by JEFF ECHERT & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hile most of Los Angeles hip-hop culture was hypnotized by the spell of gangster rap in the early '90s, there were some who chose to do things a little differently. In an obscure locale called the Good Life (ostensibly a health food store with an open mic and a no-cursing policy), a group called Jurassic 5 was formed. They would go on to be a platoon at the vanguard of the underground hip-hop movement, fighting the good fight until, well, last year, when they broke up. A number of them, though, have struck out on solo careers. Cut Chemist, a former turntablist for the group, has gone on tour with DJ Shadow. And one of their former MCs, Akil, is gracing Spokane with his presence this week.
The Los Angeles-ness of Jurassic 5 is still strong with Akil, and most likely always will be. There's a locality to his rhymes, a sense of identity that can't be -- or hasn't yet been -- negated. In "About Me," Akil waxes poetic about his upbringing -- "this is my story" tracks seem obligatory now -- talking fondly about his times growing up in South Central and performing at the Good Life with the early incarnation of J5. Though he may tour all over, there's a part of him that never truly leaves L.A. Equally important to his identity is his conception of authenticity: "Your reputation is at hand when you don't write your own jams," he croons, setting himself atop a hierarchy of hip-hop that glorifies DIY and vilifies the misogyny and violence of mainstream rap. And for that viewpoint, Akil is an ideal spokesman.
His voice is one that lends itself well to legato, an endless flow of verbiage that bubbles over the top of his throat, popping off the top of his esophagus as if he was the real-life inspiration for the Flight of the Conchords' hip-hop parody video. Balancing his lyricism with his faith (he's a devout Muslim), calling out other MCs, and impelling others to political action, Akil's forte seems to be old-school traditionalism. With beats and brass-infused jams backing him up, he sounds right at home in the halcyon days of underground hip-hop, intent on preserving the legacy that he helped create. It's a throwback, but hey, sometimes you gotta step back to go forward.
Akil with Locke and Gun of the Sun at the Blvd on Friday, Oct. 17, at 9 pm. $10. Call 455-7826.