Diehard fans of the genre – purists with penchants for intricate rap flows over 90-beats-per-minute tracks – have been known to have parochial opinions about exactly who and what they consider to be true hip-hop.
DJ-rap duo Gang Starr, for instance, would likely fall into that category with few objections. Super-group Slaughterhouse, on Eminem’s Shady Records, probably would as well. But iLoveMakonnen and his infatuation with Tuesdays? He’d more likely be on the outskirts of that argument.
Cities, too, are often debated for their hip-hop bona fides. Brooklyn, Detroit, Compton and Oakland have been in rotation for decades.
But what about Sacramento? Where does the capital city fall on the hip-hop spectrum? It’s a timely question, in the wake of the recent shootings after the Nipsey Hussle show and a canceled March 25 appearance by the Game.
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Doing their part to contribute to that conversation are legendary Brooklyn producer DJ Premier (Christopher Edward Martin) and Detroit emcee Royce da 5’9” (Ryan Montgomery), set to make a stop at Harlow’s on March 11 as part of their PRhyme tour.
Their self-titled album, featuring production from Premier – who used samples from Los Angeles-based psychedelic soul composer Adrian Younge – and raps from Royce, was released in December to strong notices. “PRhyme is the perfect alternative for listeners who are tired of juvenile lyricism, mud sippers and unintelligible hooks,” wrote Peter Walsh in XXL.
The two-man team, which kicked off a national tour in February, might appear to be something like a rebirth of Gang Starr, the East Coast duo that featured Premier with rapper Guru, who died in 2010. But Royce, part of Shady’s Slaughterhouse collective, says PRhyme is anything but that.
“We needed to make this a brand-new thing, a brand-new project,” Royce said in a recent phone interview. “And that’s pretty much where the line (in the song ‘U Looz’) came from: ‘For the real hip-hop (fans) who will never ask me am I here to replace Guru.’ Because I kind of thought people would maybe start to think something like that. So I just threw that line out there just to kind of get that out of the way from the jump.”
Promoted by ENT Legends and Harlow’s, the PRhyme show is just another example of Sacramento’s growing reputation as a legitimate whistle stop for high-profile rap acts. The right hip-hop artists (for example, E-40, Rae Sremmurd) will consistently fill venues such as Ace of Spades and Harlow’s, said ENT Legends co-owner Fornati Kumeh.
Sold-out shows let “these agents know that, ‘Oh man, Sacramento is a good market. These shows are successful. Let’s start bringing them here, too,’” Kumeh said. “It’s definitely getting to the point where you can’t really sleep on Sacramento.”
According to the group’s website, PRhyme is making two Northern California stops: Oakland on March 10 and Sacramento on March 11. San Francisco is absent from a travel itinerary that includes shows in just about every major city, including Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Harlow’s manager, Robert Alvis, said Sacramento only recently has made a name for itself as a landing place for mid- and high-level hip-hop artists on tour.
“Unfortunately, Sacramento had built a reputation as not being a destination stop for a lot of these tours because of low ticket sales,” Alvis said. “A lot of times people will like to support the music, but they don’t want to buy the tickets. But over the last year or two, we’ve seen that Sacramento has really come out and supported these acts. And the word has started to spread, so now more and more acts like (PRhyme) will come to Sacramento.”
Royce said the cities for their tour were picked by the Agency Group, PRhyme’s booking agent. But he also said there wasn’t a city on the list that he would’ve objected to, including Sacramento.
“I’ve been to Sacramento a few times,” Royce said. “My thing is to touch as many people on the West Coast as I can. I got pretty good memories of pretty much everywhere. I’ve only been sober for about 21/2 years, so I don’t have super vivid memories. But I know I’ve had fine times in every city.”
What: Hip-hop collaboration featuring DJ Premier and Royce da 5’9”
When: 8 p.m. March 11
Where: Harlow’s (2708 J St., Sacramento)
Information: (916) 441-4693; www.harlows.com