Bajah + Dry Eye Crew’s electrifying live set where the band’s three rappers, Bajah, A-Klazz and Dovy Dovy, re-enact one of the most terrifying moments of their lives. Staring at the barrel of a commanding officer’s pistol, the band members are sadistically forced to freestyle rap to save their lives. Its a harrowing moment and reminder that most of will never have to face anything as remotely horrifying as war...civil war. A moment where the band forces us to take notice of the fickle cruel nature of fate and how it all can be ripped away from us at the whim of a sadist. Perhaps, this is why Bajah + Dry Eye Crew want nothing to do with the cartoonish violence that characterizes the post-50 American gangster rap scene because they lived the real thing. You don’t need street cred when you have life cred.
Bajah + Dry Eye Crew, hailing from war-torn (and Kanye West made-famous) Sierra Leone, are currently the biggest hip hop act in Africa and they are currently in the process of trying to translate their wordly, eclectic sound for American audiences. Their mixtape, “Kings Of Salone: The DJ Gravy Mixtape”, recently released at okayplayer.com for free download, is one of the most surprising and freshests releases I’ve heard all year. “Kings Of Salone” is a mish-mash of varying influences. It combines dusty, futuro hip hop-meets-african percussion, shuffling reggae-influenced melodies and twisting, dexterous dancehall vocals. It borrows from everybody from Timbaland to the Roots to El-P to Elephant Man. It’s the type of release that the Fugees would have made had Wyclef and Lauryn never started fucking. On tracks like “Rapumpum”, “Love Of My Life”, and “My Own Life”, they belie a deep understanding of the human condition and the suffering that war causes upon the people of their own land. Not to mention, a couple of the tracks the tape teases seems like it’s primed to assault the clubs (“Honda” really stands out.) This is very exciting stuff.
I caught Bajah et. al perform at the Lincoln Center Outdoor Ampitheater at Hip Hop Generation Next’s annual Global Hip Hop festival. It was a truly bizarre group with lots of aging, 60ish hippies and children swaying awkwardly to the music. I arrived late and thought I had the wrong place at first. Its not often you see people who look like my parents at hip hop show. I can only chock that up to the show being free. Bajah rocked the crowd, anyway. Perhaps due to being used to performing in front of crowds in the hundreds of thousands in their native land, the crew had a tight, polished show. Backed by a full 12-piece band, Bajah is a natural entertainer and frontman and his show includes set pieces that feature dancers, singers and live instrumentation. The band is damn good.
I feel these guys have a real shot at finding an audience in the United states. They are awesome live, they write good songs and judging by the way, they could appeal to 60ish white people they seem primed to have their debut album break out. You know if some smarmy ass bloggers (Word to myself) don’t deem these guys boring because of all that positive stuff they are preaching. Negativity is the new populism, after all. Don’t front on these cats.
Download: Bajah + Dry Eye Crew - Kings Of Salone: The DJ Gravy Mixtape