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Bum Rush the Show

Hip-hop heads CityFest Live


At past CityFest concerts -- a festival, after all, for our whole city, at least in name -- there have been a few noticeable omissions.

Like, say, black people.

The only person of color you were likely to see was Mr. CityFest himself, Darius Rucker, whose recorded output with his band Hootie and the Blowfish was enough to make you think otherwise. Of course, Darius is back again this year, and probably will be for every year from here on out, as long as they keep giving him a stage and enough Rolling Rocks to keep him sated.

This year, in the words of Biggie Smalls, things done changed. The festival has imported something called the NBA Rhythm 'n' Rims stage, which is populated for the most part by hip-hop artists. In fact, the R&R stage is almost the model of what you want at a festival: a mix of the local, the up-and-coming, the name act, and the nostalgia/Godfather-type performer.

Included in this year's lineup are The Roots, the (no-relation) Nappy Roots, crunkmeister Pastor Troy, Dungeon family oddball Cee-Lo Green, Durham, NC's own underground comers Little Brother, and the linguistic largesse and speed-of-light auctioneer raps of the man known as Twista (formerly Tung Twista).

And while we're still not sure whether the "Rims" part of the stage refers to a basketball goal or the latest 20-inch Sprewell dubs, rest assured that it doesn't really matter much anyway. That said, if Bobcats honcho Bob Johnson did have something to do with this, he's already done more for the community than "ol Shinnie ever did.

To do our part for public service, here's a look at the cream of the "hop."

The Roots -- Illadelph's (and the world's) greatest live (read: instrument-playing) hip-hop band, The Roots have assumed sage status in the hip-hop community, receiving kudos from more camps than a Scoutmaster General has. The boys have a new one, the Malcolm Gladwell-inspired The Tipping Point, out in mid-July. Along with their Okayplayer compatriots, the band also has a hand in the new True Notes Vol. 1 compilation, which also features folks like Jean Grae, Dilated Peoples, ?uestlove, Little Brother, Aceyalone, among others.

Little Brother -- These Durham, NC-based Brothers -- Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder -- have been opening shows for their big brothers in The Roots for some time now. Their bio describes them as being somewhere between A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast. That's a little overly simplistic -- frankly, they sound most like The Roots -- but the skills are certainly there.

Nappy Roots -- The Napsters have a new one out, Wooden Leather, that is a great companion piece to their 2002 surprise hit, Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz. Led by Skinny DeVille, the Kentucky band helped launch the career of ex-Charlottean Anthony Hamilton, but are best known for songs like "Awnaw" that fully express their funky, ruralized take on Southern hip-hop.

Twista -- Twista, the self-proclaimed world's fastest rapper, has dropped the "Tung" from his name, and has since become something of a breakout star as a result. His latest, Kamikaze, receives a helpful assist from Kanye West, who has recently had his hand on more gold than King Midas.

Cee-Lo -- About as wide as he is tall, Georgia's Cee-Lo Green is (along with Big Gipp) the breakout star of the late, great Goodie Mob. Since leaving the group, Green has used his nasally, Gospel-like pipes to move his music into more of an expansive, Outkast-inspired direction, especially on his excellent new Cee-Lo the Soul Machine.

Pastor Troy -- ATL's favorite party boy, Troy raps that his hardest decision in a given day is which car will match his outfit when he decides to "skate." The Pastor's sermons are nothing you haven't heard before -- clothes, Cristal, and Courvoisier -- but the delivery is full of enough fire and brimstone that you won't even notice.

Cee-lo Green plays CityFest from 6-6:30pm on Sunday. Pastor Troy plays from 9:15-9:45pm on Friday, 1:30-2pm on Saturday, and 6:45-7:30pm on Sunday. Twista plays from 10:30-midnight on Friday. Nappy Roots play from 8:15-8:45pm on Friday and 7:15-7:45pm on Saturday. Little Brother play from 7-7:15pm on Saturday and 2:30-2:45 on Sunday. The Roots play from 10:15-midnight on Saturday. All performances will be on the "Rhythm 'n' Rims" stage.

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