Empirical Research: Examining the League of Extraordinary Gz
Photos by Marco Torres
There was a show at Jet Lounge last night. I wanted to go for a three reasons:
1. Local rapper D. Risha was performing. He has a brilliant song called "Ebonics" that is a manuscript on Houston slang and I was hoping it'd send whatever crowd was watching him perform it into fits; it'd have been fun to be a part of that. It fell flat last night though. (However, his ending track, , "Fuck D-Risha," a concert-built call and response single from a tape he had in 2008, was well-received.)
2. Noon, the guy that nobody had heard of until he received 93 nominations for the Houston Press Music Awards [actually not that many -- ed.], was scheduled to perform and I wanted to see that he was a real actual human making real actual music. (He actually opened his set calling out the Press, expressing disdain that he'd received so many nominations but had not been asked to perform at the upcoming showcase.)
On a song from Kyle Hubbard's You're Not That Special album, Hubbard makes a really great, really insightful argument: "The truth is not the music, it's the listener's reaction." If this is true, then Noon is undeniable.
When he went onstage, his group of fans, holy fuck they went insane. I talked to him after the show. He said he brings about 60 people to each performance; it didn't seem like a lie. His set included a guitar player (his stepfather, whom he talked about in glowing terms after the show), a guest feature from the absurdly interesting Dante Higgins -- he's one of Houston underground rap's Top 10 emcees, easy, and the very best This Whole Rap Song Will Told In The Form Of A Story guy, without question -- and an attempt to sing Journey's "Who's Crying Now" (a moment as silly as it sounds).
Critically, there are obvious deficiencies in his skill set. But I don't imagine Noon or his flock are concerned with them.
3. Several months ago, while trolling around on Twitter, I happened across a link to a song by a rapper from San Antonio named Worldwide. He was performing last night too. His talent is unassailable. He has an earthy, aggressive, uncomplicated flow (think Big K.R.I.T.) that he delivers with minimal effort and excessive deftness. I suppose San Antonio is several percentage points less shitty than we all had assumed.
However, I REALLY wanted to go for one super reason: To watch Austin's hip-hop conglomerate, The League of Extraordinary Gz.
League of Extraordinary G'z
I didn't want to see them because I am fan (I've never felt compelled to listen to them recreationally), I wanted to see them because I am not a fan, and that's an entirely curious circumstance.
See, here's the paradox: The LEOGz are GOOD. VERY GOOD. There are things they obviously do well, and those things are obviously difficult, and since those things are obvious, it's easy to see that they are GOOD. VERY GOOD.
They are legitimate lyricists (which is different from being legitimate songwriters) and traditionally inspired rappers. Philosophically, I'm quite confident they are fundamentally better than all but the best underground rappers in Texas.
But they have, for whatever reason, always sounded ordinary coming out of my speakers. Not bad, just listless.
So I went. And I watched. AND I WATCHED.
And if nothing else, one thing became clear: In concert, everything that they do is BRILLIANT and anything that they lack in your headphones is negated.
They are a goddamn typhoon onstage.
Minus a spiel before their last song where Reggie, one of their most impressive members, explained things that maybe didn't need to be explained (rappers: please stop talking onstage; that shit is not the move), they were PERFECT.
Everything was coordinated and planned but never stifled or unnatural. They bounced around like electrons, synced with one another and the music and the DJ and the universe and everything. It was captivating.
There used to be this game I'd play on Sega Genesis all the time. It was a fighting game. I don't remember what it was called and I don't remember if it was any good, but I remember that when you'd get to the end, rather than fighting just one guy, you had to fight a whole bunch of them, and they'd all come flying in from different parts of the screen, kick the shit out of you, then flip off screen as another person came in. The LOEGz show was like that (I think they might maybe have 1,000 members), except instead of being infuriating, it was in-fantastic-ing (not a real word).
All of their fighters, particularly the mouse-voiced Tuk da Gat and particularly the hungry S. Dot but especially Reggie Coby and especially Blaxsmith, were brutally convincing and unendingly interesting. As soon as their set was over, I wanted them to do it all over again, a feeling I'd never experienced listening to their music in my car, and something I've only ever felt after watching a handful of professional rap shows and even fewer underground shows.
At one point, S. Dot launched into an absolutely vicious a capella and one of the fans in the back shouted "AND THAT'S A WHITE GUY!" and then I noticed that S. Dot was, in fact, a white guy and that nobody in the group, with the exception of Blaxsmith, truly looked like a "rapper" but that it never ever once mattered during the set and that they had basically upended racism and HOLYCRAPHOLYCRAPHOLYCRAP.
I don't know that I'll just ever need to download a LOEGz mixtape, but I know that I can never miss a show and never not buy a shirt, and that might be more important.
Personal Bias: Clearly.
The Crowd: Had a very excellent time.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Did he just say the Heights?" -- A man to woman standing near me during Noon's set, when he went into a pre-song "I'm born and raised in the H, nahwahmtalmbot?! Houston Heights!" bit. The Heights isn't exactly Houston's hip-hop core, I guess.
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