By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
Quannum Projects (originally called Solesides) is like the Paul Masson of hip-hop collectives ("We'll sell no beats and rhymes before their time"). Fans of the esteemed Bay Area crew know that many moons may pass before its charter members turn out new music: Lyrics Born's recent Later That Day . . . took five years to make; Blackalicious rapper the Gift of Gab's upcoming solo disc, Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, has been in the pipeline for three years; and we're all aware how long DJ Shadow takes to concoct fresh tracks for the hungry masses. But the payoff always justifies the wait -- Quannum-stamped wax unfailingly provides some of the most innovative and bumpin' grooves you'll find anywhere in the hip-hop universe.
It's also taken a few days short of forever for Quannum to put together its current 20-city tour. Not surprisingly, this is the first time in the label's decade-plus history that the entire roster has teamed up for a national jaunt; it's an idea that had been percolating for years before coming to fruition this month. "It's something that people have been asking us to do, and it's always been about time . . . we just haven't had it because everybody's usually off in some other part of the world," Shadow explains. "And when you're talking about playing for this many people, we felt obligated to come up with a great show that's gonna work every time."
That they've done, and then some. Touching down in Seattle a few weeks ago, the nine-man, one-woman outfit was nothing short of astonishing. Whereas most hip-hop shows eventually devolve into a chaotic mess with too many rappers shouting over one another, the well-organized, nearly three-hour Quannum show plays out like the dopest, most energetic musical you've ever seen -- all the members rotate on and off the stage, appearing in configurations both recognizable (Blackalicious, Latyrx, Lifesavas, Maroons) and new.
"We all have our individual careers, but we're crew above everything, so it's important to do it that way," says Gift of Gab. "And if you can get that much creative energy together, it's a good thing." No matter how long it takes.