various artists: Basement TV
Label: Basement Records
Author: Aaron Weaver
One of the most celebrated underground hip-hop spots, L.A.'s Basement Records, has gathered up all of their live footage to release to salivating fans. There are no interviews and no boring filler as the DVD cover bluntly states, "This is all meat & potatoes. F*ck the vegetables."
Mr. Lif gives a clue on the first performance as to where all the vegetables might've gone. With his spazmatic, b-boy stancing, dread-lock flailing rendition of "360 Degrees," it's clear the boy ate his spinach. And it's only the first of many crowd rocking testaments that hip-hop's soul is still alive and kicking (and snaring).
Fatlip puts down the first in-store performance with "What's Up Fatlip?" His wide-eyes and energized delivery get the whole crowd involved. With smiling White, Black, and Hispanic kids screaming, "WHAT"S UP FATLIP??" as the beat cuts out; it shows not only the diversity of L.A. but the unifying enchantment that the music can bring.
"We hate this song but you love this song" sarcastically moan El-P and Aesop Rock in front of the jam-packed record store. With the city lights behind them and a curious crowd in front, the beat for "Daylight" drops and a collective cheer comes over the building. By the time the energy packed version of the song comes to a close, Aesop is beat-boxing while El-P sings the chorus before a hushed but throbbing audience.
For those who don't get out to many shows, a few mysteries are partially cleared up. As Brother Ali performs "Back Stage Pacing," we see that he's not quite the ugly beast of a man he describes himself to be on "Forest Whitaker." Although far from the 50 Most Beautiful People, his incredible talent behind the mic makes up for whatever he lacks in appearance. MF Doom creeps around the stage with his metal face as he performs "Hey." Although this mystery remains mostly unsolved there were still a few things I learned: this villain can rip it with the best of ‘em and he's a lot bigger than I would've imagined.
From there you can imagine a battle of the super powers of underground hip-hop. First it's Eyedea spitting so fast that your thoughts take a minute to catch up to you after he's finished. Not to be outdone, on the next song, Busdriver comes back with such lightning speed that he leaves little doubt that he's taking cats to school and dropping them off early. Then there's the super-emotional power of Slug as he tugs at the heart with an adrenaline pumped version of "The Woman with the Tattooed Hands." However, all are outdone by the multi-tasking genius of J-Live as he plays DJ and MC at the same time on "Hush the Crowd."
If you're a fan of independent hip-hop, then this is a must-have. Granted, we don't necessarily get up close and personal with the artists but that also means there are no breaks in the action. Along with the great performances, there are 3 battles to entertain your brain. The only slight complaint is that a couple of the artists show up several times (the A-Team, Living Legends, Slug). But if you're a fan of any of these acts, then it only sweetens the deal. So quit being lazy, get off of your couch and go to the basement, then sit down again and watch this DVD. Although it's no substitute for actually being there, this is about as close as it gets folks.
Content: 9 of 10
Layout: 9 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: June 7, 2005