Heiruspecs / Psalm One / Small Change - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Heiruspecs / Psalm One / Small Change

live in Chicago (2005)

live show

Small Change is what every hip-hop group should be, and everything a hip-hop group should try to avoid. Taking the stage was guitar, bass, drums, and two MCs, and coming out of the speakers were some of the most energetic rhymes I've heard over some of the most basic and horrendous beats. The drummer put more stock into how he looked drumming than his actual drumming, and I can assure you he treated the group like it was rap-metal. While I don't have much to say about the bass, the guitar licks were as lame as your high school's wannabe jam band at a talent show. Honestly, I'm a better guitar player, and I can't play shit. But while there was nothing short of a musical holocaust happening with the musicians, I couldn't help but be drawn in by the lyricists as they made their way around the stage, ripping out rhythms and lines that honestly impressed me more than I expected them to. Moments of precise delivery made me feel like these cats just need to get a good DJ, and then it would be smooth sailing from there. It doesn't hurt either that in between songs they said that someone looked like Coach McGuirk from "Home Movies." Goddamn I love that show.

What happened next blew me away. As I was waiting for Heiruspecs to take the stage, I noticed that they were bringing out a DJ table. I realized that I was indeed early enough to see two of the opening acts, which made me feel relieved for two reasons: (A) People on Punknews wouldn't yell at me for missing the opening bands and (B) Small Change wasn't as high on the foodchain as I thought. Anyway, after a few songs I began to think that maybe there's just a DJ set going on. But then there was a microphone standing alone out front. And then Psalm One came out to do her thing. That's right. It was a female MC. Now, when an amazing MC of the female persuasion appears, it's nearly impossible to completely divorce her from Lauren Hill comparisons, and I do not aim to do that. Rhythmically, Psalm One had similar pacing to Ms. Hill, but stylistically, she was in her own league. And in a world where sub-par female lyricists are embraced, in a world where the airwaves are dominated by Lil' Kim, Ms. Dynamite, Khia, and Foxy Brown, it's so relieving to hear true talent instead of "thug" bullshit. Her rhymes were interesting and introspective and handled her femininity without using it as a gimmick. She threw down with some hard-spitting lines that took me off guard and made me a fan. When I let her know that this show was going to be reviewed on Punknews.org after the show when she was walking through the crowd, she generated a genuine honest interest in it and made me feel appreciated as a fan, and as a music journalist1.

Now, finally, it was Heiruspecs' time to take the stage. I had seen them twice before: once at my old college's big music fest day, and another time at the Pizza Lucé Block Party, so I had yet to catch them play a more intimate venue. After not being able to hold down my anticipation, they came out ready to go at it. They opened with a a new track and proceeded throughout the night to incorporate new songs, and older songs that I've heard before that haven't been recorded yet to my knowledge. Besides playing the standards "And" and "Meters" from Small Steps, they also played a majority of A Tiger Dancing. Even though they didn't play "I'm Behind You" (I believe Muad'Dib's response to my request of "I'm Behind You" was "Umm, not quite"), they played crowd favorites like "5ves," "Swearsong," and the title track, "A Tiger Dancing." In fact, the only songs off the album they didn't play were "Get Down," "I'm Behind You," "Position Of Strength," and "Lie To Me." They also played "Gimme What You Got," a piano-based jam that continues to be one of my favorite live songs from them. Now, just because they have good songs is not why they are the greatest live hip-hop group out there: it's the fact that over and over they've all proved themselves to be some of the most competent musicians I've ever seen in my life. MC Felix's rhymes have over and over struck me with his own unique style and flow, while Muad'Dib has shown me that he in fact not only dominates the world of vocal effects, but has some of the fastest, most intense rhythms to his rapping I've ever heard. Pete has proved himself one of the most innovative live drummers I've ever heard in hip-hop, and Twinkie Jiggles and DVRG rip through the bass and keyboards, respectively, as if the instruments were just extensions of their fingertips. Throw all this talent onto one stage with tons of charisma, and you've got yourself one helluva show. They played well over an hour, and during their encore played their shortened version of a "Seven Nation Army" cover, known as "We're A Five Man Band." Killer, and I hate the White Stripes.

Oh, and if I hear one of you complaining in this thread about how this isn't punk, then I'm going to slap you because hip-hop embodies the spirit of punk more than most of these bullshit "emo" and "screamo" bands that just sing about emotions. Hip-hop is chock full of social commentary, enough to make John Lydon or Jello Biafra proud.

1 - I just really wanted to do a footnote because everyone else is doing one, and I truly just wanted to be cool. I'm sorry, honestly.