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- Since Everlast’s 1998 LP Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, the emcee has continued crossing genres to great commercial success.
Despite the genre’s freewheeling origins, “crossover” hip-hop success, whether exploring the worlds of pop or rock, remains rare. Back in the days of, say, Run-DMC teaming up with Aerosmith, the idea of emcees rapping pre-written verses with no room for improvisation seemed somewhat ludicrous to purists. Today, pop music is so deeply influenced by hip-hop as a cultural force that to call it a “crossover” would be meaningless. Or, as was the case with countless now-forgotten tracks attempting to surgically insert an emcee’s verse into an otherwise boilerplate pop, rock or country song, it’s a somewhat cynical exercise in attempting to marry two disparate listener bases.
While there are exceptions, it’s a strangely insular place to have ended up, given that hip-hop has proved to be so creative, such a wide-open space for experimentation and adventure. Say what you will about the nü metal and rap-rock of the late ’90s and ’00s, but I would have bet money that a fusion of rock and hip-hop would have proved to be a deep creative well for the nascent 21st century.
Given all that, if we cast our minds back to 1998, the LP Whitey Ford Sings the Blues from House of Pain emcee Everlast was a pretty bold experiment. Its blend of both rapped and sung vocals, prominent acoustic and electric guitars, and soulful synthesis of hip-hop, blues-folk, rock and metal still remains one of the most successful and creative examples of a hip-hop crossover. It was a stylistic gamble that paid off handsomely — the LP was certified 2x Platinum, garnered a Grammy nomination, and saw its lead single charting No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock (aka Alternative) charts.
Everlast has stayed busy since then, of course, winning a Grammy in 1999, performing with House of Pain for several reunion tours, and releasing his eighth solo LP, Whitey Ford’s House of Pain, in 2018. It does no disservice to the man if discussion of his solo career still revolves around that creative and commercial high point, because it remains a fascinating listen. Everlast takes the Black Sheep stage on Wednesday, July 31.
Over the years, Sköld has lent his production and guitar talents to the likes of Marilyn Manson, KMFDM, Motionless in White, Ohgr, and Swedish glam metal-turned-industrial act Shotgun Messiah. Since 1996, Sköld has also consistently released solo material under the eponymous mantle of “SKOLD,” releasing the moody LP Never Is Now in April 2019 through Cleopatra Records.
Finally, on Saturday, Aug. 3, the 57-member, Denver-based marching band/avant-garde/performance art ensemble Itchy-O will make its return to the Black Sheep stage... a truly singular musical experience you should definitely catch, especially if you’ve yet to witness them in action.
Formed in 2009, Itchy-O has consistently demanded attention from audiences across the U.S., performing at venues including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Meow Wolf, San Francisco’s Day of the Dead Festival and Austin’s Art Outside festival, and sharing stages with the likes of David Byrne and St. Vincent, Devo, the Melvins, Iggy Pop and Public Enemy.
The ensemble so far has released two LPs on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label — where better for a unique Colorado act to be featured, right? — and in 2018, self-released the engrossing double-concept album, Mystic Spy / Psykho Dojo.
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