On the second night of CMJ, I headed to the Knitting Factory for the Music Dealers showcase, which enticed me based on its eclecticism.
The first act I caught was Dice Raw, who hooked up with the Roots when he was still in high school and has had a growing presence on the group's recordings, leading up to this year's phenomenal How I Got Over, a good chunk of which he rapped on and/or co-produced. But his solo career hasn't really taken off, and he doesn't seem to find that very fair. Apparently not sensing a great response from the crowd, Dice cut a couple of songs short and then skipped to the end of his set and bowed out early. For what it's worth, I thought he was being received just fine, especially considering it was early in the night and he was the only rapper on the bill.
Gearing up for his first release in 10 years (titled, ahem, The Greatest Rapper Never), he's released a mixtape where he raps over various J Dilla beats, from which the below track is taken. You can also check out the album's proper lead single, "100," on YouTube.
The Wellington Papers' official bio describes their music as "rooted in the playful realism of 1990s hip-hop" and having "a unique blend of punk, surf rock, ska, and dub influences." Their live show initially succeeded on the group's energy and personality, and I was also just surprised and excited to encounter some late 90s–style ska for the first time in a long while. But this quality couldn't keep me hooked for the whole show, nor unfortunately does it translate well to New York Times, the album that the group is calling their "mixtape." Some of the songs have a nice bounce, but in general I find it dull and uninspired, with a dash of pretension.
The evening was closed out by Shayna Zaid and the Catch. Zaid led the band through a fun set of perky pop dressed up in folky instrumentation that made my companion recall Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs. It's a commercial sound that's gotten them some TV spots, including, it seems, doing the music for an updated rendition of Cotton's "Fabric of Our Lives" jingle. ("The touch... the feel...")
Zaid's a great songwriter and an endearing performer, and the group was definitely the highlight of the show. If you like the track below, they have several more available for streaming at ReverbNation.