You say Crazy, I say Ballhead
Some may tell you that hip-hop is dying out in Sacramento. Hip-hop shows are increasingly difficult to find; at times, those shows are so far off the radar as to seem nonexistent. The usual venues seldom, if ever, host hip-hop, and most fliers and ads tout rock-related performances.
Of course, part of the problem is that some music fans just don’t know where to look for their hip-hop calendar information. One solid source of information is www.twelveswax.com, the Web address of Twelves Wax Emporium, a local DJ-friendly record store (at 1716 Broadway) responsible for bringing many quality hip-hop acts to town—including the upcoming Talib Kweli show at Colonial Theatre, 3522 Stockton Boulevard, on Monday, May 31.
Then again, there also are strange moments of congruency where a hip-hop artist slips into a venue commonly dedicated to rock shows. These shows are terrific for Sacramento because they blur the boundaries of our musical expectations. One venue brave enough to put on such shows is Old Ironsides, at 1901 10th Street. (The Distillery, at 2107 L Street, also comes to mind as a venue with a relatively diverse live-music roster.)
Last weekend, the venue hosted a wonderful mix of entertainment, culminating in a performance by local hip-hop artist Crazy Ballhead. The evening worked particularly well because of the diverse bookings. Larry’s Lounge Lizards opened, although the absence of the band’s regular vocalist and drummer meant that its sound was somewhat changed for the evening (the drum stool was occupied by none other than the terrific Devin Hurley of Frank Jordan). Instead of the band’s regular Curtis Mayfield/early-Stevie Wonder sound, the addition of a bevy of guest hip-hop vocalists made for a sort of smooth jazz-rap sound reminiscent of De La Soul and Us3.
Keeping up the trend of excellent drumming was Soul Taco’s Ray and percussionists Ron and the Reverend (the latter looks like a homeless Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison). Soul Taco performed particularly well, with vocalist Guy and lead guitarist Bill Billy-o practically lighting the stage on fire with a series of shredding songs and jams. Soul Taco is a party band, pure and simple, and at this the band excels. The audience was like putty in its hands. Check out www.soultaco.net for more info.
But perhaps even more impressive was Crazy Ballhead himself. Fronting a three-piece backing band, Ballhead was surprising for two reasons: First, he has a solid audience base at Old Ironsides, worth noting because the venue generally doesn’t book much hip-hop. Second, Ballhead is a master at motivating his audience, providing a level of entertainment that was top-notch. A rapid-fire barrage of generally positive rhymes over live rock music was coupled with an insistence that the audience sing along. The effect was that the audience was completely involved in both the music and lyrics. “When I say ‘Crazy,’ you say ‘Ballhead’!” he shouted, and the entire audience followed suit. Ballhead was best with heavier, faster pieces, allowing his somewhat gruff vocals to really hit their stride; his slower pieces I found to be less effective. Nonetheless, the overall effect was brilliant entertainment. Check out www.crazyballhead.com.