Music » Live Reviews

Live hip-hop unfolds

Somber Reptile's lively old-school session

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SOMBER REPTILE, JAN. 13 -- When you dig underground live hip-hop, you're going to find both sprouting flower buds and gnarled roots. Saturday night at the Somber Reptile, listeners were given a taste of raw hip-hop and funk talent, at times slightly more raw than talented. In all, however, performances by local acts Dimensionz, Fumbata and Psyche Origami proved an encouraging sign that the spirit of performance is alive and bouncing in this city of all-too-limited live hip-hop outlets.

Marietta Street played host to an old-school vibe all night. Down at the Philips Drive intersection, the Hawks donned their old '80s uniforms in tribute to Dominique Wilkins, who was cutting his own "wild style" in the NBA about the same time the Furious Five and Cold Crush Brothers were pushing their full court multi-MC press. That same early era in hip-hop was invoked when the four MCs of Dimensionz took the stage a mile down the street within the gritty digs of the Somber Reptile.

While the group sensibilities of Dimensionz brought the old school approach to mind, MCs Budda, Vision, Ahjahne and Genesis were anything but reactionary. With the show starting late, Dimensionz actually caught the crowd at the most hyped and packed moment of the night, and answered the call with a set of fresh and energized material.

While Dimensionz bounced out some more contemporary style, they were at their most entertaining when they brought together developed lyrical syncopation with the old-school, rapping-all-together hook, a la Jurassic 5. As they boasted four-strong in an early selection, "Uncover/We 'bout to take this to a whole 'nother level/Beyond skies, no limits/And we rebuke all those who try to camouflage."

One high point of the show came toward the end of Dimensionz set. Joined by the rhythm section of the following act, Fumbata, the group did a mini-set of live instrumental hip-hop. It was at this point that female MC Ahjane, reciting a colorful spoken-word piece, turned out some serious stage presence. Her delivery had the crowd eating out of her hand, as it had for most of the Dimensionz set. This tight tandem of Dimensionz and Fumbata seemed to bode well for Fumbata's upcoming performance.

Billed as a funk band, Fumbata featured the soulful vocals of Mela, whose long and loose vibrato brought to mind the vocal style of Fishbone's Angelo Moore. While Mela's vocals would remain strong throughout the evening, the chemistry between her and her Fumbata bandmates never quite took off. Fumbata's funk ended up sounding a little more like jam rock, with the bass too often forsaking a tight groove for a spacey solo nether-region. Competing with the tightly programmed beats of the hip-hop groups on the bill, Fumbata lost the audience a bit with its blurry groove focus.

By the time Psyche Origami's tag team of vocalist Wyzstyk and DJ Synthesis took the stage, the crowd had begun to thin out, which was unfortunate, as Psyche Origami rounded out the evening with another solid set. Joined by guest MCs P-Gnut and A.D. from Minamina Goodsong, Wystyck did his best to re-energize the crowd with a smooth and punchy delivery, his lyrics frequently referencing pop culture figures from the '84 Hoyas to Ann Landers.

Psyche Origami's setup was somewhat unusual, with DJ Synthesis working as a full-time soloist. Rather than spinning the beats, he used the turntables as a second vocalist, continuously "singing" with scratches over the group's preprogrammed rhythm track. The combined one-two punch of Wystyck's vocals and Synthesis's heavy turntablism, working over some often very creative beats, punctuated this hip-hop event with a favorable resolve. Looks like Atlanta's budding underground hip-hop is working to lay its own roots down.

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