By Jenny Rapf
As one of the founding members of one of the most highly coveted rap groups in rap and hip hop history, RZA left Wu-Tang Clan to focus on his solo career. But not much has happened with the Wu since we lost our beloved crack-smoking Big Baby Jesus (aka Ol' Dirty Bastard). Interestingly enough, few people know that RZA produced nearly all of the Wu's albums including many of the members' solo work. Heralded as one of the greatest producers of all time, he has also released solo albums under the alter-ego Bobby Digital. In addition to the Wu-Tang Clan and his solo releases, RZA was also a founding member of the rap group Gravediggaz where he used the name "The Rzarector." You may have also seen him in 2007's film Derailed as a corporate mailroom clerk/gun slinger on the sly (classic Hollywood cliché if I’ve ever seen one). Any way you slice it, RZA's appearance in Portland will be a good show.
Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink (who met at the Alabama School of Fine Arts at the age of 15) have been busy putting out their own version of underrated and intimate pop music with dashes of alt country and folk Americana. As much as I enjoy putting labels on things, I can't help it here because they sound like less melodramatic versions of Tegan and Sara. Don't get me wrong I love me some angst ridden Lesbian twins singing about their most recent journal entry and what BITCH just broke their heart, but Azure Ray infuses a little less self-deprecation into their love-loss lyrical prowess. They have worked with the likes of Moby (yikes) and Bright Eyes (just to redeem themselves). Since 2004 the two ladies have been focusing on their own solo work, but more recently have started touring as Azure Ray once again. This will be a very mellow show and it's in the newly remodeled and re-vamped Mississippi Studios, and for those of you who haven't checked out the new digs, this show will be the perfect opportunity.
Death Cab For Cutie
This show is quite the ideal li'l outdoor package (any show at Edgefield is, really). Spend the day golfing Edgefield's pitch-n-putt chipper course then have a basket of tots and go enjoy a fabulous outdoor show with Seattle's own indie rock darlings, Death Cab For Cutie. Personally I am not a huge fan, but I have learned over the years that just because I don't have a fondness for something doesn't mean that it doesn't appeal to the masses. When it comes to Death Cab...well let's just say the masses have latched on like white on rice. Their latest release The Open Door EP (April 2009) has received the usual Death Cab buzz, however, I think their rise to fame can only be properly attributed to the fact that Seth Cohen from the infamous and short lived high school “mellow” drama The O.C. was OBSESSED with them, thus launching them into indie rock stardom. Oh Seth...how I miss you with your tussled hair and wildly sarcastic sense of humor. TV just hasn't been the same without you.
Too $hort is one of those artists who transcends the test of time...some might even say the boundaries of rap and hip-hop. Hailing from Oakland, Too $hort started his career at the age of 15, distributing custom made mix-tapes. By "custom" I mean he was creating his own raps personalized for whomever was requesting a tape. So, it's not like you could hand him a list of The Cure, Bob Marley, early Madonna (a'la True Blue) and maybe a little Ice Cube and ask him to throw something together for a Friday night living room dance party. It was more like you would tell him what’s on your mind and in a week's time you'd have a tape full of rhymes all about you and your current “situation”. It was unheard of at the time and still is to this day, especially with the content and rhyming ability that Too $hort was capable of at such a young age. Since then, he has released 17 LPs and sold over 11 million albums making him one of the most commercially successful rappers of all time. Though he is considered in many circles to be a Gangsta Rapper, the vast majority of his lyrical content is about sex (though his gangsta cred most likely was spawned from his huge influence on such “gangsta” rappers as Ice Cube and the whole of N.W.A). This show will be raucous...raunchy and AWESOME. Don't miss it.
Nas and Damian Marley
I was a little shocked to see this duo on tour, so in shock that I had to check the appropriate websites to make sure that the REAL DEAL Nas was actually going to attend. Because, let's be honest kids, you've seen one Marley, you've seen them all. Excuse me, Damian, I'll take that back. It's just that I would rather see your father, Bob.
At the same time, the tour does sound intriguing (if only for the fact that it’s an opportunity to see Nas live). Perhaps you know of him from his widely-publicized feud with other hip-hop heavy weight Jay-Z from 2001 to 2005 which was later “squashed” in a 2006? No? Perhaps you know him from his many collaborations with emcees from Eminem to Lupe Fiasco to KRS-One? You must know him from the phenomenal work he did in bringing to life 1996’s It Was Written, a masterpiece in its entirety. Nas has been a front runner in the support of intelligent and progressive music, pushing and fighting for his career and a voice that can cross racial boundaries…it is rare and magnificently unique.