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Rap Game Elementary School: The Space Migration Tour's Rising Stars Want Your Lunch Money 

Wednesday, Jul 31 2013
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Personalities rarely change. You're born, you fight your innate nature for a handful of decades, then you give in, and then you die. That's why kids have so much fun, because they haven't yet realized that their purpose on Earth is to suppress their instincts at all costs. So, in an attempt to prepare you for the highly buzzed-about traveling circus of hip-hop personalities that is the Space Migration Tour, we're taking you back to the early days, and profiling them in terms of a milieu we're all familiar with: elementary school.

Chance the Rapper: The Class Clown

Maybe he's torn up inside and found humor as his outlet; maybe he's been incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD and he's just loopy from the Ritalin; or maybe he's just incredibly smart. Chance, the current rising star of Chicago independent rap, is that kid who's constantly making noise, the kid who'd tape his own mouth shut just to be ironic. With a sputtering, excitable intellect, and a curious spoken-word influence, he rarely stays in the same style from verse to verse, trying on hats like the Kentucky Derby cleanup crew. This is definitely the kid you want to align yourself with.

Action Bronson: The Freaky Lunch Lady

There was always that one member of the school lunch staff: Unkempt, patches of hair growing in places you'd never seen, and missing in others. Maybe sanitary gloves, maybe not. Caustic and resentful, but you kinda liked that about them. And they loved food.

Somewhere we went from talking about that one lunch lady to Action Bronson. He is a rotund New Yorker of Albanian descent, who keeps his hair close scropped on top and wears a big red beard beneath, and who puts out vivid, hedonistic, and wildly fascinating rap music. Like the lunch lady, he takes himself just seriously enough to be respected, but he's also not afraid to admit that he's kind of a hilarious mess.

Between recording and touring, Action always finds time for food. Originally a gourmet chef himself, Bronson has his second cooking show in development, which, if it's anything like his first one, should be a hit. Assuming he stays in good health, makes the right business decisions, and keeps up what is already a pretty good record of race relations, he may soon sit in Paula Deen's vacant throne.

Mac Miller: The "Gimme That" Kid

You're playing with green plastic army men. He's already got the rifle guy, so you dig up the hand-grenade guy from the bottom of the bin. Pow-pow. When he sees you found the bomber guy, his eyes get all fiery and the familiar words tumble out of his mouth: "Gimme that!"

So you get out your blocks, and begin work on your next architectural breakthrough. He comes over, sees how tall it's getting, and suddenly he's trying to snake your government contract. You relinquish your construction project to him and grab a lump of Play-Doh and stick it to the wall. But he pops up out of nowhere, tears off a piece, and puts it in his mouth.

Granted, freedom can be can difficult for such "gimme that" kids, as well as for the more inventive peers from whom they're always filching. But the "gimme that" crowd can also grow up to become — if not truly creative — at least passionate facilitators. Likewise, Malcolm McCormick, born in 1992, is just a kid searching for his place in the class. He hit indie rap paydirt with 2011's Blue Slide Park, which was the first independent album to debut at Billboard's No. 1 spot since 1995. But even after nearly half a million sales, he was bored. Maybe his audience was too young, naive, or white for his taste. Unsatisfied, he moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and sought out some new friends, namely the cutting-edge weirdos of Odd Future.

Mac's new interests forced a career image shift, which is part of the marketing subtext of the Space Migration Tour. Nowadays he's got everything he grabbed for: an MTV reality show, full-sleeve tattoos, a Flying Lotus beat. Above all, June's Watching Movies with the Sound Off showed everyone a purported "dark side" to the previously carefree frat-rap star. Critically, he got some of his pitiless detractors to flip-flop, inspiring some of the most self-conscious conversions and awkward backtracking ever in this hurried era of the Internet rap. Unironic headlines broadcast the cultural memo: Mac Miller finally meets our maxim of cool.

The thing is, whether he admits it or not, Mac Miller has been getting everything he wanted since day one. Boredom and disquiet are bigger weaknesses for him than his actual skills, which continue to serve him well. And even when the "right" people decide he's not fresh anymore, he'll probably still be okay. "Gimme that" kids usually are.

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Will Butler

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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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