Bay Area hip-hop got much love in the Big Apple over this past weekend when both Andre Nickatina and Zion I & The Grouch (aka Z&G), who headlined concerts at NYC's Highline Ballroom and Knitting Factory respectively, had the packed venues loudly & appreciatively showing much love for the Bay Area.
Sunday night at the Highline, in Manhattan's Chelsea district, longtime San Francisco rapper Andre Nickatina stopped the music and led the packed house in a back-and-forth chant of "Mac Dre, Mac Dre." Throughout the rest of the excellent show, for which up-and-coming SF rapper Roach Gigz opened, he had the supercharged audience (many donning SF Giants hats) singing along to the lyrics of songs such as "Killa Whale." Two nights earlier over in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zion I & The Grouch similarly had the packed Knitting Factory crowd (many clearly Bay Area transplants) singing along in unison to the Zion I Bay Area hip-hop anthem "The Bay."
"It's like being at a rap show in San Francisco," enthused one Andre Nicatina fan Sunday night in New York as the artist formerly known as Dre Dog launched into one of his newer songs, the title track of his recent album My Middle Name is Crime, a collaborative full-length with The Jacka (with the absent Jacka's verses played back on tape).
As with the older & more classic Andre Nickatina songs, the audience sang along with this one too, knowing all the lyrics. Andre Nickatina also gave love to the city that hosted this rare appearance in the Big Apple by the Fillmore San Francisco rapper, shouting out a ton of legendary New York hip-hop figures that he said he and his friends back in SF spent a lot of time listening to over the years. He shouted out Slick Rick, Big Pun, Big L, MOP, and also Melle Mel before jumping into an impromptu abridged acapella version of "White Lines" -- a song whose subject (coke, yayo) is a recurring theme in much of Nickatina's music.
Andre Nickatina leads NYC crowd in chant of "Mac Dre, Mac Dre" @ Highline Ballroom, 4/24/11
Younger up-and-coming SF rap talent Roach Gigz' opening set was equally well received, even if not everyone in the house was as familiar (yet) with his music as with Nickatina's. Bay Area to Brooklyn transplant Michelle McDevitt, whose marketing & promotions company Audible Treats' roster comprises a large percentage of Bay Area indie hip-hop artists, said of Roach Gigz' set Sunday, "The folks up at the front of the stage, who seemed to be mostly Bay natives, were hype and knew a lot of the words to the songs. Roach has great stage presence and energy, can't wait to see him do more shows outside of the West Coast."
Zion I & The Grouch's New York City show also seemed like a show you would attend in Oakland or San Francisco due to familiarity of the audience to the music being played, plus the fact that there were so many folks in the house dressed in Bay Area themed wear and shouting loudly at the mention of anything Bay Area related. In addition to performing many of the tracks off their recommended new collaborative album, Heroes in the Healing of the Nation, Z&G also included select solo recordings such as The Grouch's "Artsy" (off Show You The World) and Zion I's "Many Stylez" (off their late 2010 release Atomic Clock). Also repping the Bay were San Francisco's super-tight Shotgun Wedding Quintet, who acted as both the opening act for Z&G and also their backing band -- complete with horns, which made for an extra full, rich sound.
The Andre Nickatina & Roach Gigz NYC date was a one off, while the Z&G date was one of many in their current North American tour which has about one week left. Tonight (4/26) they are back in Cali playing the El Ray in LA. Tomorrow Wednesday (4/27) they play the House of Blues in San Diego, and Friday (4/29) they will be in the Bay Area to play the Avalon in Santa Clara. Full Z&G tour details here.
Zion I & The Grouch "The Bay" excerpt at Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY 4/22/11