Some of the founding fathers of Southern hip-hop perform at the Mud Island Amphitheatre this weekend as part of a huge package show. As the lead voice for Houston's Geto Boys, Scarface became perhaps the definitive Dirty South MC before anyone had coined the term. With the controversial group, he contributed to classics such as "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" and "Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta." As a solo artist, he retained a core audience of Southern rap fans but never scored as big nationally as with the Geto Boys. Until 2002, that is. With the reflective career album The Fix, featuring the soul-deep hit "On My Block," Scarface found himself elevated to living-legend status.
Memphis-bred duo Eightball & MJG can identify. Southern rap pioneers, the duo dubbed their excellent new album Living Legends and have the résumé to back up the boast. Onetime classmates at Ridgeway Junior High, the pair had their start in Memphis but got their break in Scarface's Houston with a string of underground classics for Suave House Records. Though less sensationalistic than the Geto Boys, Eightball & MJG similarly married distinctly Southern crime-related content with a sure, measured, laconic rhyme style. Along with Atlanta's Too Short, these groups sound almost old-fashioned compared to the wilder crunk mutations that followed, but for longtime hip-hop fans, the beats-and-rhymes purity of their style is cultural comfort food.
Scarface and Eightball & MJG perform Friday, October 15th, with a large crew of opening acts that include rookie contender Lil Scrappy and a host of local acts, including Gangsta Blac, Chopper Girl, and Tom Skeemask.
Rock fans have plenty to choose from this week as well. The New Daisy Theatre boasts an interesting booking in trendy Las Vegas alt-rockers The Killers. A sort of American answer to Franz Ferdinand, the Killers have scored with a similar brand of danceable, new-wave-y rock, as heard on their summer hit "Somebody Told Me" off their Shortlist Music Prize-nominated album Hot Fuss. The Killers perform Wednesday, October 20th. Less hyped but more compelling are Viva Voce, a Portland indie duo, whose intimate, buzzing sound is both smart and sweet on their latest album, The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. Viva Voce will be at Young Avenue Deli Thursday, October 14th. --Chris Herrington
It's shades of Slim Shady: Citizen Cope named his second album The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. As you may have guessed, Greenwood is the actual identity of this Memphis-born but D.C.-based artist. But if The Clarence Greenwood Recordings has a Marshall Mathers tone, the lyrics evoke the likes of Bob Marley and Tom Waits. Cope's songs are entirely character-driven, and the characters behind the wheel have all seen better days. Like Marley, Cope can take a steady beat and turn it into an act of defiance without sounding particularly defiant. It's a nice trick if you can turn it. Mellow in spite of itself, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings is a dystopian vision you can spoon to and a mean urban blues that can't be bothered with tradition.
On Friday, October 15th, at Handy Park Pavilion, Citizen Cope is opening for the one and only Robert Randolph, king of the sacred steel guitar. It's still a fairly well-kept secret that the pedal steel, the 13-string force that packs deep emotion into the most boilerplate country, has a blues and gospel tradition as well. Randolph, the undisputed master of this tradition, started getting his critical due after recording The Word with John Medeski and local faves the North Mississippi Allstars. Since then, he's gone around the world with Eric Clapton, been listed by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 greatest guitar players ever, and been sought out for solo duty by everyone from Dave Matthews to Prince. If you only think a pedal steel can cry, you owe it to yourself to come see Randolph make it holler, plead, and shimmer like the glory of the Lord. • --