Tuesday Night: Keys to the City at the Independent

Categories: Last Night
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Keys to the City
The Independent
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2009
Notes by Jackie Lopez

The Independent was chilly on the inside Tuesday night. The venue had left the doors wide open and it just wasn't packed enough for the crowd to steal some body heat from others in attendance. Still, a good number showed up for Imeem.com's Keys to the City live show, featuring hip-hop artists previously showcased on the site in documentary form. Keys to the City has followed underground act U-N-I around in Inglewood, Raphael Saadiq through Castlemont High in Oakland, the Roots in Philly, and the overly popular Blu in Los Angeles.

The first two acts of the night were unfortunately not anything to be excited about. The showcased rapper received no energy from the crowd while trying to hype them up for an up tempo song, and requests for those gathered to put their hands up weren't all that well received. It might have been the Imeem corporate feel and marketing that was a turn-off.

Who I was caught off guard by was Richie Cunning. I had known of this artist but had always passed him up. Shame on me. I had heard he had quite the spit and could hypnotize a crowd, and it was all true. The crowd gradually got bigger as he pulled more and more fans; I stood amused watching it all. His "One Dollar Wonder" gimmick - wherein he wouldn't start the song till someone had $1 in the air - was strangely effective. "That'll do... that'll do..." he said, nodding his head as the bill was waved in the air. What ensued were some very blunt rhymes about the city of San Francisco, including references to the 22 and 38 bus lines and "Willie Brown smoking weed in the Jeep." I'm positive he collected more fans that evening.

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Illiteracy was on next. They were all about the F-word. A sampling:

"F@!$ Carlos Mencia, you are not Mexican or funny. F!#$ You!
F@!#$ people who are happy at 5 in the morning. F!#$ You.
F!#$%! Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Christina Aguilera, and Amy Winehouse. For doing black music better than black people. F!@#$ You.

People with iPhones, T-Pain and his auto tuner...let's just say they had a pretty long list.

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Then Blu came on and THAT was the show. Always a treat and a favorite of the crowd, the heartbreak kid that every hip-hop girl wanted let his swagger flow on stage and every girl in sight (and a few guys) swooned. Humming "Don't nobody wanna dance slow in the rain," he laughed and flirted with the crowd while the girls screamed. The best part was his freestyle bit at the end.

U-N-I went last. Matching in red and blue they did their thing and brought out a human beatbox called Mufasa as well. The night ended on a good note, but most likely just because everyone was satisfied having seen Blu.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Below the Heavens is my favorite album of the year.

Random Detail: Thank you, DJ Ambush and Street Media for watching my notepad while I went to get some air outside.

By the Way: Groupies were to tha leeeffftttt! Where Blu was at.

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