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'G Love and the Special Sauce' flood the Marquee theatre in hip-hop, blues

 by Chris Kark
Web Devil

 published on Monday, April 26, 2004


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When artists dare to bridge or expand on a genre, it carries a negative connotation. Thus, the music world is a paradox. The public is sick of homogenous bands with quasi-witty names and forgettable KROQ hits. Yet they consume it, pay for it and every permutation of the same song twice baked for flavor reminiscent of the original. Stamp a new name on it, and it'll go platinum. Record companies pander to marketing teams, who in turn tell the public what they want. In essence, the originality the public looks for is scant because the music industry can only base the people's wants off prior preferences. Bands strike the heartstrings of originality never reach hungry ears. And Top 50 picks evaporate unbeknownst to casual radio voyeurs.

Then there's G Love and the Special Sauce. Never extremely popular, though still enough to headline national tours, work with Sony Records and rouse beer-toting audiences into sweaty euphoria. A three-piece ensemble, G Love (vocals and guitar), Jeff 'House Man' Clemenes (vocals drums) and Jimi 'Jazz' Prescott (double bass), G Love and his Special Sauce semantically land somewhere between hip-hop and blues. Upon first glance, G Love appears out of place in a backwards hat, armband and tight fitting yet rapper-eque attire. Both Jimi Jazz and House Man flaunt the appearances of blues musicians--not to mention Jimi wields a rickety upright bass.

G Love struck the Marquee hard Saturday, dividing the set into three parts. The first was a mix of soon-to-be-hits from his upcoming album to be released in August. Standing literally as far front and center as I could, G Love towered over me from mere feet above. Never too far from the shoddy wooden chair he chose as home base, he wailed on harmonica between wisps of freestyling and prearranged rap phrasings. Flapping to and fro, his legs spoke his mind's excitement. With the spirit of traditional blues musicians coupled with modern hip-hop artists, G Love shave the edges off Eminem-ish pretenses (G Love is Caucasian) in wry quips.

"This Ain't Livin'" exemplifies the oppression of the government on homeless people. Catchy yet simple bass lines underscore G Love's major-chord driven rant. After a half hour set, the band bamboozled the audience into thinking they were done. During a blues-ridden acoustic set, G Love ignited the crowd's laughter by mentioning his new song "Booty Call," and then mentioning he saw a 'love' doctor after a break up. In a watered-down Philadelphian accent G Love said, "The doctor handed me some rubbers and a phone and told me to have fun."

The concert didn't peak until the third portion of the set when Jimi Jazz and House Man came back to fork out hits. Amongst poppy tunes like "Stepping Stone," "Cold Beverage" and numerous B-sides and newbies, the rap versus blues ratio varied, at times drawing from jazz and at others from classic rock. But the sound defaulted to the songs the crowd knew and loved. As a team, Jack Johnson and G Love recorded a version of "Rodeo Clowns," which echoed in the synchronous dance of lips over everyone's mouth. He even dusted off the silly B-side "Milk and Cereal," having lyrics that so appropriately fit the title.

Unlike the reprocessed sounds of modern pop-rap, G Love endorses a lost notion: soloing. More than anything, he showcases Jimi 'Jazz' Prescott's bass-playing abilities. Jimi Jazz's fingers channel jazzy whims into his bass. Passionate head movement and a unity with his instrument, he delivers the nostalgia of jazz greats like Charles Mingus and Joe DiBartelo.

And thus, the almost enthralling blues/hip-hop stew G Love and the Special Sauce is tart and appealing. Not buried in rap-scene affectation nor trapped in seven-note blues scales, G Love's original sound provides an alternative to disaffected hip-hop enthusiasts and blues fans. And amongst cliche emo rock, we have water in a drought of gleeful musical taste.

Chris Kark is a reporter for the Web Devil. Reach him at christopher.kark@asu.edu.



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