All pics courtesy of Rakim Supreme Shabazz Allah (The Honorable Rudy Escamilla)
Our illness doesn’t fit any of these clothes. Our poverty can’t fund our ideas. Our shade of Blacks and Browns deserve fabrics of the whole spectrum from wealthy pastels to the warring greens. We won’t wear what you sown to us and we will wreak havoc to reap our own seams. NO! We won’t dress like oppression’s bastard child, no more. Our love is beyond measure and loyalty ain’t to be tailored so swiftly.
We got next on that ol’ Persian game where warriors practiced battles in play. On grand horses, everyone numbered with three others, four swung elements. A canvased post, a verse, a break move or a break beat. We compete in a game that clothes us. The first fields were MGV and SJP and now all the lands are better suited after million man rushes. The Lo in Polo, power cipher to love cipher, uniforms of priceless warriors in overpriced hells and all emblematic of anthems. We now return what we stole with greater value.
The Lo Lifes are now realized as distinguished composers and creators of Hip Hop culture, in all its expressions. This decade they move from young men on the street boosting their dignity back, profiling their integrity and excelling at the Arts to becoming the crucial movement in Hip Hop culture. A movement because every artist of this martial art of crafts, Hip Hop, must salute them and all the tribes, crews, and clicks revere, respect and represent as Lo Life does in some way. You dont see a fucking rapper wearing USPA, do you?! Word is bond. But you also see a standard of the music and the elements match the wardrobe. From Hip Hop still on their first 16 bars to the veteran guiding his 16 year old daughter, the culture keeps expressing our ideas and experiences. The Lo Lifes are a vanguard front on this development and their 2015 Lo & Lyrics event highlighted their dominance in the music, something going unnoticed.
To make this point, the amount of impact of a full Lo Life artist roster would never fit into Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where the show manifested December 9th. We remember past shows with the smoothest duo since Smif N Wessun, Timeless Truth, the great DJ PF Cuttin, the General Thirstin Howl the 3rd (with one of 2015’s best LPs) and our brother, always Remembered In Perfection, Sean Price, among the many. Still, DJ J Ronin and host Sun Lo had much work to do to keep all the burgeoning and established artists all on the bill.
On stage, the first immediate highlight was Sanford & Sun, an incredibly synergistic father and son duo, that interacted with the audience exceptionally. It would be that these Lo performers loved their people and felt comfortable in front of their home crowd as Whyz Ruler of Concealed Weaponry suggested to me. Still, the artists were more than comfortable but nearly all gifted beyond the small arena. The father, who later would win the best male dressed trophy sporting vintage Lo from two pairs of rare socks to 90’s RL jeans was a rugged introducer to his son who had a wonderfully measured cadence. They were the first great act of the night and set the tone for a dynamic night.
While this author, seeing countless measures of his 5 Percent family and Hip Hop bredren, the love and loyalty mixed by fashion mandatorily made pics part of the event. Sun Lo finally wrestling acts on by 10pm, the first hour was pic after pic. L’s up to peace sign salutes led to flooded stages where acts posed their wears with audience fam before, during and after. So we were blessed with the Sav Killz and J Ronin protégé, Frank Knight, when a clearing smoothly occurred. With one of 2015’s sleeper LPs (Free Lunch), Knight performed with so much exuberance and melodramatic ruggedness, he would be able to delight the upper balcony of a Broadway show. Every line’s emotion was emoted as he story told his lyrics into stage videos peeked by his love duet and closed by the hard times screamer that had him in the crowd buggin. Knight would again serve illness with Sav Killz set early in the next morning.
Transitioning reality as Hip Hop should, the headliner Sadat X of Brand Nubian, also a school teacher, got on early to be ready for the youth the next morning. Rocking the newest Polo bear sweater over the Lo-Life brand LL wings tee shirt, Sadat performed as one of the greatest conversational MCs of all time. With the most distinctive voice in the music, his bursting through silence to project the opening lines of “Escape From New York,”–“A Twenty One Gun Salute…” or merging acapellas that kept us awed, his brilliance was effortless. Then he invited his rhyme partner, Lord Jamar, the most progressive and insightful voice being interviewed on matters frequently today, to go into classics from “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” to “Punks Jump up to Get Beat Down.” The deep solo catalog of Sadat only swelled and the crowd was amped. This author’s view shifted as the great God Rakim Supreme Shabazz (aka Rudy Lo), an original Lo Life founder, brought me on stage to stand with Nubian fam Equan and the legendary promoter Ezact. So the set ended with more pics and an author posing with two of his all-time inspirations. Peace to the Gods!
