“My wife likes to say the party is the bastard child of ceremony,” says Chaka Mpeanaji, low-end half of the hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm. “We do ceremonies. We celebrate life, music, and art. We also celebrate ourselves, and the energy that we create together.”
The invention of the microphone means that everyone’s a rapper if they want that. Not everyone who can rap can rip hip-hop, however.
“It’s call and response,” explains Mpeanaji. “If we make a call and you don’t respond, it’s hard to build off that. But if the party is right, it just keeps going up.”
Mpeanaji knows the paradox firsthand. When he first posted to Austin in 2010, having just moved from Providence with his wife and RAS partner Qi Dada, he took note of a citywide dearth of true-blue hip-hop (“when it was about the DJ and the party”). That’s the style he and Dada, community activists with youth organizations in New England, had grown accustomed to as performers.
“Connecting with people: That’s what makes us unique from most artists,” he says. “People don’t just want to support us because of our music. Some want to support us because of who we actually are.”
That approach has paid off as RAS continues to enjoy an unprecedented run of local success in the past calendar year. They released an eponymous EP, a high-octane follow-up to 2010 full-length Speak the Truth, and began curating the Tipping Point, a monthly hip-hop showcase at Empire Control Room. In March, the duo became the first hip-hop act in 32 years to win the Austin Music Award for Band of the Year.
“I have this rhyme,” says Mpeanaji. “‘Multiply zero by zero and you still got one. Surrounded by haters, and you still had fun.’ That’s hip-hop. You’ve got to take nothing and turn it into something. You have to get out and push it. People who don’t think we got it going on, you’ve got to make it going on.”– Chase Hoffberger
Like a pile of fluorescent crayons melting on hot pavement, Ed Hall’s sledgehammer psychedelia throbs in harmony with the summer air. As one of Trance Syndicate Records’ first recruits, Austin’s Dong Huong-spawned threesome were key players in the local avant-rock renaissance of the early Nineties. Although they’ve continued to play together in Pong, an Ed Hall reunion show remains a rare occasion. Bollywood-infused space shifters Bangaar and junkyard video hacker Kyle Evans (aka Cracked Ray Tube) set the stage.– Greg Beets
A rare double CD release from two very different artists. Kelley Mickwee, a member of on-hiatus Dixie gals the Trishas, steps forward on You Used to Live Here, a debut reflecting her Memphis roots. It’s soulful, restrained yet flavorful, with Mickwee blithely rendering songs she wrote with Phoebe Hunt and Owen Temple, and covering tunes from Eliza Gilkyson and John Fullbright. Meanwhile, Adam Carroll returns with Let It Choose You, his eighth album, another stylized collection of vividly drawn Texas characters. Meet his new spouse, Canadian folk singer Christian Carroll.– Jim Caligiuri
New Orleans’ second line loads in.