Rapper KRS-One performs during the 2009 Rock the Bells concert at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on July 19, 2009 in Wantagh, New York.
Even though I've been living in San Diego for nearly my whole life, I've only recently realized one thing about this city: there's just too much stuff to do. That's a good thing for the most part, of course. But it's not as good for entertainment where being in a crowd is part of the experience, such as at concerts or sporting events. You start to wonder if maybe one reason there aren't enough die-hard Chargers fans is because potential fans get sidetracked from hardcore fandom by playing with seals at the beach or petting pandas at the zoo. (Maybe the Chargers should change their name to some sort of extra-adorable creature to court animal lovers -- "The San Diego Sea Horses" has a nice ring to it.)
This weekend will be a prime example of San Diego having too much to do, even for hip-hop heads. Let's not even get started with Sunday right now (I'll get back to you later about that). Saturday presents you with your first hard decision: Should you check out hip-hop legend KRS-One at Porter's Pub at UCSD? Or should you see San Diego's otherworldly, psych-hop singer Gonjasufi at Kava Lounge?
KRS-One is elementary school-level hip-hop history in the flesh. The same way that kindergarteners learn about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin, aspiring hip-hop historians must learn that KRS-One, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane are the Holy Trinity of rappers. Anyone who has rapped with any bit of complexity since KRS, Rakim and Kane is just building on the foundation these pioneers laid (possible exceptions would be dudes like Waka Flocka Flame or Chief Keef, who take simplicity to the extreme). Put it this way: before these three, rappers rapped to follow the beat. When they stepped in, they made the beats follow their raps. It was a fundamental shift that's so pervasive now, it's easy to take for granted the influence they had on everyone from the Wu-Tang Clan to Jay-Z to Kendrick Lamar.
And of those three greats, KRS is the one who has held up best over the years. This guy is pushing 50 years of age. But he's still out there, putting out new music, rocking shows and embarrassing rappers left and right. He may never put out another boom-bap classic like Criminal Minded. But he's still got that gigantic Blastmaster voice, a god-like freestyle ability and a willingness to call fools out if they try to step to him wrong. I last saw him three or four years ago and he put on a great performance.
In stark contrast to KRS, you have psychedelic rapper-turned-psychedelic singer Gonjasufi. Formerly known simply as Sumach, the San Diego native came up in a big way when he started working in L.A.'s thriving beat scene. In 2010, he dropped the critically acclaimed A Sufi and a Killer, a genre-defying album backed by beats from another SD native, the Gaslamp Killer. Through twisted, jagged, electronic beats and layers of lo-fi haze, Sufi sings in a disjointed, damaged voice. He's like a sad sage who has warned the world of its own doom but cannot stop that world from walking straight into oblivion. Obviously, Sufi isn't anywhere close to the legend that KRS is. But he's in his heyday right now, making the best music of his career. If you're open-minded about music or you wanna support local artists (or if you just want more hipster points, I guess), you should check him out.
Pro tip for cheaters or for those who can't make up their minds: If you wanna have your cake and eat it too, I hear KRS will also be speaking earlier in the day for a youth event at the World Beat Center (though I don't see anything on the WBC site so take this with a grain of salt). If he is, he would only be speaking, not performing. But seeing as how everything KRS says still sounds like rap lyrics, it'll still be worth your time. Keep an eye on sdhiphopevents.com for details.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.