By Gabe Meline
With Heroes in the City of Dope, the Bay Area's Zion I and the Grouch have teamed up to make a lasting album of solid beats and heady, pensive lyrics. Shocking, then, that unlike so many of its independent hip-hop kinfolk, it's also bolstered by commercial accessibility instead of intentional obscurity. The Grouch (an anchor of the revered indie hip-hop crew Living Legends for the past 10 years) has always been creative enough, but his sometimes stunted lines have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Teaming with Zion I has loosened his rhythm and roped in the tendency to exaggerate his r's into urr's.
The songs, especially "Hit 'Em," with Mistah Fab, and "Make U Fly," with Esthero, belong on mix tapes worldwide. Live, both acts are dynamic, and there's no telling how hot things will get when they perform this Saturday, April 7, at the Phoenix Theater. (In a royally whack move by an outside promoter, $15 advance tickets are only available on MySpace at www.myspace.com/xienhow; it's $20 at the door.) 201 Washington Blvd., Petaluma. 8pm. 707.762.3565. . . .
What becomes of the Bay Area rap groups of yesteryear after all but one of the members have been murdered? In the case of RBL Posse, responsible for such early 1990s classics as "Don't Gimme No Bammer Weed" and "Bounce to This," apparently you still play shows. Even though integral member Mr. Cee was the victim of a drive-by in 1996 and third member Hitman was shot in the head while driving in 2003, this Saturday's Super Hyphy 16 nonetheless advertises "RBL Posse," which can only mean what's left of the seminal group: Black C, who better find a damn good replacement for Cee's tight verses on "Blue Bird."
Black C's down near the bottom of a lineup topped by Yukmouth and Tech N9ne, but he has good company in the form of the Jacka, a Richmond rapper currently floating on the success of the recent album Jack of All Trades as well as last year's curiously titled joint, Shower Posse. Bring the body wash and loofah sponge at Super Hyphy 16 this Saturday, April 7, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. Advance tickets are $27. 707.545.4200.