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The Man With the Hand Comes Around

September 10, 2009

Comp | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam

Five years ago, Comp was looking like Baltimore hip-hop’s best mainstream hope, with a Def Jam contract, songs on movie and video game soundtracks, a guest spot with Ghostface Killah, and a single in rotation on 92Q. Since then, he’s gone independent as his music has become more and more personal and idiosyncratic, but he’s remained prominent in Baltimore, constantly dropping mixtapes and performing. But it wasn’t until this summer that he finally dropped a proper album, The Man With the Hand, and on Wednesday night he marked that accomplishment with a release party at the Black Hole Rock Club.

The show got off to a very slow start, with host Amotion finally taking the stage after 11, and the first few acts mostly being lesser-known rappers who got a quick 10-minute set. That mixed bag included Cuzzo, who was almost outshined by his energetic hypeman, Dreko, who is always a compelling live performer but was stubborn about giving up the mic when the DJ tried to keep the show moving, and a group that included a 9-year-old rapper, which would’ve been more exciting if the kid wasn’t spitting the most depressingly generic “hustle hard” lyrics ever.

Huli Shallone appeared to be in sour spirits, and during his brief set he denounced a local radio personality, promised to only play “snippets” instead of full songs, declared “I don’t even feel like rapping tonight,” and then backed that up by abandoning a freestyle after a couple of bars and walking offstage. Thankfully, Skarr Akbar brought the mood of the night back up, with a quick, fun set of anthems such as “Bang” and “Da Business,” along with his new single “Jackpot.” Akbar wasn’t one of the night’s billed performers, and he seemed to be there out of a genuine desire to show support for Comp. Akbar stayed onstage for the headliner’s set, mouthing every word to some of Comp’s songs.

Comp hit the stage with the same energy that’s long made him one of local hip-hop’s best live performers, but this time he marked the occasion by wearing some kind of Medieval-looking chain mail headwear for some reason. Though he had the longest set of the night, Comp still kept things concise, running through some of The Man With the Hand‘s best tracks in under 20 minutes, including the Police-sampling “Her Friends” and “Short Film,” an odd, string-driven track that managed to feel like a club banger despite having no drums. He teased his single, “Whole Lat,” once in the middle of the set, then finally brought out the underground hit everyone was waiting for, and got in the big singalong just before last call at the bar.

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