It isn’t really about the Lauren you learn. It’s about the work willed to work the Lo. Says I, another Brooklyn kid out of poverty who didn’t boost Polo, wore his Nike Air Flight Lite Highs too long and only stole a wardrobe of cassettes that could clothe me in liner notes for decades. Still the Lo is an expressive culture of Hip Hop. From Sun Lo’s repping his Ayak tribe to the proud tribes of RLPC, the plains are deep and every indigenous chief on a Denim and Supply shirt doesn’t just remind crackers about my two million Indians as I love and even need to wear them. But from my classic favorite RL 94 Indian chief sweater to the Aztec print D&L vest, the Lauren are mere fabric signifiers for today’s indigenous tribes that preserve the ethos of Hip Hop, in the elements and off them, in their own varying ways. It’s like brother Max Figallo having his son Lo rocking telling us all the next generation will know of the Arts of realness too. Or the next performer, the charismatic AL (All Lyrics), one of the men key in aiding the Lo Life brand with Thirstin and Willie Esco, still rhyming at captivating levels.
Then Eff Yoo, another Lo with a brilliant LP this year, Papa Dios, graced the stage with powerful lyrics and intensity. He also brought on his Broken Home brother Spit Gemz who freestyled dynamically. At this moment, clearly the Lo crowd was spoiled as it already became so commonplace to hear great MCs that such a short set is where we quickly knowledged two of today’s most powerful lyricists. The illness continued when Shabaam Sahdeeq hit the stage and the mastery of working a set was visualized. Shabaam is the MC all the other MCs needed to study then. He gradually eased the audience in and by the end of the set kept them hungry for his latest mixtape circulating. Perfect breath control, crowd interaction and abnormally ill clarity even as Ronin blasted the heaviest Boom Bap instrumentals. Rack Lo would then go from host to MC and flip about 4 Lo anthems while all waved the L’s up high.
There was a break for the best dressed Lo Lady and beauty and style was celebrated with none of the grotesque popisms. It all led to the live debut of Concealed Weaponry. A super group of the triple threat DJ/MC/Producer J-Love, Whyz Ruler, Prince Original and Be Born. They owned the tiny stage, gliding through the mic chords that worked to corrupt their choreography like industry snakes. All for naught as even when two of the mics were lower than the other two, their clarity, exuberance and shuffling off of the best mics kept them all live. With their debut album out this Friday, Show and Proven, the event had its classic trivia triumph.
This writer was done after about 4 hours standing yet the outside tomorrow’s legends from Spit Gemz to Shaz Illyork would not let the God travel. In harmony I was to be with the brothers. Then Fi Lo came out, an MC most would assume is a street veteran of respect merely transferring the props. However, we all got into a cipher –J-Love, Shabaam, Frank Knight, Shaz, Gemz and Lo Lifes – all around holding the square. The beat played and Fi Lo versed away. By the middle, we were more engrossed by his words than the specter of camera profiling and the beat couldn’t last with him anylonger. His acapella glided through the million man rushes, the defense of his loved family and his powerful Haitian heritage, the fights when weapons were curled fingers and sharpened crafts. It was Hip Hop in all its purity that out of this the greatest blessing was to see Shaz and Gemz being peace with each other. I made nothing of it in my deep build with Gemz or Shaz but it was a sight to behold.
So back inside the Black Bear cave past the legendary Bar Lo, meeting the gracious widow of Sean Price, Bernadette, who offered a glow and warmth that no one else could offer and back to the show. I missed Team Homi and some powerful acts but the crowd had lessened. Not the stage intensity. My brother Sav Killz was going through one of 2015’s best EPs, Immovable Kings followed by El Da Sensei, who also had that veteran mic mastery as Shabaam. J Ronin could only squeeze one more act in and it was this writer’s first view of Shaz Illyork and Spit Gemz reunited on stage together. Shaz smoothly glided through two cuts while Gemz, refusing beats for the novelty of offering audiences something fresh every time, acapella’d rugged intellect again. Lights out, Ronin sent us all home.
So much love and loyalty, you couldn’t call this family of Lo tribes anything else but Lo Lifes. And while they ride the horses fly out the rack stables, they save Hip Hop song by song, stitch by stitch, element by element.
Knowledge the ongoing #LoLifeSeries here at PremiereHipHop.Com
The Lo-Life Brand Launch HERE
Eff Yoo HERE
Sav Killz HERE
Shabaam Sahdeeq HERE
Timeless Truth HERE
RIP (REMEMBERED IN PERFECTION) SEAN PRICE HERE