Hooked on phonics

Blackalicious and Lifesavas Chico State Rose Garden Sat., Sept. 13

Comedian Steve Harvey had a point when he described most live rap as a rip-off: “I didn’t pay a bunch of money to see guys talk smack over their records and hear the crowd chant all the songs. I wanna be entertained, not do the work myself!” Luckily for the 700 or so kids at Chico State’s Rose Garden last Saturday, one of the most respected groups in underground hip-hop, Davis’ Blackalicious hit the stage with a vengeance.

Drawing from old-school battle rhyme and dancehall reggae influences, rappers Gift of Gab and Lateef rocked the spot with feats of verbal dexterity—blinding-fast, freestyle rants shifted through more gears than a NASCAR race, while the back-up duo of Omega and Myron coaxed each song with soulful singing. The set peaked with the crowd-pleasing “Alphabet Aerobics,” wherein the rappers raced through image-laden lyrics inspired by each alphabet letter as the crowd waved their arms like a swaying field of pale white wheat.

Openers Lifesavas from Portland did a great job seasoning the crowd with their own funky blend of "send and receive" hip-hop, joining Blackalicious for a final highlight featuring all four rappers joining heads in a slowly bubbling huddle, simultaneously spitting rhymes in every direction—a whirling, verbal sprinkler of mad hip-hop love.