The last time Rhymesayers sent their rappers into Europe was in November when Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Evidence, Blueprint, and Grieves & Budo sold out La Machin du Moulin Rouge. Contrary to common thought, you rarely have such a showing from independent label artists here in France. 1995, an up-and-coming French rap group, caused a massive stir when they became one of the first independent rap groups to sell 1,700 tickets at the Bataclan. Let’s compare quickly. Yes, Rhymesayers is American and yes they’re independent. La Machin is over 1,000 capacity, and this indie label from the frozen lands of Minnesota-far from New York City or Los Angeles or Miami-sold it out. Impressive in my books. Fast-forward to a couple weeks before their now giant Soundset hip-hop festival and two of their groups landed back on European shores, bringing out hundreds to catch Brother Ali and get to know once again Grieves & Budo.
Coming into Le Divan, you could’ve sworn you missed Grieves & Budo since there was a solid line of people buying The Confessions of Mr. Modest well before the night even began! And there they were, like clockwork when it comes to Rhymesayers, the producer and rapper selling and signing shirts. Obviously November worked. They took to the stage, tagging out Plain Ole Bill, and went direct into “Bloody Poetry,” “Sunny Side of Hell,” and “On the Rocks” in one fell swoop. Those songs are the stalwarts of Together/Apart, yet the energy you see exuding from the two on stage is enough to buy a ticket to the show. Clutching the guitar, Budo often steps out from behind the keys and beats, yelling on the crowd while Grieves coaxes Budo on like a closed glass-windowed grocery store on a Sunday in France to ratchet it up. Paris got that again with “Lock Down,” impressing those left and right with Budo’s ripping on the guitar. Then when Budo took out the trumpet, Grieves joined on in, acting as if he was the one playing before both just cracked up on stage. The back-and-forths you get from the two are pure gold with a comedy less blatant than The Lawrence Arms‘ Chris and Brendan. Grieves & Budo also have been cooped up in the studio since the last tour, working hard at new songs which were played out to the crowd that ate up their set more so than back in November.
The French love Brother Ali. At the end, they patiently mobbed him for photos, to say ‘merci’-even on the streets after. His performance Wednesday night was heavily skewed towards the good ole days; missing the new live band sound recently debuted. Get Cryphy’s own Plain Ole Bill was on the turntables. I say the good ole days because there was that solid hard bite to his delivery that you had pre-Us. We heard the likes of “Tight Rope,” “Fresh Air” and “The Travelers” while he brought out several new songs off of the upcoming Mourning in America, Living in Color. The new cuts are decidedly harder, on par with Champion with a one-two punch to the delivery that could power a protest. Expect it to hit hard with the album is unleashed. Yet Brother Ali managed to sneak in lighter treats to balance the evening with people adoring the much anticipated, much loved “Forest Whitiker” and the even more surprising “Take Me Home,” the hometown homage that I didn’t expect to hear.
Wrapping up the night just right, Brother Ali brought back out Grieves-who had been dancing between the curtains moments before-for the encore to perform “Tragic.” It’s that show of picking up others and helping them out that you rarely see in music, but you see very often when it comes to certain independent labels. It was all the more welcome that night, prolonging the evening and giving a piece of the encore to Grieves. They came back, and from the sounds of it people are starting to take hold of that duo from the Pacific Northwest.