On Thursday, February 21st, Williamsburg's Legion Bar played home to the return of Curly Castro for the album release party for Fidel, the debut solo project from the member of Philadelphia's The Wrecking Crew. This was the second of two shows for Curly, as he played Philly the night before this time playing to an audience full of childhood friends and family of Curly Castro. This homecoming vibe made it one the friendliest rap show I've attended.
Joining Curly were Wrecking Crew members and associates Zilla Rocca, Has-Lo, billy woods, PremRock, the duo Cult Favorites and producer Willie Green while Jim Redz from Philly acted as DJ the whole night. On stage the acts would come together and break apart as artists teamed each other to throw additional versus from a dizzying amount of projects atop one another's acts in a way that was overwhelming to a newcomer.
Opening the night was Willie Green who played tracks he had produced for acts such as billy woods and Impose Magazine favorite Open Mike Eagle. Willie's set was more song oriented sequencing completed productions instead of instrumentals making it more of a DJ set or showcase than a live performance. The tracks where good but the less than stellar sound at Legion compressed everything into hi-hats and bass. I found his compliation Days of Future Past to be a great place to catch up on his work.
PremRock was a hip hop show renaissance man performing, hosting and at one point, working the door. PremRock's affable nature and good performance skillset made him a better host than many I've seen and he comes with the bonus of actually being able to rap well instead of “well enough.” PremRock's latest project is a tribute to Tom Waits and is unique in that it doesn't embarrass either songwriter as PremRock is able to capture the essence of the original tracks without simply copying them into a new hip hop context. Compare the two versions of “Earth Died Screaming” for a good example of how PremRock does this.
Has-Lo is a member of Wrecking Crew alongside Zilla Rocca and Curly Castro and he was joined for much of his set by one or the other as he performed songs from various projects. In addition to rapping, Has-Lo also produces, and I think that his production choices are very strong for the performers we saw that night. He's able to modulate his skillset to whatever works best with the cadence of his vocalist.
Cult Favorite was made up of producer A.M. Breakups and rapper Euclid and they are probably best described as dark lyrical glitch hip hop and it was AMAZING. Samples skitter out from the dark and spring on you with out warning as Euclid's raps dart in and out of sync with the beat building these tracks that are like experienced nightmares than tracks. They mentioned having a new 12″ coming out soon and I assure you I'll be keeping an eye out for it.
billy woods was the final act before Culy Castro and performed with the same quiet intensity he brought to the last performance we saw of him. billy woods previewed two tracks he has on an upcoming project produced by Blockhead with whom he worked last year. History Will Absolve Me was a bit of a test. If someone mentioned it in positive terms, it meant that I would pay closer attention to what they had to say as it was one of the best hip hop releases last year and 2012 was a very good year for rap. I'm very eager to see what he has coming up as the new tracks were damn good stuff.
I wrote extensively about Curly Castro and Fidel extensively elsehwere and will direct you there so as to not take up too much more space here. Just know that Fidel is a very strong release that varies in tone, thempo and content in many unique ways and Curly Castro is able to perform to all of these fascets equally well.