For one night, hip hop transformed Santos Party House into Santos Play House, as Tah Phrum Duh Bush and Coole High joined forces to deliver a performance celebrating the release of their respective albums in “Future Insomniac,” a smartly orchestrated, well-received stage production which was more musical theater than typical rap show.
Tah Phrum Duh Bush (one of our “5 Reasons Why NY Hip Hop Doesn’t Suck”), underground veteran and well-liked among his peers, addresses his extreme insomnia, and the flood of thoughts, concepts, hope and worry that flurry about his brain during long, restless nights on his release Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works.
Coole High, the artist/producer also known for dropping a smooth jazz album, has been an integral part of the NYC hip hop underground for many years, and with Futuristiscally Speaking, his laid back attitude, coupled with purposefully forward-thinking subject matter and an aura vaguely channeling Issac Hayes-cool, Coole High can be a tractor beam of a performer, pulling a listener in, capturing their attention.
Somehow or another, these somewhat divergent, and both occasionally abstract in-their-own-right albums, found a way to speak to each other in a well-planned out, thoughtfully choreographed stage performance, as both artists essentially acted out many of their newest material, in a nearly wordless (shout out to the good Rev. SuperKing Armor), hour and a half long musical dialogue, with one artist’s song speaking in response to the other’s.
Wait. Say what?
Yes, as far as album release events, it may have been a first, but not surprisingly. Consider Tah Phrum Duh Bush. His Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works album is delivered with an accompanying 107-page Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works book, in which Tah details, track by track, the inspiration and meaning, and frequent dichotomy, in his creativity, explaining how he believes that while “meandering thoughts don’t strike me as destructive, but as artistic and creative,” they render him “immobile”. The book includes include other thoughtful essays, and finds Tah speaking on Butterfly Vertigo and waxing philosophical regarding antonyms and masturbation.
Now take Coole High. Again, rapper, producer and jazzman. His on-stage persona found him floating heavily (it’s possible) around the stage during Tah’s performance, dabbed head (literally) to toe in white, with a futuristic funk gleaming from behind his Cyclops-like glasses (the X-Man, not the one-eyed guy). He recently told Adam Bernard in an interview for RapReviews.com, that he is “speaking in more of an angle where we need to do certain things to preserve ourselves and preserve the planet” and it showed when it was his turn to rock.
Some rap. These men are artists.
Their unique production, helped along with flavorful input from DJ M-Tri and a handful of collaborative performers such as the aforementioned and animated SuperKing Armor, the always emphatic Sleepwalkas, the sonically (and visually) delectable Mariella Gonzalez, as well as Rabbi Darkside, Cypha Blak and Bisco Smith, provided even the most jaded of rap show attendees with something unmistakably hip hop, yet new, entertaining and promising.
In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones notes that, like in the 1960s, indie acts are “expected to come with fans” in order to link up with boutique labels such as Merge Records, who are finding success with Canadian-American rock band Arcade Fire.
Among discussions with friends and musicians involved in hip hop, I have long held that also like the 1960s and 1970s, besides the obvious need to create good music, those who learn how to perform, how to put on a good show, will have the best chance at indie hip hop success in these changing times.
For one night, at the Santos Party/Play House, both of those concepts converged at this Gustav Gauntlet-directed dual album release performance. Fans were made, there was a damn good hip hop show, and we saw the future.