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Jay Som at the Monte Clark Gallery

For the JanSport Bonfire Sessions, July 22 2017. Kirk Chantraine photos.

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Kool Keith at Venue

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Kool Keith at Venue, Vancouver, Jan 30 3014. Zoë Christmas photo.

Review – Kool Keith at Venue, Vancouver, Jan 30 3014

– review and photos by Zoë Christmas

Following Pusha T on Tuesday, Venue hosted yet another hip-hop show last week.

Thursday night was packed tight with a lineup of local rap artists – ILL Tone, Alex Cruz, ILL-Legitimate, The SDK Crew, Merkules and Snak The Ripper – who opened for the Queens, NY hardcore hip-hop group Onyx, and the legendary indie/pornocore/horrorcore rapper Kool Keith. This show started off Keith’s Spit Fire Canadian tour, and it is unclear whether Onyx and Snowgoons (who couldn’t make it to the Vancouver show) will be joining him for the duration of the trip.

Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz of Onyx came on at 12:30 to a packed crowd, and started off with “Throw Ya Gunz.” The duo didn’t stretch out the anticipation for their biggest hit, “Slam”, for too long – and they even incorporated the Biohazard version of the track into their performance. Starr and Fingaz spoke to the crowd about “real motherfucking hip hop,” Canadian weed, and paid tribute to late artists who influenced their work – including JMJ, Kurt Cobain, Big L, MCA and Guru. During their hour-long set, they played a handful of hits from the 1990s and 2000s, including “Shut ‘Em Down”, “The Worst” and “Slam Harder.” Their radical lyrics and hardcore rap-flow apparently haven’t changed in 20 years.

At around 1:30, Kool Keith came on stage. The show was scheduled until 3 a.m., so I was expecting a late performance from Keith. However, by the time he played the audience had dwindled down to about 50 people.

Either way, he put on an unforgettably unusual show. Clad in jeans, a T-shirt, sunglasses (which didn’t come off) and a Viking helmet, Keith – alone on stage with one DJ – started off with “Break North”, a track from the 1988 full-length debut album from Keith’s group Ultramagnetic MCs. He played a handful of full-length tracks, but the show was essentially a 40-minute medley of his popular songs, including “Blue Flowers,” “Livin’ Astro”, “Sex Style” ,“Black Elvis” ,“Earth People,” and “Keep It Real… Represent”. Though he didn’t move around the stage much, Keith’s delivery was on point and he barely broke a sweat.

Keith’s crass and surrealist lyrics are at once puerile, sexual and dense, full of non sequiturs, yet logically laid out. His repertoire cannot be matched (his fan website claims he has 50 released albums), and his eccentricities keep his tracks at the next level. I hope that the remainder of his Spit Fire tour is met with more willing crowds and packed venues.

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