Sound Koalition
Thurs June 7, I-Spy

It was a long wait for Sound Koalition's opening set at I-Spy last Thursday. In fact, this week's randomly selected opening act had two irritating factors working against it: doors that opened annoyingly behind schedule, and a set length of about 15 minutes. How can an opening band assert its essence in a mere 15 minutes?

Of the group's two MCs and DJ, the obvious leader was MC Jeffrey Meader (a.k.a. Rebel), who announced Sound Koalition's presence by shouting, "Yeah, you motherfuckers!" into the microphone and then happily laughing at himself.

The rhymes moved too quickly for the bass-loaded sound system, and much of the lyrical content was jumbled. "I am that nigga, bitch!" went the song. "You ain't worth shit!" The MCs strutted back and forth, the beats were thick, and the bass lines were heavy with distortion.

The group did an R&B-based number, a showcase for MC Derek Pollard's (a.k.a. Skeem's) voice. Skeem's is a singing voice, even as he raps, and when he sang, "Each day goes by, night goes by, but it's that same song that keeps ringing in the back of my mind," he became the talented center of focus.

But both MCs were fluid and charismatic, which made up for some lack in lyrical content and subject matter. The songs felt offhanded, but Rebel was smooth and expressive, and as he turgidly attacked each word, he gave off a gentle sensibility and a sense of humor that kept the show balanced.

When Skeem was on lead he seemed more self-contained than Rebel, though his voice is brighter and less strained than his partner's. Skeem was particularly adept with emotional verbal pile-ups--each song seemed to be about gaining momentum at a point (an ascending tension and urgency in the delivery), and then, at the cacophonous breaking point, giving release.

After a brief 15 minutes, I was left wanting to hear more from these guys. Toward the end, as Rebel and Skeem were shouting, "Don't let 'em take your soul," I was engrossed, awaiting some sort of lyrical resolution. If any resolution were to be had, it didn't quite happen before the lights came back on.