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SPEAK Easy @ Highbury Pub

Aug. 31, 2012

Sep. 4, 2012
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Possessing as he does the kind of apparently effortless flow that belies the craft involved, Milwaukee rapper SPEAK Easy has, in many ways, chosen the perfect pseudonym. But if his adopted appellation gives the impression that he's not taking his art seriously, it couldn't be more misleading. He's proved himself as one of the city's hardest working and busiest MCs on a prolific string of albums, EPs and mix-tapes whose quality is even more impressive given the speed at which he churns them out. His latest long-player, Need I Say More, out now as a free download on Uni-Fi Records, continues the trend, further refining his particular brand of laid-back yet tough-minded rhymes that should prove appealing across a number of hip-hop's fragmented sub-scenes.

For the album release show, SPEAK Easy would seem to have found a natural fit with the weekly “Takeover Fridays” series at the Highbury Pub, featuring DJ Bizzon, of Tuesday night WMSE staple “The Mad Kids,” on the wheels of steel. But while the pub is a great place for a night of pre-recorded beats and bellying up to the bar, for a live performance, at least a well-attended one like this, it's less than ideal, to put it mildly. The building's elongated, split-level design only offers so many possible vantage points, most of which fall into a narrow no-man's-land between the bar and a group of tables, where people are forever shunting past you to get to one place or another. It also didn't help that stray bar stools mysteriously kept finding their way to the middle of the dance floor, such as it was, taking up valuable real estate and forming an impromptu obstacle course.

Thankfully, though, as the man of the hour picked up the mic and progressed into a nearly flawless set, the audience's migratory patterns calmed down a bit, enabling everyone to take in the show with a relatively low level of distraction and discomfort. Not that they had to stay put for long, since he only attempted to hold people's attentions for about 30-40 minutes, providing just a tantalizing teaser of the new album's highlights. Still, the set didn't feel insubstantial, merely economical and to the point, with SPEAK Easy handily demonstrating his considerable skills while still finding time to trade verses with a few well-used supporting MCs, who provided good counterpoints without taking focus away from the star of the show. Some rappers can sound great on record but lose something in translation between the studio and the stage, but SPEAK Easy is as good a performer as he is a writer, which, given the strength of the material on Need I Say More, is really saying something.


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