Tre Hardson may no longer be a member of the dynamic and legendary Pharcyde, but it isn't slowing him down. His sound remains informed by the jazzy funk characteristic of his earlier work. He's still a dreamer and a visionary, and his show at the B-Side promises to be a journey and a lesson. So get ready: School will be in session.
The lessons come from Hardson's live band performances. Its vitality and energy come from the sum of the individuals being so much grander than its parts. Hardson takes control of Kerim Imes's drumming and matches it with BlackBerry's bass. He moves Trae James's guitars through their delicious R 'n' B soulfulness, allowing Mark Cross to blend his keys freely. The Roots might be the only other hip-hop group today that plays with the same energy, but the bands are quite different. Hardson extends the jazzy quirkiness characteristic of so much of the Pharcyde, but avoids simply repeating past successes. He still has all the memories of Slimkid Tre, but his current project is far more hypnotic. It comes back to flow.
The positive message of the band's music contrasts greatly with much of the current hip-hop braggadocio. And it can only come from watching the fallout firsthand. Such an example is another one of Hardson's artistic expressions, 1 More Hit. Hardson appears in this documentary about former Pharcyde member and hip-hop producer J Swift's battle with crack addiction. And the message that comes from the film is horrifyingly clear: The music industry can and will destroy even the most promising artists. Hardson's music is definitely informed by his understanding of the prevalence of such tragic tales. His songs are socially conscious messages that resonate with all the band's influences (from Coltrane to Earth, Wind & amp; Fire) and redefines them along the lines of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. But, again, it's about the positive message.
Hardson also acts in the upcoming film Six Niggaz in a Cadillac, an unflinching piece of social commentary that addresses the pervasive use of "nigger' in much of hip-hop. It isn't a stretch to see that Hardson recognizes the significant impact hip-hop continues to have on pop culture. As goes the diction of hip-hop, so goes the language of the kids. The film explores the protagonists' choices to use the word.
All of this is germane to Sunday night's performance. Hardson brings much to the stage that exists behind the music. And it is this depth that has given him the kind of longevity and success in music that is becoming more and more rare. It will be an experience, but it will also be a lesson. It will be a chance to see one of the architects of contemporary hip-hop. But in attempting to describe the performance, I've done it an injustice. To see is to believe. And I still find it hard to believe that Hardson will soon be in town. I'll definitely be in attendance.
Tre Hardson at the B-Side with Seaweed Jack on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 9:30 pm. Tickets: $7, at the door. Call 624-7631.