By Paul Piazza
Ace of Spades was the scene for the River City’s most notable independent hip-hop holiday show last week. While it wasn’t quite the credit-card busting, laser spectacle of the Transiberian Orchestra, “How the Grouch Stole Christmas,” hosted by the Grouch and Eligh (with DJ Fresh), was a success in terms of both stage swagger and self-empowering, positive lyrics.
It was a show that was more about hard-working hustlers than glam and glitz. A Christmas gift that was more about giving with the heart than buying something from a store (although they had a variety of great gifts for sale, too).
Oakland native the Grouch (Corey Scoffern) was a longtime member of Living Legends, a collective of indie hip-hop musicians known for their great storytelling skills and ability to sell music on the streets without label assistance. One of the group’s well-known ex-members is Murs.
The Grouch partnered up with Eligh (Eligh Nachowiz of Los Angeles), another Legend, and the two have had success as a duo for more than a decade—all in a do-it-yourself style of business. The Grouch is known for his deliberately slower flow and Eligh is known for a rapid-fire delivery. They demonstrated this well at Ace of Spades. The duo’s latest, a triple-disc called The Tortoise and the Crow is a testament to their styles.
Opening for the group were the CunninLinguists, another group of independents (their debut album was called Will Rap for Food) with roots in the South. Members Deacon the Villain (Willis Polk II) and Natti (Garnett Bush) hail from Kentucky while Kno (Ryan Wisler) resides in Atlanta. Kno, who is well known in rap circles for his remix of Jay Z’s The Black Album called The White Albulum, was particularly engaging, going inside the security barrier to rile up the audience. It worked.
Near the end of the show, both groups combined onstage for a few songs to make for a high-voltage finish with lyrics flying all over the place.
The Grouch may have had a serious look pasted on his face for most of the performance, but he cracked a few warm smiles that reflected his and Eligh’s recent relocation to Maui. And in the DIY hip-hop world, this translates to having Hawaiian-style Grouch T-shirts with palm trees.