A rapper by any other name is still just as deep

Most definitely Yasiin Bey: During a week of massive civil unrest in Baltimore, one of hip-hop’s most celebrated poets and activists put on a show at the Ace of Spades that was both thought-provoking and healing.

Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, began his set by gently covering the stage with a seemingly endless supply of rose petals pulled out of his baseball cap.

Accompanied only by a deejay, the Bey showed why he is one of the greatest to ever rock the mic—extra excellent to see because for the past decade or so, he’s been spending more time acting than onstage. Not that he’s a slouch onscreen or anything. Among his more memorable celluloid roles have been Brother Sam on season six of Dexter and the distinctive voice of Gangstalicious on The Boondocks.

In 2012, Bey changed his name from Mos Def due to materialistic pressures. He felt he was “being treated as a product and not a person.” The artist, who has resided primarily in Capetown, South Africa, since 2009, has never been silent on social issues though. Let’s not forget his 2013 appearance in a short video by the human-rights group Reprieve depicting the force-feeding methods used at Guantanamo Bay.

During his set, Bey pirouetted and freestyled. He engaged the crowd earnestly with both his free-flowing movements, distinctive vocal cadence and a set list that spanned his career. After initially ignoring a call from the crowd for “Black Jack Johnson,” he broke out with a version of “Ghetto Rock” that practically had the place levitating.

When the night ended, he brought out long-stemmed roses and handed them out to the crowd. Then, he stayed on the stage—dusted with even more rose petals—for an extended period of time, steeping himself in the moment.

—Paul Piazza

Kidz Bop, really: A Kidz Bop concert may seem funny to the outsider, with little children ages 5 to 12 screaming at the top of their lungs. However, one must remember a hard fact: this is their Beatles. And for one night only, the Crest Theatre was their Liverpool.

For the uninitiated, the Kidz Bop brand has been around for 15 years. Each of the 28 records released since 2000 feature a cast of children singing over re-recorded and reworked versions of modern hits.

Kidz Bop’s recent Sacramento soiree drew a capacity crowd of both adoring and adorable fans, featuring a cast of dancers, backup singers, solo artists and more costume changes than a Las Vegas act. At the core of the Kidz Bop crew, however, were the ultratalented singers known simply as the Kidz Bop Kids: Grant Knoche, Bredia Santoro, Ashlynn Chong and Matt Martinez.

A brief conversation with the merchandise vendor and one of the performer’s fathers yielded some little-known information: the singers have a three-year contract; all kids in the show travel with a teacher-advocate and their parents; and all shows are scheduled as fly-in dates on weekends to make sure that school is the top priority.

Highlights of the show, which lasted over 100 minutes, included male singers Knoche and Martinez singing and serenading two younger fans from the crowd, as well as a spirited version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” that had everyone on their feet.

Another hilarious addition to the night’s program was a brief Q&A session where any fan could ask questions about how the performers attend school, their favorite letter and special things each of the performers can do, such as impersonating Daffy Duck.

And while most live children’s events are brief for very good reason, everyone stayed for this nearly two-hour show. During the short intermission, kids bought flashing Kidz Bop microphones, T-shirts and compact discs and returned for the second set to party like it was 1999.

—Eddie Jorgensen

TBD returns: Mark your calendars for September 18-20, folks.

TBD Fest, arguably Sacramento’s first major music, food, arts and fashion festival, is building up serious anticipation for its second iteration, which is being bumped up a couple weeks to be a late summer event. Last year, the October affair brought out the likes of Justice, Blondie, Moby and Empire of the Sun to a dusty patch in West Sacramento.

Who will headline the festival this year? Phase one of the lineup announcements happens Friday, May 15.

—Janelle Bitker