Hilltop Hip-Hop 

The originals visit Richmond

Sat 12/18

Gonna tell you a little story about the Sugarhill Gang/With the pow pow boogie and the big bang bang, said the hip-hop pioneers on their earthshaking debut single "Rapper's Delight," adding: If you wanna rock to the Sugarhill beat/Gotta rock in the key of R-A-P. At almost fifteen minutes, "Rapper's Delight" occupied the entire side of a 12-inch vinyl record, leaving barely enough room for the label, emblazoned with the now-ubiquitous Sugar Hill cornucopia. The song, originally released in 1979, was modern mythology, a dense verbal chunk of instant folklore that hit the streets, house parties, radio, and clubs with the force of a tsunami, giving birth to rap as a recorded music form.

For many people, especially those living outside of New York, "Rapper's Delight" served as their introduction to the world of hip-hop, apparently populated by MCs with "devastating" rhymes and nonstop party people. One by one, MCs Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee stepped to the mic and delivered their most chillin' lines, such as Now what you hear is not a test and The beat don't stop until the break of dawn. 25 years later, those lyrics still stand as a testament to iconic freshness, and the vibrant bassline -- cribbed from Chic's "Good Times" -- has proved its funkiness time and time again. Some of the record's best moments happen when the Gang goes into descriptive storytelling of humorous but entirely plausible situations: Have you ever been over a friend's house to eat and the food just ain't no good?/I mean the macaroni's soggy, the peas are mushed, and the chicken tastes like wood. To this day, the rhyme elicits a smile and a guffaw.

During Sunday's free performance at Richmond's Hilltop Mall (5 to 6 p.m.), you can expect the Sugarhill Gang to play classics like "Apache" and "8th Wonder" as well as "Rapper's Delight" -- still the sureshot -- but if you're really down by law, go 'head and request an old-school nugget such as "Showdown" or "The Word Is Out." -- Eric K. Arnold

12/17, 12/18

Post-Modern

There's something about Jonathan

Let us now praise Jonathan Richman. History has vindicated the no-voice natural phenomenon who knocked out flipsters with "Vampire Girl," "Cappuccino Bar," "I'm Straight," and "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," not to mention "Pablo Picasso." Check his all-Spanish Jonathan, Te Vas a Emocionar, and don't ever dismiss Jonathan Goes Country, with "Reno," "You're Crazy for Taking the Bus," and a sincere rendition of Johnny Cash's "Satisfied Mind." Jonathan Richman Featuring Tommy Larkins on Drums, as they prefer to be billed, play the Ivy Room in Albany (858 San Pablo Ave.) this Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. Jesse DeNatale opens. Surrender to Jonathan. -- Kelly Vance

Sat 12/18

Again with the Angels

The last time Death Angel descended upon these pages, it was late 2003 and the SF thrash-metal monarchy was appearing at Concord's Cadillac Ranch, about to record its first album since re-forming in 2001. Since then, the band has done the European festival scene, opened for Metallica at the Fillmore, and released said album, a critically lauded return to brutal, thorny form called Art of Dying. All that, and the band is still gonna play Concord, this time at Tommy T's (1655 Willow Pass Rd.). Saturday night, see the cousins blister through the old and the new at a 21-and-up show. Tickets cost $20, available at Ticketweb.com. Call 925-686-6809 for venue lowdown. -- Stefanie Kalem

12/17-12/31

Like Sufi for Chocolate

Artist Josephine Balakrishnan spent the first four years of her life on four different continents -- Asia, Europe, South America, and North America -- but always held on to her family's Sri Lankan heritage. Balakrishnan's work is informed by her respect for Sufi mysticism, which she describes as "a direction to the higher source of wisdom within the human heart." Her taste for chocolate plays into it, as well. Hence Sufi Chocolate , a collection of paintings made using pigmented ink in resin, in addition to traditional oils on paper. The exhibition opens Friday evening with a reception (6:30 to 8 p.m.), at Red Oak Realty Art Gallery, 1891 Solano Ave., North Berkeley. Info: 510-527-3387. -- Kelly Vance

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