Mr. Lif Sonar, Vancouver BC - May 4, 2003

Conscious hip-hop hasn't aged well. While rappers like Blackalicious and Talib Kweli have built up huge fan bases and signed healthy contracts with major labels, the conscious form itself seems practically bereft of new ideas. In fact, the style now seems to come with its own recipe for success — black militancy watered down and rendered palatable for a largely white audience. Consciousness is the new mainstream, a fact not lost on Mr. Lif, the dread-headed Boston mic strangler who spikes his flows with undiluted Marxist poetics. Lif was rapturously greeted by a throng of hipsters and skateboarders, many of whom were in town for the city's renowned Slam City Jam. The Massachusetts MC trotted out favourites from last year's I Phantom, his conceptual excursion into America's postmodern workforce, where cubicles and ties conjure images of cages and nooses. Lif ingeniously used props throughout the night, brandishing a plastic gun for a staged convenience store robbery and undergoing a Christ-like resurrection on the epic "Return of the B-Boy." Yes, Lif struck some JC poses, as on the cover of I Phantom, but this is one man who can get away with it, since he's a ferociously talented live performer who ripped some of the illest freestyles Vancouver's seen all year. Unlike his Def Jux label-mate (and boss) El-P, Lif proved that he knows when to let the people have their say, especially when his admirers got so loud he couldn't hear himself speak. Conscious rap is dead. Long live conscious rap.