Revenge of the Robots Tour: El-P, Mr. Lif, Rjd2 & more

Tues Oct 1

Crystal Ballroom

As you may have already heard, El-P's most recent record, Fantastic Damage, rips it to shreds. The ex-Company Flow emcee/producer's beats tear into the heavily layered vertigo of his raps like shattered glass on the sidewalk, evoking the seedy underbelly of his home of Brooklyn. Where his labelmate and comrade Aes Rock raps stories surrounding the life he lives in New York, El-P capitalizes on its decay, blending old synths with impeccable scratching by DJ Abilities, ominous low-end keyboards, and howling. With his dark-ass, party-messy beats, he's immortalizing the dinginess, the real-life grit of NYC that was swept under the rug with Giuliani, and subsequently, got buried in a mountain of American flags. And, with his socially critical, politically aware lyrics, El-P shows the Brooklyn truth: the world is fucked.

If New York is truly the most prolific, hippest musical hotspot in America right now (thanks partially to the city's proliferation of media outlets with mad hometown pride), it belongs not to the rock and electro musicians, who shroud their postmodern suffering in fantasy. New York is surely owned by the unflinchingly raw, cut-the-bullshit lyrics and beats of the Def Jukies--the artists released by the country's most exciting hiphop label, run by El-P, Definitive Jux.

El-P's Fantastic Damage and Rjd2's brooding cuts on his latest, Deadringer (not as good as I expected, but still pretty decent), have received assloads of acclaim already this year. But you gotta keep your eye on Mr. Lif, who'll be performing at this show, and who just released a record called I Phantom. The longtime Boston emcee is an incredible force onstage, using the forum to speak out politically, about racism and otherwise, and rhyming with this crazy energy in a bent-end staccato. Again, Mr. Lif cuts through the bullshit, rapping, "Here's what your history books won't show: You're a dead man for fucking with American dough And you can wave that piece of shit flag if you dare/ But they killed us because we've been killing them for years."

So, if you want the other side of New York--the one that's not glossed over, from the rulers of the street--the Revenge of the Robots tour is pretty much a monumental event in hiphop and otherwise.