A Sunday night, with all of the available light bathing the Harbor area in a forgiving lambence. This was the “Legalize It” tour, the cross-country trek led by dub superstars Slightly Stoopid, and co-chaired by one of hip-hop’s most significant outfits hailing from the Left Coast, Cypress Hill. You will all be able to make of that what you will.
A bunch of apparently happy people — a larger bunch, it must be noted, than at any previous Harbor gig this summer, unless I’m mistaken — dug the cross-cultural jams of Slightly Stoopid, as they married dub to songcraft to straight-up modern white reggae. And Cypress Hill? You remember that. It was that stuff that made you “Insane In the Membrane,” at least for a while.
There has been abundant chatter concerning both the Thursday at the Square series and the Harbor concerts, much of it suggesting that things seem to have run out of steam. Sunday’s show suggested the exact opposite. A packed house dug the stylings of a combo hippie-funk-dub-reggae-hip-hop bill as if it had been waiting all summer to do so.
This was a Slightly Stoopid show, certainly, but the performance of Cypress Hill left a definite mark. That group — one of the few elder statesmen ensembles in modern rap — tore it up with a set that rather rabidly blended rap, Latin stylings and pure old-school funk and threatened to rival that of the headliner’s at many a turn.
So Cypress Hill brought it, and hard, throughout a 50-minute set that balanced the trio’s multicultural grab-bag of R&B-based influences with a seriously street-based take on Left Coast matters.
What a perfect setup for the headliners, who arrived as if from some alternative heaven, all bad attitude and bleary eyes.
What’s dub? A white guy’s take on a Jamaican form these days, essentially, but it really doesn’t matter what color your skin is. To play dub, you must understand the role of the bass in the proceedings. It needs to lay down a counter-rhythm to the straight beat, and it needs to be louder than loud. The bass is what moves this music, and it was what made Sunday’s show take the form of an extended jam session.
Both bands urged the assembled to do their part to accelerate the legalization of marijuana. The likelihood of that had no bearing on the impact of the music. It was primal, powerful and often beautiful.