Zion I & Minnesota @ The Middle East

It’s not everyday that you get to see an iconic Hip-Hop duo collaborate with one of the pioneers of wubs and wobbles in America, otherwise known as Dubstep.  As hot, musty air circulated throughout the downstairs of the Middle East in Cambridge last Friday, an anxious crowd awaited the performance of Zion I from Oakland, California (comprised of DJ AmpLive and MC Zumbi), and one of the hailed kings of Dubstep, Minnesota.  With them on the roster of the Boston show was Bay Area rapper Incline, who, while rocking a Bay Area flat cap, brought a bit of the Bay with him to Boston.  Seeing as I’m an SF native, this show was almost like going back home.

Incline was first up and since I had never heard of him before, I had no idea what to expect.  It didn’t take long for him to gain my respect as he vibed with the crowd, bringing them a bit of that West Coast charisma we all wanted to hear.  From songs about love and heartbreak to call and responses with the crowd, Incline showed a certain energy that a lot of emcees today are missing.

After Incline went off and a short intermission, roars of applause from seeing a glimpse of MC Zumbi from the back brought Amplive out onto the stage.  “Amplive for President!” Someone shouted from the back along with numerous exclaims like “I love you Amp” and “Preach” as he proceeded to blow all of our minds with a show of real DJ talent. Amplive gave us just a teaser of what 15+ years as a DJ can give you, seamlessly transitioning from one 10 second clip of a Hip Hop club hit to another.  Skipping from Nas, Jay Z, Erykah Badu to Tupac while mixing Welcome to Jamrock along with some R. Kelly and Trap isn’t a feat many DJs can pull off but AmpLive did it with ease.  Then as if on cue, MC Zumbi and Deuce Eclipse ran out on the stage hyped as ever.  I swear you guys, it was like we were back in California.  MC Zumbi, Deuce Eclipse and Amplive vibed so well with one another that the crowd got into it, shouting and jumping and trying to cram the front of the stage.  Zion I performed tracks from their new Shadowboxing album like ‘Float’, ‘Joe Frazzzier’, ‘Buck Em’ and of course the album’s namesake ‘Shadow Boxing’ while referencing Boston and the West Coast like they were one and the same.  Tracks like ‘Coastin’ and ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ were huge hits as always, and the two emcees freestyled at least 10 times, spitting off the heezy whenever they felt the need.  Then, as if he hadn’t surprised us enough, Amplive brought out an MPC strapped around his torso with the neck of a guitar attached, acting as a pitch fader.  There he stood in front of us, playing the MPC like a live electronic guitar with drumpads.  Roars and shouts filled the room from the crowd and from Zumbi and Deuce Eclipse; everyone loved it.  If you haven’t picked up their Shadowboxing album yet, well I urge you to get off your lazy ass and listen to some real Hip-Hop.

When Zion I went off and the Dub king Minnesota approached the decks, I was taken aback by his setup.  This guy came out with three pieces of equipment: a mixer, a Traktor X1 and his laptop; but he fucking killed it.  It didn’t take long for the Middle East to become a hub of Trap infested dub reworks, with anything from CRNKN to Flosstradamus, along with Minnesota’s own uniquely deep take on Dubstep.  His own tracks like his remix of ‘California Dreamin’ went over well with the crowd; almost too well as college bros started mosh pits all over the place.  I’ll admit though, I had to leave midway through his set for two reasons: at a certain point wubs and wobbles lose their genuity and some douche who jumped on stage fucked up the sound connection.  Middle East staff got it working again pretty quickly, but after California Dreamin‘ I was pretty satisfied.

Check out the original mix of Float and the VIP remix below as well as my favorite track from Minnesota, his remix of California Dreamin’.