Saturday, September 20
Born Charles Stewart, American rapper Chali 2na is known to music fans for his work with world-music/funk band Ozomatli and the hip-hop crew Jurassic 5. He’s also assembled a handful of mixtapes, albums and EPs as DJ and MC.
For this show – a treat to finally have him touch down in New Zealand again given the last minute cancellation of a tour planned for April of this year – it’s “the verbal Herman Munster”, that deep, dulcet baritone of rap, unmistakable as his truck-and-trailer flow is supported by the three-piece funk attack of his band, House of Vibe.
It’s a great venue to experience live hip-hop music and though it’s not close to a sell-out 2na hits the stage running, the energy palpable, his ability to hype the crowd, to create a buzz, a feeling of excitement, a mood – it’s all part of the show, but never distracts from his skills as a fearsome MC. Great fun, instantly – and the energy Chali 2na gives off is reciprocated, his troops marshalled, the crowd bopping and swaying as the band references reggae, cuts out funk and R’n’B shapes and 2na’s positivity becomes the huge selling point.
From solo material to snippets of the great J5 tracks (Quality Control with that infectious bass-line and the ‘pop’ of the words, the huge lift) even a Michael Jackson tribute via Jackson 5 tracks I Want You Back and I’ll Be There – Chali 2na’s ability to connect, to provide the “alternative to mainstream radio bullshit”, is a powerful force.
He made it seem like he was playing to an audience of thousands rather than a couple of hundred, he made it seem like the energy he was receiving was his payment, his reason, his motivation, the spark to light his fire. He made everyone feel a part of his party – the funk and flow infectious, the music exciting and vibrant – a perfect distraction on election night.
This review appeared in The Dominion Post – I’ve reposted it here on Off The Tracks due to requests from people wanting to view it online