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The Beatnuts Still Get Props Over Here

September 10, 2008
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City Paper Digi-Cam | Image by Profitt Productions

Local hip-hop promoter Steez Promo put together an exceptionally good bill for the Ottobar on Saturday night, with a number of quality local acts supporting legendary New York rappers/producers the Beatnuts. The only problem, however, was that there were a few more openers besides the quality ones. By the time we got to the club, one MC that we know puts on a good show, E Major, had already finished his set, and the duo Resn and Finesse were onstage. Though Finesse impressed us at the Show Me What You Got competition in March, his performance on Saturday was dragged down by his obnoxious, less talented partner. The next group, the Bash Brotherz, were even worse, the kind of unlikable blowhards that constantly crow about what is and isn’t “real hip-hop,” but don’t seem to be capable of creating it themselves.

Fortunately, the Bash Brotherz didn’t play long, and next was For The People Entertainment, the unorthodox local rap label we ran a No Cover on late last year. For The People encompasses several groups and solo artists, so it’s never entirely clear who’ll be the focal point of a given performance, but this time the set belonged entirely to Cutthroat and Bear. Both recently released solo albums, the third chapter in Cutthroat’s Words Can’t Explain It series and a reissue of Bear’s debut All We Got Is Us, but they chose instead to perform mainly as a duo, previewing material from their forthcoming collaborative album Silent Flutes. It would’ve been nice to hear more familiar tracks from the two earnestly political MCs, but the chemistry and group dynamic they displayed with the new material still made for an entertaining set.

The next set was billed as Profitt Productions, a crew affiliated with a young white rapper named Tha Profitt who’s released a flurry of mixtapes in recent years. Tha Profitt’s established himself as a wildly energetic live performer, so we were hoping he’d still dominate his group’s set, which he did, at least for a few minutes. After a quick solo performance, he began parading out the other members of Profitt Productions one by one, each performing their own song or at least one verse. Eventually, there were literally a dozen different rappers onstage who’d all taken their little snippet of time, and it was a rogue’s gallery of rappers of every different skill level and performing style. Tha Profitt finally resurfaced toward the end, but unfortunately, his emphasis was more on mixtape tracks over beats from popular songs than his own superior self-produced material.

The Beatnuts
City Paper Digi-Cam

Thankfully, the procession of openers didn’t drag on any longer, and it was finally time for the Beatnuts. JuJu and Psycho Les are arguably two of the greatest producers in hip-hop who rarely sell their beats to other artists. While they’re not particularly great rappers, their mischievous, obscene sense of humor works as a counterpoint to their carefully crafted, sample-driven production. The Beatnuts ran through dozens of tracks from throughout their career, from their 1993 debut Intoxicated Demons to a promising track from their album due next spring, Planet Of The Crates. Still, two chubby, 40ish studio rats cuing up beats on an Instant Replay machine doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting live show. So it was the response of the audience, which went nuts for classics like “Off The Books” and “Watch Out Now” as well as the deep cuts, that made Saturday’s show feel like a real celebration of the group’s catalog.

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