Seeing double: Del, Zion 1, Opio mix it up

Bukue One, Zion I, Haiku D'tat, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
Thursday, October 28
at Starr Hill Music Hall

It was Eric who showed up in a long-ago early December with the first Souls of Mischief album, '93 Till Infinity. By the end of Christmas break, I had dubbed it for my whole crew. It became a symbol of our unit.

In no time, we all had the album memorized. We'd get together to rap the songs– each one of us assuming the part of a specific member in the Souls of Mischief crew. Kareem was Tajai, Chris was Phesto, and B.J. was A-Plus. I was always Opio– we were both skinny and had lots of hair.

Souls of Mischief are part of a larger crew called Heiroglyphics. Also part of Heiroglyphics is underground hip-hop icon Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. After entering the music industry with a bang in the early '90s, Del turned to more obscure endeavors, putting his talents as an emcee at the helm of the indie rap world. His mid-'90s album, No Need For Alarm, is still a cult classic and a personal favorite. Recent collaborative records such as Deltron 3030 and The Gorillaz have furthered his reputation.

Imagine my glee when I heard that Del Tha Funkee Homosapien was headlining at Starr Hill. Yeah!

Along with Del came a whole slew of other emcees with varying degrees of indie accomplishments. Bukue One is a name I've seen frequently in subculture magazines. Zion I has been rocking the underground on both coasts for nearly five years. Haiku D'tat, a veteran all-star trio from Oakland, consists of Project Blowed's Abstract Rude and Freestyle Fellowship's Micah9 and Aceyalone.

If you haven't heard of these guys, don't worry. You're not alone... as a matter of fact, you're in the majority. From the looks of Starr Hill Thursday, most people in Charlottesville haven't heard much.

But it was their loss. In a few words, this was some real Hip Hop s***, y'all. How else to explain the raw energy of bass so profound that you feel each knock deep in your chest?

With an arsenal of emcees this deep, one couldn't predict what was going to be said next, or how it was going to be said. Bukue One rhymed with a heavy island ragga influence. Zion I spit sharp calculated flows with heavy metaphors over sparse driving beats. Haiku D'tat came from three different directions, each one as exploratory as the next.

Micah9 changed the speed of his flow mid-sentence, and his rhymes were sharp but baffling. I wish I had live TiVo with instantaneous rewind and playback for the punch lines I missed.

All three opening acts were extremely entertaining. Hands were in the air. The majority of the crowd was packed to the stage– those who weren't hovering around the expansive merchandise table at the back of the room heavy with CDs, t-shirts, and vinyl. Beside the merch table, TVs with X-Boxes allowed people to try the new ESPN NBA 2K5 game. (The tour is sponsored by game manufacturers.) The artists were giving away free copies on stage.

Alas, Del's set was less impressive than the rest, and Del apologized for being sick. After using a cane to mount the stage, he looked like he could barely stand through his set. But none of that mattered to the crowd: He's a legend. The highlight for me was when he brought my double, Opio of Souls of Mischief, up to the stage to perform, the only member of the group there.

I felt like I was dreaming. I wanted to tell him that I used to want to be him in the eleventh and twelfth grade. Instead, I just nodded and chuckled when he passed. Who would have thought that 12 years later we'd cross paths?

That's pretty damn cool, if you ask me.

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