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Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Tuneful Martian Invasion: Los Enanitos Verdes

Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy
DATELINE: Puente del Inca, Argentina, 1979. At the natural arch outside the industrial city of Mendoza, a visiting family took a photo of what appeared to be some 100 little green "extraterrestrials" wandering the highlands. A journalist friend of Marciano Cantero could only laugh when he saw this in the local paper, and dubbed Cantero's then brand-new band Los Enanitos Verdes (literally, "Little Green Men"). "We took that name as a joke at the beginning," says frontman Cantero, his nickname (Marciano means "martian") given to him by that same friend. "We honestly didn't think it'd stick for as long as it did." Turning 29 years this month, Los Enanitos are more than just veteran musicians; the trio helped bring to light the rock en español movement, starting out in Mendoza pubs, then selling out stadiums throughout Latin America, spreading their positive messages through catchy rock ballads. Among the most requested songs at Enanitos concerts include the rock-pop appreciation of good friends and not letting them escape in "Mariposas"; the hard guitar riffs in "Muralla Verde" about love lost; and "Lamento Boliviano," a powerful tribute to the indigenous races of Latin America, featuring soft guitar strums accented by Andean chants and zampoña panflute. Cantero describes Enanitos as a true "working band" and relishes feeding off the energy of a live crowd. "It's kind of like when [Diego] Maradona touches a soccer ball," he says. "It's incredible how much pure joy he shows when he plays, and our fans can truly feel it in their skin — how much we truly love performing for them." » State Theatre, 200 N. Washington, Falls Church; Sat., Nov. 15, 9 p.m., $30 in advance; $35 at the door; 703-237-0300. Tagged in Arts & Events

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CD Review: Q-Tip, 'The Renaissance'

Washington Post Express, November 4, 2008
Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy Universal/Motown

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST was about provoking thoughts and not producing club bangers, and its nasal-voiced leader, Q-Tip, seemed forced to come up with some on his last solo album, 1999's "Amplified." Even though the CD produced two mega-hits, "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe & Stop," many hardcore hip-hop heads called the album too flashy, the rapper's vision thwarted by label demands. Ironically, Q-Tip's two solo follow-up albums were then rejected by his former label, Arista, which deemed them uncommercial. Which might explain why its taken nine years for "The Renaissance" to appear. The rapper's new label, Universal/Motown, has let Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, aka Kamaal the Abstract, just be Q-Tip, and he has gone back to his roots of using cerebral rhymes and classic samples fused with live instrumentation. "The Renaissance" has both the brain and the booty in mind, calling out in "Dance" that "all my people at the label want something to repeat / but all my people want something for the street." And the streets are happier for it. In the catchy disco-funk jam "Move," which is loaded with sci-fi sound effects and backed by a sample of the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine," Q-Tip announces, "Renaissance won't quit moving cultures" and then asks, "Look at your watch / You know it's time for phat beats." The phatness comes from Sergio Mendes-esque Rhodes jazz keyboarding ("Believe," with awol R&B'er D'Angelo providing the soulful chorus), soulful piano loops ("Getting Up" and "Life Is Better" featuring Norah Jones), popping snare drums ("Shaka"), DJ scratches chopping up guitar chords ("Official"), upbeat piano chords, and a powerful drum sample ("ManWomanBoogie" with hip-hop poet Amanda Diva). Odes to the past are ever-present on "The Renaissance," not just in music, but in message, particularly "Move" and in "Life," where Q-Tip shows his appreciation to all the hip-hop greats — though it contains the somewhat awkward Jones verse, "Hip-hop is playing again / and it's banging too / and it's banging for you." Q-Tip's love for the old school is culminated in "Getting Up," which has the type of classic R&B piano sound that made hits for "Renaissance" guests stars D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq (who's in "We Fight/We Love") in the 1990s, though the lyrics are a modern take on searching for love by sending out texts and e-mail. Q-Tip's mastery of inventive lyrical wordplay and bravado also course through "The Renaissance," with several fun boasts. He even has the gall to call his competition sea cows in "Dance on Glass": "Corny style rappers they lack the pedigree / they just a manatee / I'm unaffected / the whale / the hammerhead." Meanwhile, on "Move" he states, "You just like cold grits without the hot sauce" and on "Johnny Is Dead" asks, "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isn't in it?"Indeed. » 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with The Cool Kids and Pacific Division, Sun., Nov. 30, 7 p.m., $32.50; 202-265-0930. (U St.-Cardozo).

