SXSW Report Card: Killer Mike, Mistah F.A.B, Tech N9ne, Chiddy Bang

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Wednesday night at the Vibe House featured a hip-hop lineup for every taste bud: Mistah F.A.B. for the Bay Area rap flava, Killer Mike for the lyrically inclined, Chiddy Bang for the college kids, Tech N9ne for the weird and wonderful. Here's how they fared at Venue 222.   Mistah F.A.B.

Bay Area's Mistah F.A.B. wears a heavy heart these days. He lost his parents just as he became one himself. F.A.B. had a daughter in 2010. He lost his mother to cancer last year. His father died of AIDS when he was 12   "This shit is bigger than hip-hop," he tells the crowd at Venue 222. "This shit is about saving lives." While he's noted for helping propel hyphy to great heights, tonight F.A.B. would rather move minds than move behinds.

The crowd felt him through it all, cheering enthusiastically to his string of reflective performances. The best part was when he instructed fans to hold various items of their choosing and then incorporated them into a freestyle.   "Positivity brings progression," F.A.B. advised the crowd as he wrapped up his set. "Whatever you're going through, someone has gone through worse."

Grade: A-   Mike Bigga (p/k/a Killer Mike)

Mike Bigga graced the stage determined to show that while his name may have changed, his politically charged lyrics haven't. Though Mike kicked off his set with the tunes he's best known for: "Never Scared" and "All Day I Dream About Sex," and his unmistakable verse on OutKast's "The Whole World." But he didn't linger on them for long. That was just appetizer.   The real show-stopper was "Burn," which he prefaced with a question: "You ever woke and felt like burning everything down?"   "Burn" is the Funkadelic-inspired single from his upcoming PL3DGE. It's a politically salient smash that echoes the frustration of hip-hop's disgruntled base. It sounds even more compelling in a live setting. Houston's own Trae tha Truth popped up as a guest and performed his Wiz Khalifa-assisted single "We Getting Paid."    "You're not going to see my abs," Mike reassured us later. "But I say real shit and I'm better than anybody any day." We can respect that.

Grade: B+  

Chiddy Bang           Chiddy Bang was in a celebratory mood all night. The duo arrived at Venue 222 clutching an MTV Woodie award for Best Video. They treated fans to crowd favorites like "Opposite of Adults" and "You Are Not a Robot." Chiddy (the rapping half) stopped the music mid-show and kicked a freestyle. Inebriated frat brothers and wasted blondes partied as Chiddy Bang rocked into the wee hours. But the energy in the room fizzled as the set grew longer.

Grade: C-     Tech N9ne             You know how you go to a show and wonder how the hell the headliner got to be the headliner? This wasn't one of those. Tech N9ne was worth his weight. He took the stage with his Strange Music cohorts Kutt Calhoun and Krizz Kaliko. All of them were decked out in uniformed black shirts, name tags and all.

Forget Odd Future, Tech Nina may be the strangest rapper around. His face dripping white paint and voice barking crisp rhymes, he pumped out a string of crowd favorites including "Like Yeah," "Caribou Lou" and "Show Me A God." It was a stunningly impressive set to close the night.

Grade: A-   Overheard In the Crowd: "I went to the Woodie awards. It was gay as shit. That Odd Future shit was gay."

The Crowd: A diverse mix of enthusiastic college kids.

Personal Bias: None.

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