With Common and Mos Def garnering movie roles and The Roots backing up Jimmy Fallon, it seems the '90s class of conscious rappers has successfully penetrated the mainstream. Yet there are still similar-minded artists struggling to make their East Coast sound heard. In other words, there's still hip hop for the "heads" -- a prime example being Chicago's Pseudo Slang.
Originally based in Buffalo, the duo of Josh Brown (a.k.a. Emcee Sick, of Xtracts of Slang) and producer/rapper Tone Atlas (of Pseudo Intellectuals) merged like Reese's Peanut Butter cups to form Pseudo Slang. Spending years honing flows and beats in the appropriately named Baby Steps collective, they hosted Buffalo hip-hop shows and broke through with an independent demo, Catalogue.
With a clean, mellow sound influenced as much by current technology (with rhymes mentioning MySpace and texting) as by classic jazz records, Pseudo Slang caught the attention of the respected Fat Beats label in 2005. When plans for a full-length encountered multiple delays, the pair appeased fans with a 12-inch called Broke & Copasetic and a 2007 EP humorously titled Thank God It's Not Another Mixtape.
Fat Beats finally made good this year with what Pseudo Slang considers the group's proper debut, We'll Keep Looking. It's clear that what Pseudo Slang has been searching for all this time is the ultimate "thinking fan's" jazz sample, whether that's an upright bass on "Out A Touch," a Rhodes piano on "Broke," or a direct Miles Davis reference on "Walkin'" (featuring indie stalwart Grap Luva). It ties into the overall theme, as Sick elucidates on "Bedouin": "It's the renaissance of rap, classical bebop / The boom-bap, scat scooby-doo-bop." Right on.
Pseudo Slang with Bloodmoney and Ekofield. 8 p.m. Fri., July 31. Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery, 5015 Penn Ave., Garfield. $8 ($10 at the door). 412-867-6539