No longer playing with either Jurassic 5 or Ozomatli, Chali 2na has been an established solo artist for a while now. This is the first night of the tour in support of his new solo album “Fish outta water” and there’s a good sized crowd for this relatively early show (finishing at 22.00). His solo album is a good solid effort and features collaborations with Talib Kweli, Anthony Hamilton, Beenie Man, Damian and Stephen Marley. Support for this gig comes from Stig & Syntax, two UK emcees with London/Brighton connections who always bring the heat at a live show.

In complete contrast to the hit & miss Mos Def show a couple of days ago, this was how a hip hop show should be done. For this gig, Chali has a drummer, keyboard player and (seven string!) bass player as well as a hype man/back up rapper. This is exactly how I think Mos Def should have presented his show but enough comparisons.

The three musicians have a tight, fluid, funky sound that is incredibly full. Almost like how I would imagine The Meters would have sounded playing hip hop. Maybe it’s the decent acoustics in the venue but it sounds like much more than three people playing. This is the perfect backdrop for the instantly recognizable rumble of Chali 2na’s baritone. He’s all smiles and the perfect front man, leading the crowd in classic call and response, effortlessly freestyling and delivering his songs in a combination of rhyme styles that are lyrical, genial and all round good entertainment.

His song “Graff Time” about how he got into hip hop via grafitti goes down particularly well as does the J5 classics that he throws in. It’s an enjoyable set that keeps the crowd engaged throughout and for me is exactly how a hip hop show should be presented. He ends the set with a freestyled introduction to all the band members who then take it in turns to solo (that seven string bass sounds incredible).

Proper rhyme skills and good songs from an M.C. who understands how hip hop should be done. Nuff said.


Also check out “This is the Life”, a great documentary about the Good Life cafe in L.A. that nurtured groups like The Pharcyde and Jurassic 5