A Tommy Boy hip-hop revue demonstrates that label's smooth, bouncy style; the Def Jam revues of the mid-'80s featured the stripped-down hard-core aesthetic of Russell Simmons. Priority Records, the Hollywood indie that holds basically the same place in L.A. rap that McDonnell Douglas holds in fighter planes, throws a different kind of party.
Priority puts out Eazy-E, Ice Cube and the collected works of N.W.A. More recently, the label become a sort of salon de refuses of hip-hop, home to Ice-T, Paris, the Geto Boys and the Lench Mob, among others, after the violent lyrics of those best-selling rappers caused them to be nudged from their major labels.
On Wednesday at the Whisky, at Priority's 10th birthday concert, there was all the hard-core hip-hop a fellow could want. Da Lench Mob, the only group in rap history to have not one but two members up on separate murder charges--one was convicted, the other acquitted--performed 90 seconds from each of its hits before opening up the microphone to freestyle rhymes from the audience. They sounded a little like their mentor Ice Cube might, if he'd only turn that frown upside-down: hard, angry, agile, but happy.
Paris, the Oakland rapper who earned a bit of notoriety a few years ago when one of his songs advocated President Bush's assassination, sounded almost old-fashioned in his snappy politics, abhorrence of black-on-black violence and old-school self-assertion, but turned in the best set of the night.
Also performing was Lil 1/2 Dead, a Long Beach gangsta rapper with a few new twists on the G-funk formula, the attractive if overwrought Oakland group the B.U.M.s and an East Bay collective called Infrared.