhyson Hall and X-Now the Last MC. Hall's angular wordplay on "Still Raw" was a highlight of the label's recent compilation Rebel Radio II, prompting a 12-inch release coming out next month. X-Now attacks the mic with spoken-word-leaning diatribes of a hard East Side upbringing, from which he came swinging and emerged standing. He recently released a mix tape, "On My Way the School."
Both artists know they have their work cut out for them to have any share of the spotlight, so each of their sets will be assisted by both Cutler and a live drummer in Type Nice. "It's crazy to be on this bill," said X-Now. "Kool G Rap's one of my favorite emcees of all-time -- I gotta pull out all the musical magic tricks I know."
Cutler, who will perform a solo set at Gusto at the Gallery at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery next Friday, isn't the only turntablist on the bill. In addition to Tokyo native DJ Anbread, Oakland's DJ Architect, who will also spin at an afterparty with Wu-Tang's own DJ Storm at Club Jade, is excited to return after a great experience here in May. "Buffalo is live, it was all-around the best show of our tour," he said of his last visit. "I'm gonna spin some old records and some of my new remixes, and then I'm gonna bring up some freestylers from the crowd."
He then summed up the theme that all involved hope will emerge from the entire event. "I'm trying to make connections all over the world, and I know Buffalo's got some live cats."
WHAT: Throw Back Series -- Volume 1 featuring Raekown the Chef and others
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: The Buffalo Icon, 391 Ellicott St.
TICKETS: $22 in advance, $24 day of show