Monday, November 03, 2008

written by
Alfredo Flores
When one goes to a Carlos Mencia comedy show, one can expect raunch and plenty of it. Controversial topics include the presidential election, race relations, ethnic stereotypes, immigration, war and family. But Mencia, star of the hit Comedy Central show “Mind of Mencia,” doesn’t rely on a script or act while on stage, preferring instead to look into the eyes of his audience, gauging their interests, seeing what they’d like him to talk about next. “I wish I knew what I’m going to talk about, bro,” Mencia said in an interview with On Tap. “I like to push buttons. Sometimes, you tickle somebody and they laugh, sometimes you tickle somebody and they pee, and sometimes you tickle somebody and they say, ‘Don’t touch me there.’ I don’t know what that reaction is going to be, and therefore I can’t say I’m going to move on to another joke or whatnot. It’s all predicated on the conversation I’m having with the audience.” It’s that connection Mencia has with his audience that has endeared him to fans across the United States and overseas. He wrapped production on the fourth season of his show over the summer and immediately embarked on an 80-city “At Close Range” tour, which stops by D.A.R. Constitution Hall on November 14. The sponsor of the tour is Bud Light, his Honduran-born father’s beer of choice. Mencia was raised in the Maravilla Projects of East Los Angeles by his aunt and uncle, Mencia, the 17th of 18 kids. Fearing the temptations of gang life would be too much to resist, his family shipped Mencia to their village home in Honduras for three years, where instead of going to school he chopped down crops with a machete, milked cows and lived without running water or electricity. As a teen, humbled by this experience, he returned to L.A., started 10th grade and after a brief flirtation with a career in electrical engineering, went straight into stand up comedy with a fearlessness to say whatever’s on his mind. “I’m going to say the stuff people are thinking but they can’t say because of political correctness, or because they don’t want to get into an argument,” he said. “I do have a responsibility, to be their voice. I’ve got all this on my mind I’m trying to say.” Some of his stand up performances have featured call-and-response brand of comedy, with many audience members shouting out topics for Mencia to talk about, and, within reason, he’ll oblige. On Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin: “She has five kids? First of all, a little trailer trashy. How they heck can she afford to have five kids?” On President George Bush’s command, or lack thereof, of the English language: “How bad is it that seven and a half years into the administration that if someone told CNN ‘I have video of the president of the United States of America, not only butchering English, but making up words that don’t even exist.’ CNN’s response? ‘No, we don’t need it. We have enough of that.’ That’s sad, bro. He’s like the village idiot, but he’s been good for my industry.” On the controversial pictures of Presidential nominee Barack Obama in a turban: “Somebody should have told him, come here, not a good idea. Shhh. Take that off, dress up as a pumpkin instead.” ne of the staples in Mencia’s work, and perhaps his most controversial, is his trademark “Dee-Dee-dee!” jokes. Many consider it a slight on the mentally challenged, but Mencia defends the bit saying its meant to demean those who have fully-functional brains but choose not to use them to capacity. “If you live a regular life as a regular people, aren’t the majority of the people you come across a little dumb, mentally complacent?” he asked. “They’re lucky they’re not celebrities, but if they were I’d be on that ass.” Carlos Mencia “At Close Range,” Friday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. at DAR Constitution Hall. Tickets $42. Info at: