Photo courtesy of Mobb Deep There’s a war goin’ on in the Facebook comments on this year’s Maryland Deathfest schedule. You can run but you can’t hide forever. Well, okay, you could just stay off the Internet, but good luck with that. The battleground: Veteran NYC hip-hop duo Mobb Deep are playing America’s biggest extreme metal festival.“Will never go to another MDF again,” one commenter wrote. “Mobb Deep? Get real. Zero support from this moment forward.” Harsh! Another: “Mobb Deep, is this a joke? Never again MDF, never again!”
To be fair, there’s plenty of support for this seemingly weird booking decision too. One dude said Mobb Deep on the bill “makes me lose my shit and super stoked at the same time.” Another pointed out that “old Mobb Deep is brutal, grimy and visceral. Heavy music knows no genres.” So what the fuck is going on here?MDF began in 2003 as a niche gathering of slam riffs and gurgled vocals. Over the years it’s grown into a four-day multi-venue extravaganza, embraced by Baltimore for bringing a massive horde of metalheads into the city from all over the world. As the fest has gotten bigger, the organizers have expanded the scope from its death metal and grindcore roots to encompass black metal, doom, hardcore punk and stoner rock—but never hip-hop…until now. Mobb Deep are right there on the official MDF schedule alongside Demilich, Napalm Death and Portal (and like a hundred others, it’s seriously a huge fest).Far be it for me to suggest that some metal fans can be a little musically or socially conservative—or that gently suggesting such would turn some of them into hysterically crying infants—but I'm hoping this turns out well for everyone. Underground metal and hip-hop are both awesome; Mobb Deep are awesome; ergo, if you’re already at MDF, you should see them. At the New York’s Alright show last week at Le Poisson Rouge, they played hip-hop between bands—because when you’re seeing six punk bands in a row, do you really wanna hear more punk rock during the downtime?—and we spied some couples in leather jackets covered with Disclose patches grinding on each other in the corners. Thumbs up. This should be a cool moment of cross-subculture unity, like in the “Walk This Way” video when Run-DMC bust into Aerosmith’s practice space, only with more blastbeats and drunk crusties.
For MDF ticketholders who aren’t already familiar with Mobb Deep or are on the fence about checking them out, let us rapsplain at you:Have I heard Mobb Deep before?Maybe! Their best known song is “Shook Ones, Pt. 2.” Eminem uses it to hype himself up at the beginning of 8 Mile. It is HARD AS HELL and BLEAK AS FUCK. “I’m only 19 but my mind is old.” Eternal.Some other hits:What should I listen to if I want to get psyched for this show?For Mobb Deep you’re fine with The Infamous (the one to hear if you only hear one), Hell on Earth and Murda Muzik. Prodigy also has a pretty active solo career with a bunch of solid releases, and Havoc usually guests on them. Check out “Twilight,” an extended drug-dealers-as-vampires riff built around creepy organ melodies. Note the Mortician-length intro sample, and think about Twilight the USBM supergroup instead of sexy vampires if it helps.Let’s also watch the video for “Mac 10 Handle” because it’s a high water mark of the grimy rap video genre.So, uh, what do people do at rap shows?Great question. One weird thing if you’ve never seen live rap before is that almost everyone just does parts of songs, like a verse and a hook and then they’ll just move on to the next song. Metal bands don’t do that, but we can think of a lot of them that could earn some goodwill with this approach. Mobb Deep, and any other live rapper, will also probably call for a lot of audience participation. This may be awkward if you’re a shy nerd, according to our reliable sources. But you can reassure your racist relatives that you probably won’t get murdered just for being at a hip-hop show. The qualifier is only because MDF is in Baltimore.Anthony Bartkewicz is educating the metalverse on Twitter: @BRTKWCZ