Radical rapper and activist Paris (famous for such hard-hitting albums as The Devil Made Me Do It and Sonic Jihad) has entered talks with Boost Mobile to sponsor his upcoming Hard Truth Soldiers Tour, featuring dead prez, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Kam, Pete Rock, Planet Asia, T-K.A.S.H., The Conscious Daughters, Uno the Prophet, Jasiri X, NYOil, Sellassie, and other edutainment-oriented performers. Paris, who was one of the first hip-hop artists to put elaborate 9-11 conspiracy theories into his music, launched his Guerrilla Funk label back in 2003, as both a record company and an organization of sorts -- the "Thought Box" on his web site includes articles that criticize Fox News, Clear Channel, and the prison industrial complex. He's spent his whole career attacking corporations. Now he's decided to team up with one.
Apparently, the rapper-turned CEO hasn't fared too well in the current economic downturn, especially given the declining popularity of "socially aware" hip-hop. Thus, Paris is now a patsy for Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, a guy who earned $14.2 million in 2008 even though his company lost $1.6 billion in the last quarter when it tried to sell a $50/month text messaging service that doesn't work. "Corporate sponsorship will provide us the means to more comfortably take on this tour in this economic climate," Paris said in a press release issued today. Fair enough. But with all that said, what audience does the rapper now plan to target? Maybe he needs to write a rap song to fulminate against himself.
This 52-minute Afrobeat groove was recorded with all eleven members in the same room at the same time, explaining why it feels as much like a jam session as an album. The rhythm section is king, with sax and vocal parts woven between the lines; more musical moments, such as a jazz guitar solo topping a straight funk bassline in the title track, tend to be the most memorable.
At the Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco) on Saturday, May 2. 9 p.m., $15
San Francisco's TLXN finally emerges with its first full-length: a slick, somewhat druggy rock record encompassing both U2 bombast and Pink Floyd understatement. On the macro level it feels like a success, but close-up it's not as impactful as it could be - except for "The Gyre," one of the few times you'll ever hear someone freestyle rap over shoegaze.
At Cafe du Nord (2170 Market St., San Francisco) on Tuesday, May 5. 8:30 p.m., $10
It comes as no surprise while listening to Til I Prune that singer/guitarist Aaron Calvert and bassist/guitarist Mikel Garmendia have played together for a decade. Calvert recently released a solo album of children's songs, but this mellow, well-worn collection skews more toward the shadowy side: think Sparklehorse, Red House Painters, and Tom Waits incubating over a lifetime.
At House of Shields (39 Montgomery St., San Francisco) on Friday, May 1. 10 p.m, $5
After six years, the quintessential gay punk band returns with another batch of endearingly explicit and plain funny pop-punk. While Jon Ginoli's lyrics have always been Pansy Division's selling point, its sturdy, sharp sound has become its greatest strength. Underneath it all is subtle social commentary, making the band a top-rate San Francisco export.
Ginoli will read from his book Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division at A Different Light Bookstore (489 Castro St., San Francisco) on Monday, May 4. 7:30 p.m., free
Industry vets Michael Winger (he's recorded and engineered for big names like Kronos Quartet and Feist) and Jake Wood (a freelance drummer, teacher, and occasional Express writer) belie their somewhat serious rap sheets with this goofy blend of party rock and Eurodance. "Former Ladies of the Cold War," for example, goes all Borat with a shout-out to Eastern European hotties.
At the Red Devil Lounge (1695 Polk St., San Francisco) on May 1. 8 p.m., $6
Young rock bands often like to claim they're doing something new, fresh, and not heard a million times before. Here's one that actually does. This sophomore record is the work of a tight post-punk band playing with African and Latin rhythms, as well as more adventurous, experimental song structures and instrumentation (witness the sax). When it clicks, it's brilliant.
Named after a monolithic Hong Kong city notorious for brothels, opium dens, and general lawlessness, this San Francisco quartet delivers the sonic equivalent of living with 50,000 other people in an area one-hundredth the size of Emeryville. Its five-track EP is stoner-sludgy and punishingly heavy, yet more than dynamic enough to skirt fatigue.
At Thee Parkside (1600 17th St., San Francisco) on April 29. 9 p.m., $5
Grand Lake's slanted indie pop toes the line between curious and satisfying, never straight enough to be pop and never weird enough to be outside. Keyboardist Erika Pipkin is a Mills College grad, while guitarist Jameson Swanagon's minimalist lines expose his conservatory roots. The more mainstream chops of Caleb Nichols (Port O'Brien) and Ryan Parks (No'S) provide valuable balance.
At the Knockout (3223 Mission St, San Francisco) on April 29. 10 p.m., $5