The hip-hop beat 06/18/08 

Black Sheep got buzz

The Indy hip-hop community has been buzzing about the Black Sheep show at Spin Thursday, June 19. Responsible for one of the most unquestionably classic rap albums of all time, 1991’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the group has managed to hold interest over the years even though the albums have been sparse. Originally part of the Native Tongue movement that included A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, the group established their own sound with dense sample layering, anthemic jams and a tongue-in-cheek vibe that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at the newly emerging sub-genre of gangsta rap. If you’re a true hip-hop fan, you should hit this show. It won’t all be reminiscing, either; stay open to the new tracks Black Sheep will be performing. They’ve been grinding just below the surface for a while, with a steady stream of quality solo material from both members.

Supporting Thursday is a roster of some of the top local artists: Son of Thought, Mic Sol and A.C.E., Jaecyn Bayne and Freeze, Merc Versus, Justice League and the Mudkids.

The Mudkids have been releasing a series of homemade videos on their Myspace page previewing songs for their upcoming full-length We Are Dynamic and People Like Us. This will be the group’s fifth album, a commendable and rare milestone to reach in any genre.

Sleeper Cell, ‘The Time Is Now’

I keep coming across new talent in the city, and I’m continually impressed with how many people are passionate about creating and performing hip-hop music. The local group Sleeper Cell recently released their debut album, The Time Is Now. As soon as I put on the CD, I knew it was going to sound good. The production is pretty stellar, with a dark mood permeating throughout, though some of the beats could’ve developed into something slightly more complex. With such heavy beats and a name like Sleeper Cell, you almost expect the lyrics to have a political edge to them, especially after a couple of news samples in the opening track. Unfortunately, the subject matter doesn’t quite match the depth of the beats. The group is at their best when taking on a motivational sentiment with their lyrics, such as on the title track and the Lynda Sayyah assisted “Best Effort.” The group is least appealing when reverting back to the rap clichés of misogyny (most often), money and drugs.

Overall, this album is a solid effort built by artists who know what they’re doing. These guys are a welcome presence in the community. More than anything, what I hear in The Time Is Now is great potential.

Good connections

The connectors, a necessary element in any successful movement, make the scene go round. Our connector of the month is tenacious promoter Ike Daniel, whose Mobile Network 1 has been working hard bringing together diverse rosters from the heart and the fringes of the Naptown scene. Not only has he been organizing shows that have succeeded in attracting large, very diverse crowds, but he’s also started a weekly event at downtown’s Tip Top Tavern. This weekly gathering is anchored by Downtown Dons Scott Metalic and Action Jackson, and features a rotating roster of guests and live performances.

Tip Top, along with the downtown network of Coaches, The Front Page and Urban Element, are the best places in the city to mingle, discuss, debate, network and groove with the hip-hop community.

Remember the titans

One of the most beloved members of the Indianapolis community at large was DJ/photographer Mpozi Tolbert. Nearly two years after his untimely passing, you can still sense his presence and energy through the people whose lives he influenced. A memorial concert is taking place Friday, July 4  at Radio Radio in Fountain Square, with good friends Twilight Sentinels headlining a diverse roster. The next day, Saturday, July 5, a mural in Tolbert’s honor will be unveiled on the north wall of Spin Nightclub in Broad Ripple. Both these happenings will be an excellent chance to honor Mpozi’s legacy.

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