Let’s all hope SA’s hip-hop collective Supa Smash Bros. either avoids a cease-and-desist letter from Nintendo’s lawyers or just ignores that shit when it arrives, because they’re a full bill unto themselves. Five MCs by my count — plus another not present, on account of his living in Atlanta — plus a DJ, plus some more dudes of indeterminate purpose, plus a guy whose whole job seemed to be to stand onstage smoking a cigar, wearing sunglasses, and looking hard (job well done, by the way). Call them a full-blown posse if you’re into Old West lingo, but Supa Smash packs its roster with some real depth. Judging by the brief conversation I had with them backstage post-show they’re just getting started, but they’ve already got more songs than can be analyzed in this space.
A few highlights (with MySpace links, where applicable):
B-Hop (myspace.com/imagenationuseit), claims Houstantonio, but his “210 Flow” betrays his true allegiance, and compares hip-hop to a “sword I live and die by,” a “noose,” and his “calling.” He boasts the sort of breathless flow that most benefits from a minimalist beat that stays the hell out of his way, and the slowly changing keyboard chords work perfectly. Quotable lines — “besides pride, I don’t swallow” — take a few listens to process fully, and “Theory (Life Behind Bars)” with a beat about as ornate as could probably do him justice, state the modern MC-as-artist’s central conundrum more succinctly than entire mixtapes of skinny-jeans insults and ringtone-rap disses have managed: “These days it’s hard to maintain a clear conscience and on top of that target a worldwide audience.”
Mad 1 (myspace.com/mad1akamwiggy), who uses his deep voice and defensive-end build to finish out “Theory” on an extra-menacing note, delivers his “Joe Jackson,” featuring a catchy chopped up vocal sample, while standing at the edge of the stage, looming over the audience like a displeased bouncer. Despite his post-show description of the track as “abusive” and “aggressive,” the off-handed command to “ask your girl what it feel like” isn’t particularly intimidating, lyrics-wise. “Double-up,” though, featuring airhorns and pulsating synthesizers, gets a pass on delivery alone, and his mixtape (free at datpiff.com/_Def_Jam_Blaster_Mad_1_aka_King_Wigg_Madtv_Vol_1.m64489.html) is fucking solid. One standout track, performed tonight, is “Dirt Nap,” downright chill-inducing, thanks in part to its horror-score beat and a guest spot from Buck Raw (myspace.com/buckdagrizzly), who deploys his Southern drawl effectively. When he and Mad 1 chant the refrain, “Ho, what you looking at?” it sounds like it’s about to be punctuated by a non-lyrical ass kicking.
Royal Minus (myspace.com/royalminus), conversely, delivers “Eye Want In” like a verbal debate, but never pauses to allow a retort, and it’s just as well. What’s the comeback for “Keep your mouth shut, like Barack’s preacher”?
Minus collaborates with Same Diffrnc (myspace.com/samediff333) for what might be the set’s highlight, “Metronome” (Click here for video), delivered mostly as a duo with the same rhythmic precision as the titular timekeeper over an ominous chiming beat like something you’d expect from the mobile over that Eraserhead baby’s crib.
In short, Supa Smash Bros. have the muscle to claim descent from hip-hop’s legacy of schoolyard scrapping and the foresight to take good ideas from the modern-day blingers, as needed. Maybe they haven’t arrived yet, but you should keep their place set. Download their mixtape at this link.
— Jeremy Martin