A show with three opening acts doesn’t give me a ton of confidence. Finding out that I only knew every other act on the bill made me a bit anxious. Thankfully my fears were completely unfounded. Every single act left it all on stage leading up to the high octane insanity of CunninLynguists.
I came in part way through Nemo Achida’s set and I was disappointed I didn’t show up earlier. By the time I arrived Achida was in the second half of his show and he had done a great job of pumping up the small crowd. Sweat was pouring down his face as he ran through tracks off of his EP Well Raised Beast. He handed out copies of the CD as his set ended and I was lucky enough to grab one.
Sadistik damn near stole the show when he jumped on stage. He’s a northwest boy and a good portion of the crowd had come to see him. “Homie you should be headlining!” yelled out one fan after Sadistik had thrown down a few tunes. Sadistik has the best worlds; he’s a fantastic lyricist, weaving powerful stories with insane metaphors. But the dude can also spit. He swung back and forth between hyper lyrical and blindingly fast. He also walked into the crowd and preformed part of the set in a circle made of fans, previewing some of his new work. If the stuff he showed is any indication, the next album will be a stunner. Towards the end of the set he started bringing out harder pieces like “The Beast” and his presence almost went to Death Grip levels of anger and violence, “Seven Devils,” in particular nearly strayed into noise-rap territory.
J-Live was the last opener and it turned out our man behind the turntables was also an MC. For the first half he was the weakest act, running back and forth between the DJ table and the mic to turn on the next track, but he salvaged the set. After a powerful acapella piece that became slam poetry over the third world he ended with a heavy and jazzy track that had the whole hall swaying along in time.
Then came the main act. CunninLynguists cut the usual bullshit of letting the audience wait for hours and bounded on stage, giving high fives and fist bumping everyone that was hanging on the front of the stage (me included), before ripping into a completely insane set. The tracks they played were curated from nearly every album they’ve done. “Who’s an old school CunninLynguists fan?” shouted Kno before they dived into songs from Southernunderground. They also kept new fans happy by playing some of the best songs off of Strange Journeys Volume Three. Unfortunately the sheer number of guests on Volume Three kept the crew from playing some of the best songs (Tonedeff wasn’t on tour, so highlight “Urutora Kaiju” didn’t show up), but Sadistik was on hand for the excellent “Castles” and he stayed around to preform solo work that Kno produced. There was a fair amount of songs off of solo albums. Kno, Deacon, Natti, and J-Live all got their own tracks performed while the other guys acted as hypemen. It was obvious that CunninLynguists were enjoying themselves. Deacon is usually the most somber lyricist, but he was smiling the entire time and Natti was joking and laughing throughout. Kno appears to be some sort of man-child when he gets on stage. While introducing the rest of the crew he claimed to be (in order) Mac Miller, Yellawolf, Vanilla Ice, and Macklemore. Outside of general shenanigans the set’s high light was Oneirology cut “Enemies with Benefits.” By that time CunninLynguists had demanded that the sound be turned up to ear-drum destroying levels and the dark energy of the song was overwhelming. I meet every performer after the show and, without exception, they were some of the nicest and most gracious guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to. CunninLynguists are one of the most hard working (and best) hip-hop groups out right now and they deserve more praise. With shows like this it’ll be coming their way soon.