For a second we can stop bitching about how local rap cats never get to rock shows with major touring acts. For one, the homey Wispers is opening for Yelawolf at the Paradise this Friday. But before that, Lowell wit rapper D-Tension and Boston-schooled rhyme polemicist Elemental Zazen are propping Murs at Royale this Thursday.
The timing is on point, as both Zazen and D-Tension have new discs out this month – and since both of those new discs kick titanic elephant ass. These two are pretty far apart from one another on the aesthetic spectrum – Zazen is intensely lyrical and style-minded, while D-Tension, who's a seasoned beatmaker as well as an MC, mostly uses his pen to clown around. Still, together they're a ripe fit for Murs, who's one of hip-hop's few socially and self-aware stars with a sense of humor.
While the fare remains droll throughout Wack Music For Dope People (Commonwealth), D-Tension steps his rhyme game up on his fifth-ish solo outing. For a proper punchline, he still squeezes three words where two belong, but there's something honest if not glorious about the way he stuffs pinatas full of pot shots and perversion. This is the Lowell MC's funniest disc yet, which – unless you count mockable efforts by frat rappers and nerdcore geeks – means Wack Music is the most hilarious album in some time.
D-Tension hasn't run out of shit to crack on, and won't likely soon so long as ballers keep balling. “Outside Da Club” is the anti-player's anthem; “Why I Love You” (video above) is hip-hop's answer to “You Don't Love Me Anymore”; “How to Prevent Terrorism” is actually quite useful. More than a few of these beats sink in deep, too – the backdrop on “My Roommate” is so cozy that it takes a few spins to realize how hysterical it is.
Zazen's on some other shit. Having already dropped two hyper-intellectual projects, he returns on Nothing To Lose But Change (Gnawledge) in an even more politically rattled mind state. Building over ace beats by some of hip-hop's top producers – Kno, M-Phazes, Jake One – he spits didactically at each turn, smacking bars with progressive punches that take root in more than just frustration.
Despite leaving Boston for Seattle two years ago to get his Ph.D-on, Zazen found time to secure sensible features for memorable, fitting cuts. On “Kill Em With The Beat,” he's joined by Fashawn for a determined stroll over a Joe Beats masterpiece. With “Stomp,” he teams with labelmate Gnotes on a revolutionary anthem that could almost pass for a club banger.
The flier (top of page) says doors open at seven, which in hip-hop language typically means the show will start some time next week. With that said, these are two openers who warrant an early arrival, and who have delicious new treats to hail on the crowd. And be sure to stick around for Murs. The last time I saw dude in Boston, he ripped one of the tightest shows I've ever seen, and that was before he landed on the radar of cute co-eds whose presence should crank this performance up to eleven.