As much of my coverage this month shows, including below, Orlando has an active and informed alternative-rap scene. So the Feb. 4 screening of The World Has No Eyedea (Enzian Theater, 12:30 p.m.) should be of particular interest. It'll be the Florida premiere of the documentary on the prismatic life and untimely 2010 death of venerated underground rapper Eyedea, the Rhymesayers artist best known as collaborator to the amazing DJ Abilities. Essential for true hip-hop heads.
The anatomy of a sensation is a mystical thing containing all sort of situational intangibles, not all of which are qualitative. But rap juggernaut Run the Jewels (Jan. 23, the Beacham) are the 24-karat package.
From the beginning, it was a lethal union. Its core pillars, hardcore Outkast associate Killer Mike and alt-rap legend El-P, were each paragons of credibility on their own. Anything that starts off with that much intrinsic firepower is kissed by fortune, at least on paper. But the reality is that, once the glitter settles, most supergroups don't quite equal the sum of their parts. All-star games and star-studded casts consistently prove that true chemistry is more alchemy than arithmetic. That's what makes Run the Jewels rare. They not only deliver pound for pound, but together they actually punch above their mammoth combined weight. It's become such an extraordinary thing now that their long-established individual identities have become subordinate to their collective one in short order.
Across three searing and increasingly focused albums, they've honed the combined attack of Killer Mike's big-boss cadence and El-P's production genius into the perfect blitzkrieg. Sleek but hard, it's hard-core power forged by clarified modernist taste into a heat-seeking missile that's purposeful, locked-in and now as fuck.
RTJ's show was a pretty major stage production. The performance – a torrent of bass, bite and personality – was solid. But there are flashier affairs and more virtuosic performances. Truly exceptional, however, was the white-hot fever of their reception. When they took the stage, the grand hall combusted into a jumping inferno and burned like an hour-long detonation. That reaction to their work, the mass shit-losing fanaticism, was the night's most victorious and definitive thing.
RTJ have a monopoly on the hearts and minds of the cognoscenti, but this isn't just some cool-kid hipster crush. Under all the hype is pure proof and substance. Though they've struck new gold together, these are two artists who've hustled in some of the most respectable subterranean frontiers for years. So even more than the headline of a fresh breakout star, this is the story of the great and true underground getting its shining due. It's the kind of cosmically just Cinderella story you wish happened more. Well, there's no more ascendant and unstoppable act in hip-hop right now. And this locomotive is only gaining in velocity and steam.
Of the openers, California DJ/producer the Gaslamp Killer was a revelation with a left-field lean and a staggeringly wide palette. From a base of hip-hop and electronic, he sprawled into psych, funk, rock and international. He even went straight nerd by rocking a hip-hop mashup of classic video-game music that lit the house. As scattered as that all sounds, he knows how to kick it harder than his ties to the cerebral L.A. beat scene might suggest, all in a surprising but seamless way that has its own freak logic. When the weirdest act on the bill is the one tasked to get the room up to suitable fever pitch for the hottest act in hip-hop, you just know that he's gotta be something special. And it was one of the best, most interesting and electrifying DJ performances I've seen in a very long time.
What's more, he was topical. Coming only two days after the incredible Women's March on Washington and the many other allied gatherings across the globe, including the robust one here at Lake Eola, the already powerful throb of his set was punctuated with spoken lines like "The future is feminine" and "Feminine energy will save us all." It was timely, necessary and made for a set that was as revolutionary in spirit as it was in music.