Tribe of Levi's album-release gig goes down this week

Sacramento’s Tribe of Levi drops long-awaited debut

Tribe of Levi's album-release gig goes down this Tuesday, July 10, at 9 p.m.; $10; 21 and over. Harlow's, 2708 J Street;

Follow My Lead is not only the title of Tribe of Levi’s debut album, it is also a call to action from the veteran rap crew. The album artwork, done by local legend Shaun Burner, depicts the three emcees fleeing a city on fire and leading others out behind them. When asked where the destination is, the crew simply responds:


It’s a very Zen answer, but it makes sense.

Somewhere between De La Soul and Kendrick Lamar, two-time SN&R Sammie-award winners Tribe of Levi help redefine conscious rap with Follow My Lead. Lyricists Poor, Now Or Never, and Mic Jordan team with super producer Lee Bannon, Akili Beats, El Conductor, Rated R, and Mike Colossal to take listeners down a new side street of hip-hop, where topics vary from the cultural significance of Ice Cube’s departure from NWA to alien conspiracies in the course of a few songs.

Follow My Lead manages to reminisce without being tired, to be contemplative without being preachy. The crew’s first full-length also proves its versatility and silences critics who would put them in the “conscious rap” box.

The 11 songs also serve as the crew’s launchpad to the national and international hip-hop scenes, as the back-to-back rap champions of Sac look to take the city on tour with them.

The first single, “Things to Do” is a feel-good homage to Sacto and boasts a beast of a feature from fellow the People’s Revolution emcee Bru Lei. The video for “Things to Do” has already received more than 6,500 views on YouTube, mostly through support locally, and the album doesn’t even drop officially until the release party this week at Harlow’s.

Tribe hopes to cultivate more of this kind of Sacto support with the new release on its way outside of Sac. “If you like it and support it, tell a friend. We’re old-school like that,” explained Mic Jordan, “We believe word-of-mouth is still the best form of marketing.”

Over the years, the combination of intelligent, edgy lyricism and an old-school work ethic has propelled Tribe of Levi to stages with Nas, KRS-One, and Dead Prez, as well as multiple appearances at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Last year, the group was handpicked by famed Los Angeles rapper and producer Blu to be featured on his self-produced album Open. All before officially releasing its first full-length project.

The city is buzzing in anticipation of the Levites’ debut release. And for good reason. While there is a tangible throwback feel to Follow My Lead, there is also a certain undercurrent of experimentation and invention.

The album is a rhyme fest that runs a 360-degree gamut from socially aware to poetically pornographic. At one point, Mic Jordan even raps in French.

A comparatively short album at just under 40 minutes, with only one special feature, it’s also a no-frills, raw underground hip-hop record for fans of lyricism, perfect for your next light-rail ride. And the debut is not the last we’ll be hearing from Tribe of Levi in the coming months. The album-release gig will be followed later this year by solo projects from all three members.

As for the release party, the Tribe is keeping the lineup a secret. What we do know is the show starts Tuesday night, July 10, at 9 p.m., costs $10, and promises to be one of the top Sacto hip-hop nights this year.