Davu | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Electric Avenue

Yo & yo & yo & yo, yo, yo, yo & I don't really be checking for hip hop all like that anymore. I'm kinda sickened by its present gross state; every time I listen to it I feel like I'm watching a commercial for the latest cognac, or the newest Benz that ain't even came out yet or the newest "ice" -- diamonds that 10-year-old girls and boys get their left arm and shoulder blown off for over in Sierra Leone and Liberia or Bad Boys II.

So, I really don't wanna be considered no hip-hop writer all like that -- I resent the association. But then I can't deny the fact that hip hop was my foster father, filling in for my over-worked biological pops who hustled like hell to make sure the lights stayed on. Thus, there's certain hip-hop-isms that remain embedded in my brain. Example: my habit of repeating the "yo"-call over and over at a masturbatory pace until the ideas start spilling out of my mouth or onto the page.

Listening to Pittsburgh-based performance poet Davu's Electric Avenue, his new disc of music and spoken word, I was pleased to find out I'm not the only one. In the first song "Whirlwind Pyramid," I found he does the "yo &" thing, too! Though he doesn't know it, Davu is my friend. Or at least that's what I tell cool people when I'm trying to impress them. But I know Davu to know that he shuns hip hop as much as I do; but I also know Davu enough to see that my foster father birthed many kids out of wedlock, and Davu evidently is one of them kids. All throughout his character, his demeanor, his words, his cadences and yes, his Electric Avenue, are these hip-hop-isms that surface -- probably sub-consciously, or maybe sub-intentionally.

"For Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat Judah / just as / Langston begat Baldwin and Baldwin begat Morrison and Morrison begat Rakim and Rakim begat me."

These words from his "Violent Nights (Word Life)" could come across sorta braggadocio -- mentioning one's self in the same sentence as Rakim, James Baldwin and Father Abraham. But then, braggadocio is a basic tenet of hip hop. And so it goes, Electric has a very hip-hop feel from the "yo &" intro to the boom-bap drum sequencing to the orchestral arrangement of the samples.

I first listened to Electric while having sex.

It's not the best music to screw to, but it was good. Davu is my friend and all, but not my first choice of third party while I'm doing the nasty. I'd prefer Gina Redmond. But his work is so personal -- so much a silhouette of him that listening to it feels like he's sitting two seats over. My own performance didn't last past the first five minutes of the CD, which was basically just the first song, but I continued to listen to it and it played every bit the part of the post-sex cigarette with the same relaxing effect. When he drops into his repatriated form -- spoken word -- he employs a fresh approach where words aren't drilled into your head like AK-47 rounds or the HBO Def Poetry Jam prima donnas. Davu understands the importance of the pause, every bit as much as Thelonious Monk. It helps in letting the words sink in.

Davu named his CD for the 2 a.m.-Friday-night energy given off at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street in Oakland (a.k.a. "the O"). All the motion of that location and time, he says, is symbolic of the vibe he aspires to when assembling his words and his music. That particular motion is decidedly urban, if not borderline "street," which is the nature of hip hop.

Hip hop has strayed so far beyond what it once was that when an Electric drops, reminding us of everything we used to love about hip hop while forecasting everything hip hop could be at its best, we inadvertently can't even recognize it. It becomes something better. But would it be so bad calling this hip hop?

"I wouldn't get offended if someone called my music hip hop," says Davu. "In fact I hope a lot of hip-hop heads listen to it. There's a lot about the CD that is hip hop, but then there's so much to it that isn't. I just feel like there's this big plate of black music and I'm just picking from it. I mean, it's all the same."

Well if it's all the same to you, Davu, I'll just call it good fucking music.


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