by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & C & lt;/span & runk takes a lot of heat. A lot. The majority of if is deserved. Hip-hop is the best thing to happen to popular music since rock and roll, without question. It holds more promise as a redemptive and truly unique art form than anything that's come from the streets, the suburbs or the backwoods in the last 60 years. Rap's promise, though, like most other musical forms, is corrupted by those at the top. Its most popular artists rep materialism, wealth, ego and some incredibly unhealthy ideas about gender roles. Even by those dubious standards, crunk is especially vacuous, uninventive and misogynistic (see Lil John's "Get Low"; Ying Yang Twins' "Whisper Song"). So there's that.

The Ying Yang Twins show at the Big Easy last Friday, though, demonstrated one thing crunk gets unequivocally right: Crunk rappers turn their infectious, madcap beats, hooks and arrangements into infectious, madcap shows.

The packed house was respectful through the first three acts (Looking for Change, Spokane's Game Infested team of M-Dub and Gemini, and some crew from Philly whose name I didn't catch) but didn't come alive until the last two.

Both Da Muzicianz and the Ying Yang Twins -- both from Atlanta, boasting some of the same members -- were frenetic and engaged despite the latter being clearly blunted and drunk. It was infectious and the crowd responded. The beats took on a new volume when echoing off the walls; the hooks took on new significance when hoarsely sung by so many people having such a good time. The Atlanta rappers had taken a gathering and made it a party.

Spokane's Game Infested crew, in contrast, had seemed languid and disinterested, even in front of the packed hometown crowd. "Cold World," the crew's signature song, references the Gza's seminal Liquid Swords, but their style is all West Coast. Game Infested's production is totally G-funk, a steez Dr. Dre pioneered 20 years ago and moved past about a decade later. Gemini's flows were crisp, but suffered from the same problem. The crew, clad in Dickies and work shirts, felt sluggish and dated.

That's not to say slow rap is boring rap. Molasses flows can be amongst the most rewarding and engaging. MF Doom, the GZA, Guru and even the Game, use their lack of nimbleness to their advantage, crafting intricate rhymes and elaborate stories. Game Infested haven't yet found what they want to say.

Look: stacking up poorly to platinum-selling rappers isn't a bad thing, so long as you learn from it. The Spokanites have a lot of talent and potential as emcees, but they're going to struggle until they find their voice. That's going to necessitate, of course, giving up Tupac's.

Though Looking for Change, who came "all the way from motha-f***in' Boise," were closer to Ying Yang's subject matter of choice (rough sex y'all), they had an even tougher time connecting. Fewer hooks, less showmanship, no home field advantage, more blank looks from the crowd.

The show's first half just couldn't match crunk's chaos.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
  • or