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Mics and Men Soundtrack release party is a party

Umar Bach & Keary Kase
Black Mobb Family
Fez Ballroom
316 S.W. 11th
$12/ Fastixx
21+ w/ID

Underground seems to be the buzz word in hip-hop. From abstract-indie hip-hop to million-selling mainstream hip-hop artists, artists seem ready to boast that they are coming straight from the underground. The arrival of Mics and Men Soundtrack by Umar Bach & Keary Kase seems to legitimately back up that phrase, though. With no glossy press kit and no bio, their new release unassumingly found its way into the Vanguard office. Attached to a home-burnt CD and two tickets was an invitation to this Friday’s release party at the Fez Ballroom.

In an age of overpaid publicists pushing everything that is released, and overhyped records that usually don’t add up to much, the approach seems refreshing. And in hip-hop, where street cred and freshness often is the order of the day this definitely approach walks the talk. The problem, however, is that I really cannot tell you anything about the group. But let us put that aside.

What I do have is a well put-together, great sounding record by a Portland hip-hop group. From the first track, “Black Kidds,” Umar and Keary let the world know they are not going to be pushed around by anyone, and that the industry had better look out because this group will be taken seriously. In front of a cool string arrangement they let you know their credo, which is, “Live my life, persevere, struggle and strive,” By the intensity of the phrasing, their intentions of taking this to the top are clear.

Towards the middle of the CD the one-two punch of “Hold My Space” and “True Sincerity” really bring this into perspective. “Hold”‘s tension-filled music plays well against a measured vocal attack while “True Sincerity” lets in some sensitivity and makes it apparent how much this endeavor means to these guys. Both mixed and mastered by Bach and Keary, it is a grassroots release that doesn’t sound that way. The mixes are clean, the production great and the sound huge. Utilizing guest singers and rappers and the layering of vocal tracks make this a first-rate release. And they even cop the backup vocal melody from Grand Master’s “White Lines” on “Black Mobb.”

But why pay 12 dollars to see a band I’ve never heard before? Hip-hop is probably the most popular form of music in the world, and yet few people ever get to see it live and up close. Though it permeates radio and television, too often the only exposure it receives is in giant halls and stadiums where the audience never gets a chance to see an actual hip-hop band operate on stage. Not only does it add to the listener’s appreciation to witness a show, but Portland has a myriad of venues and performers out there looking for an audience.

Mics and Men Soundtrack is a well put together record and by hearing it I cannot imagine that Umar Bach and Keary Kase would cut corners on their live show. The Fez Ballroom has one of the best sound systems in town, and the invitation promises an open bar until 12:30 a.m. AND free food. Grab your ID and take a chance.