Brains, Brawn, and Balls

A few choice selections from Rock the Bells' lineup

Immortal Technique

The music of Immortal Technique serves as a solid rejoinder to those who think that rap's fire-and-brimstone radicalism is dead. The N.Y.C.-by-way-of-Peru MC's righteous indignation is driven by healthy political paranoia and topped with a dappling of gangsta bravado. Along with fellow N.Y.C. crew Dead Prez, he champions a "revolutionary but gangsta" approach. Kos revolutionaries will nod in agreement as Technique champions Mumia Abu-Jamal, César Chávez, and Che Guevara, and they might even guiltily cheer as he dubs Bill O'Reilly a "racist little bitch" — but they're also likely to blanch upon his threats to "burn your apartment with your family tied to the couch."

Search: "Bin Laden (Remix Featuring Chuck D & KRS 1)," "Peruvian Cocaine," "The Point of No Return."


Murs does emo-hop right. He delivers richly detailed stories of emotional dishevelment and societal disenfranchisement. His raps cut to the bone without sounding indulgent or esoteric, and his simple, slowly unfolding flow is perfect for his dense lines. Murs works with North Carolina's 9th Wonder, and 2004's Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition and 2006's Murray's Revenge are among the best indie hip-hop albums of the past half-decade.

Search: "The Pain," "Murray's Revenge," "And This Is For," and "Angels."

Mos Def

In the span of seven years, Mos Def went from being one of underground hip hop's most respected and celebrated lyricists to being the subject of scorn from critics and fans alike. But much of the ridicule is undue. The New Danger(2004) was like the redheaded stepsister of Outkast's The Love Below, except where the latter cut its multi-genre cocktail with a hint of pop, Mos Def delivered his blend straight with no chaser. Last year's True Magic, meanwhile, was casually raw, occasionally angry, and unrelentingly introspective. But in a time when even indie rap was supposed to have polish, Magic was greeted with derision. If there were ever a disc that deserved a critical reevaluation, it's this one.

Search: "Fake Bonanza," "There Is a Way," "Sunshine," "Ghetto Rock."

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