Friday Night: El-P & Killer Mike at Warehouse Live

El-P, Killer Mike Warehouse Live June 22, 2012

A small but lively crowd packed into the studio at Warehouse Live on Friday night for performances by two polarly opposite yet complementary artists, who together have created two of the most adventurous and innovative rap productions to be released this year. First, Brooklyn beatmaker and lyricist El-P joined forces with the hard-hitting Killer Mike from the ATL to produce R.A.P. Music, an album that showcases El's-synth-and-bass auditory assaults with Mike's no-nonsense political criticisms and country-rap tunes.

El followed with Cancer 4 Cure, which is an overtly adventurous rap album, sounding much more like a Trent Reznor-esque movie soundtrack and giving fans of indie/underground/alternative/intelligent rap enough fuel to burn for years to come.

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The Into The Wild Tour also showcases the stylings of up-and-coming indie rappers Despot and Mr. Motherfuckin' Esquire, who are also as different lyrically as they are visually, yet somehow all four rappers provide an altogether fun, cohesive, and brilliant show.

We step into the venue just in time to catch the tail end of Despot's set. The diminutive fireball of a rapper is in the middle of one of his run-on-sentence, chaotic yet structured raps, and we wonder if he's gonna take a breath as he pushes forward and warms up the crowd.

He asked the audience for suggestions as to what he should freestyle about next. Shouts of "pirates!" and "summer!" are hurled from the crowd, causing him to laugh uncontrollably. He ends with the track "Crap Artists", a driving and ominous song that proclaims "I get paid to breathe, hooray for me, hooray for me!" Living the life for sure.

Quickly afterwards, without any time to catch our breath, a caricature of a rapper dressed in a tiger print vest and multiple chains bounces to the stage. Mr. Motherfuckin' Esquire is indeed a motherfucker of a rapper, spouting rhymes and verses with a ferocity and playfulness that causes the crowd to cheer and applaud to his antics.

He looks and sounds like mixture of Biggie, Andre 3000 and O.D.B. He ends by asking us to raise our middle fingers to the sky and say "Fuck You!" to the boring life. "Who has a day job? Who hates their boss? I used to make $8/hour, too. I make much more than that now". Definitely also living the motherfuckin' life.

After a quick DJ set, one where the DJ was boo'd for stopping "International Players Anthem" just before Pimp C's verse, the larger than life Killer Mike makes his presence known by starting his set with the hypnotic "Ready, Set, Go" from the 2011 album Pl3dge. He stops to emphasize and repeat the following lyrics:

I'm the product, of the age of narcotta which means I'm dope like the pills you swallow.

Indeed, if Killer Mike is a drug, he is potent enough to keep rap heads from all walks of life on the brink of overdose. Mike Bigga raps with a purposeful vigor that grabs you and forces you to furrow your brow and get crunk to the beat.

He's not a scary monster though, as he flashes his toothy grin enough times to be inviting instead of intimidating. He pays his respects to fallen Houston Rap legends DJ Screw, Fat Pat, and Hawk, and thanks God for saving Trae Tha Truth's life after a recent shooting that left three others dead.

Mike brings out Bun B early in his set to perform "Big Beast" from R.A.P. Music, and the crowd goes berserk. "That's kinda like my hero right there! I fucks with H-Town. That's how you start a motherfucking show!" he gushes. Real "G" shit, and the crowd showed respect.

He delves into a few fan favorites, from "The Whole World" to his verse on Bonecrusher's "(I Ain't) Never Scared". He calls these his "southern fried shit right chea". He recalls coming to Houston roughly six years ago, a trip that he attributes to teaching him how to put out underground music.

He thanks the crowd for the love and support, and ends with the soulful ode to opulence "Ric Flair", then jumps off the stage and into the crowd during "Kryptonite".

El-P hit the stage next to close out the event. With him onstage as support included two keyboardists/guitar players and a DJ. He began his set with the opening track "Request Denied" from Cancer 4 Cure, a synth-rock sprint of a song that shifted the mood from Southern-fried to warp speed in a heartbeat.

The next track, "The Full Retard" repeats the lyrics "So you should pump this shit, like they do in the future" over and over, a bass-heavy anthem that allowed El's fans to transition towards his brand of conscience rap in a trance-like state.

"If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm doing Cancer 4 Cure front to back!" yells El-P, much the the agreement of the crowd. His voice is attractive and authoritative, like a general shouting orders or that voice that you hear in your head when you hit a crossroads in life.

Like El's career itself, he invites you to steer clear of the commercial and the socially acceptable, showing you a path to truths and reality that can only be unveiled with an open mind.

He argues that his previous stops into Houston have not shown him much love, but that the crowd on that night has changed his mind. He acknowledges and thanks his fellow rappers on the tour for sharing in his vision of the rap game, however different than what's us popular or expected.

He ends with freestyles over covers of classic hip-hop tracks, from Slick Rick's "Children's Story", Cypress Hill's "Insane In The Membrane" to A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It," each awesome enough to convert even the most hardcore rap fan to at least ponder the knowledge that El-P is trying to preach.

Personal Bias: Big fan of Killer Mike and R.A.P. Music, so I was very curious to see the guy who produced the album.

The Crowd: Small but excitable, nice mix of indie and mainstream fans.

Overheard In The Crowd:: "I wish they would enunciate more. I'm not sure if they like bitches or they wanna kill bitches."

Random Notebook Dump: White people dancing to crunk music is the best.

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