Matson on Music
Bumbershoot 2011: Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, Das Racist
Posted by Andrew Matson
Besides sun, which added a dreamlike atmosphere to Seattle Center, the story of Bumbershoot Sunday was hip-hop — specifically, a packed evening performance at KeyArena by local boy Macklemore, the Irish-American, Capitol Hill rapper still waiting for his national star to match his hometown dominance.
A certified pop-rap hitmaker would follow him at the Key — Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa — but Macklemore had a bigger draw.
"Where my '70s babies at?" Macklemore shouted, wearing a vintage Shawn Kemp jersey.
He didn't get much reaction for that, nor for shouting out '80s babies. But when he emphasized, "where my '90s babies a-a-a-a-at?" the whole floor area jumped like popcorn.
Macklemore is almost 30, but his fans are teens and in their early 20s, and idolize him. For "Crew Cuts" -- a muscular track about growing up in the '80s, which Macklemore's fans don't get and he has to explain to them every time he performs it — the KeyArena floor pulsed as one, kids pressed on kids, one arm up, waving to the beat.
Macklemore's set was about more than himself. It was about his crew of 13 backing musicians/dancers — who mixed horns and strings for a sound uncommon in hip-hop — and passed-away Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus, whom he saluted. Macklemore also reminisced over the Sonics, and even got Kemp to grace the stage for a moment. It was hard to hear what Kemp said through the muddy speakers, but his presence made a visual impact.
Macklemore said local acts like Blue Scholars and Vitamin D were "the reason we're on stage tonight." His Seattle pride was contagious: The most commonly worn shirts on the Bumbershoot grounds were his "My city's filthy" tank tops.
Next up was Wiz Khalifa (video Q&A here), one of Bumbershoot's biggest names this year, basically Snoop Dogg for a new generation, albeit in Snoop's cuddly, latter-day persona. Wiz hangs with gangsta rappers, but is mainly a pot enthusiast with a penchant for sing-song hooks. His bass-heavy songs about "rolling doobies up" banged off the KeyArena walls, mixing dark-edged hip-hop with European dance music, shamelessly superficial and delivered coolly. A lady next to me compared Wiz to '80s hair bands — apt, except Wiz is more mellow, by far.
A few hours earlier, just outside the arena on the Fisher Green stage, New York City trio Das Racist (pronounced like a slurred "that's racist") did very different hip-hop.
"Seattle, where you at? Town business!" yelled rapper Heems, hip to the local lingo because his group plays here so often. (Local rappers refer to Seattle as "the town.") "This song is on our album coming out in a few weeks. It's a brand new dance called 'Give Us All Your Money.'"
If you were up close, you could see Heems and co-rapper Victor Vazquez smirk at each others' muttered one-liners, staggering around the stage to reggae beats and Dr. Dre instrumentals. If you moved back toward the Center House, you could see a huge crowd, a thousand heads for Das Racist to fly over.
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