Invincible/Senor Kaos/DJ Spinna
Tuesday, October 20
There’s a few things you can count on at an “underground” hip-hop show with absolute, painful certainty: an overwhelming number of guys in city-reppin’ fitted caps, much aimless standing about, and a hoard of flyer-hustling promoters haplessly luring you to the next gig. Needless to say, last night’s High Water Music CMJ showcase, featuring DJ Spinna, Fresh Daily, Senor Kaos, Daniel Joseph, and Homeboy Sandman, boasted all of the above. Snuck into the mix too was Detroit femme-emcee extraordinaire Invincible, and thank god for that.
We walked into Williamsburg’s Public Assembly around 11 p.m. to a Nacho Libre-esque masked DJ (we’ll assume it was Spinna) serving a slew of hip-hop hits to a mostly empty room, alongside an announcement that the rappers wouldn’t take the stage until 11:30. To pass the time, we peeked into the all-female showcase in the back room as a lackluster emcee’s set was grinding to a halt: “Show me love! This is my first time performing!” she exclaimed, to no avail. We could tell and opted out, resigning ourselves to the main-stage bar.
Before long, Atlanta’s Senor Kaos got on the mic. Donning an oversized Orange Supreme hat (they’re called fitteds for a reason) and knuckle-rings on both hands, the rapper opened with a mini-speech about how his performances are “interactive” and jumped straight into his women’s-empowerment track, “Girls Rock Too.” Visibly daunted by the lack of enthusiasm during his rendition of “Can I Kick It,” he goaded the crowd: “I don’t think these people have ever heard of Tribe Called Quest,” he crowed to his DJ. (One onlooker’s caustic response: “But I bet you know who Big L is, cause you bit his whole style.”) Kaos closed with a De La Soul tribute alongside Homeboy Sandman, who wore a “No Sucker DJs” T-shirt; “What about sucker MCs?” mumbled a girl perched on a nearby barstool. Condescending to your paying audience is never a good look: They’ll retaliate.
Thankfully, the mic was passed on to Waajeed (of Platinum Pied Pipers) as he took over the turntables to introduce the next act. “Real hip-hop is a rare motherfucking thing,” he announced as Invincible took the stage. “And we’re here to bring you some real hip-hop.” Those who’d been standing on the outskirts chatting–and those who’d wandered over from the back room–swarmed in as the small-framed rapper opened with the gritty “State of Emergency,” which also leads off her Shapeshifters album.
What she lacked in stature she made up for in confidence, engaging the audience (“Everybody move your hands like this–just do it, believe me”) and actually succeeding this time. Each new song came with a fresh routine for the audience: “Now make your fingers in the shape of an L,” she yelled, doffing her page-boy peacoat during an energetic “No Easy Answers.” Her enthusiasm only waned for a moment as she somberly spoke on the state of her hometown in “these times,” before ending with the thoughtful “Keep Goin'” alongside an even smaller rapper named At Last, who earnestly chanted along with the chorus: “I keep going/Even when I want to stop.”
Invincible clearly stole the show–most of the audience left as she did. Lucky for you, she’ll be back at Public Assembly on Thursday for the Homeland Hip-Hop show. I can’t speak for the rest of the lineup, but she’s worth the $12 alone.