Hip-hop was not started with the emcee rapping. Real hip-hop began with the DJ and the b-boy dancers, followed by an entire culture built around the idea of musical expression. This culture encompassed the lyricist, the DJs, the break dancers, and not to be forgotten, the street artists, commonly referred to as graffiti artists. Friday night in Cervantes was a tribute to that same original hip-hop culture with a night full of talented lyrical emcees, impressive DJ scratching and even the Denver premiere of a brand new documentary called Saving Banksy. The documentary highlights the street artist world and specifically about a piece of art that was being sold for tons of money, even though the artist never wanted to actually sell his work. One of the main reasons street artists do their work is to present it to the public for free. Performances by both Immortal Technique and Evidence of Rhmesayres Entertainment capped off the night for true hip-hop fans.

Early on in the night some local talent graced the stage and helped deliver some of the hip-hop flavor that Denver has to offer. Performances by Proximity, Arkus and Reason The Citizen all got the crowd warmed up for the hip-hop showcase prior to the documentary screening. While the crowd didn’t fill up until around 10 p.m., the energy in the room was infectious and the love of hip-hop was definitely felt in the air.

Reason The Citizen photograph by Meg O’Neill

The documentary started around 9:15 p.m. and was projected on two large TV screens on each side of the room. There were no chairs or anything to hold people’s attention to the movie, so the room was very loud with people talking which made the documentary extremely hard to actually hear in the large concert venue. That being said, the movie was very well produced and was an excellent representation for the street art community.

Evidence, one third of Dilated Peoples, hit the stage around 10:45 p.m. to an excited and energetic crowd.  After giving some shout outs to fellow Rhymesayers label mates Atmosphere and Brother Ali, Evidence proceeded through a vast array of some of the solo work he has done over his extremely long career. One notable song – one of my favorite tracks he has ever done, “Chase The Clouds Away” – got the crowd to throw their hands in the air. Evidence was on point with his delivery and flow, maintaining strong stage presence throughout and representing the definition of what real underground hip-hop is.

Next out was the extremely outspoken and talented emcee from Harlem, New York, many know him as Immortal Technique. He has a huge name in the underground hip-hop world and is the creator of one of the most pirated albums of all time, Revolutionary Vol 1. Technique is an upstanding voice for the counter culture and his music is not only very heavy with political insight, but he also has a very dark and deep undertone. While his music can sometimes be perceived as overly angry for some, Technique is actually a really great human being who has done countless acts of charity and kindness towards people in third world countries like the middle east and South America. Most notably, he used the proceeds from his 2008 album, The 3rdWorld, to build an orphanage in Afghanistan for endangered youth.

Immortal Technique photograph by Austin Voldseth

Technique hit the stage with DJ Static after a short introduction by fellow New York emcee Poison Pen. As he played through some of his well-known discography, Tech made sure to give the crowd background information on why the song was important. He explained why he’s able to say some of the outrageous things he says, praising independent freedom before dropping the track “No Strings.”

“I’ve Been coming to Colorado for about 12 years and always received love. But this shit is deeper than just a hip-hop show. You guys are here because you rejected the bullshit programming that your government has been shoving down your mouths.” -Immortal Technique

After running through some crowd favorites like “The 4th Branch” and “Rich Man’s World,” Technique dropped the beat entirely and decided to spit some truth in an impressive a cappella verse. It was filled with political activism and insight into real world issues that have occurred through history. He also made sure to give a shout out to the Saving Banksy film, citing he first got involved in hip-hop as a graffiti artist and respects the culture to the fullest. He even set aside some time for Dj Static to wow the crowd with truly exceptional scratching skills. It’s not a true hip-hop show without moshing, so Technique made sure to open up the pit for “Point of No Return” an idea that the crowd took in stride and instantly turned into insanity.

Technique couldn’t finish the show without playing his cult classic “Dance With The Devil,” because for many people, it’s the first song they ever listened to by the independent hip-hop artist. He also made sure to sneak in some knowledge and education to the crowd, speaking up about his stance on immigration, domestic violence abuse, and us as individuals acting as a reflection of the change we want to see in the world. It’s inspiring to see Technique continue to keep up the revolutionary fight and its truly amazing the important work he has done with his influence. If you have the chance, definitely don’t miss Immortal Technique when he returns on his national tour after the release of his next project, The Middle Passage.

Immortal Technique photograph by Darian Simon