Since 1993, when they released their debut, 21 and Over, tha Alkaholiks have been one of the most talented party groups in hip-hop. Often underrated, the trio Tash, J-Ro, and producer E-Swift have issued several classic underground singles and albums over the years, including "Make Room," Coast II Coast, and "Hip-Hop Drunkies." The 'Liks recently announced that their new album, Firewater, would be their last, but not before they head back onto the road for one last blowout. During a phone interview, J-Ro told us what audiences can expect.
Outtakes: So why are you guys breaking up?
J-Ro: Well, I wouldn't call it a breaking up breakup. We never really said we were breaking up. It's just we're gonna take a break from the Alkaholiks for a little bit, 'cause it's been 13 years now. That's all we've been doing. We all got kids; we all got different things we want to do. So we're just going to try out some things solo-wise, and there's different business things going on that we each have. Actually, we'll be working together even more because you're going to hear us on three different albums now instead of waiting for just one.
A lot of people know you for being a good-time party group.
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Yeah, man. That's why we were given that name. We was down with [influential L.A. rapper] King Tee, and our whole crew was known for just partying and getting drunk and stuff. So he said, "Y'all gotta be called the Alkaholiks, man." He gave us the name because of that. It was just, like, a real cool party vibe, ever since the beginning, before we were even making records.
Do you guys still drink a lot?
Personally, I've cut down a lot. I don't drink like I used to when we first came out. But, you know, I still drink when we're out on the road and whatnot. It's off and on with me. I still like to drink and have a good time, though. I might drink some wine when I'm chilling with my girl or something. If I'm out on the road, I'm Hennesseyed up. But when I come home, I might not drink that whole month. I'm like that. I go through different phases. I might be like, "I'm getting fucked up tonight." But I'm not drinking for a whole two weeks before I get down like that.
What kind of wine do you prefer?
Merlot or something. I like a lot of California wines too. Gotta represent the whole state.
I saw you guys perform several years ago. I remember you held a drinking contest on stage, where you would have people from the audience come up and see who could drink their beers the fastest. Do you still do that?
Yeah, we still do that, as long as we can get away with it. We play in some places that won't let us do it. But yeah, if we can get away with it, then the drinking contest is on. We still give out a free T-shirt to the winner. A lot of times, it's girls winning, man. The girls win sometimes. It's incredible. Mosi Reeves
Tha Alkaholiks play with Jeru the Damaja and Al Valient at 9 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $23.50 in advance or $25 the day of the show. Call 954-727-0950.
Licensed to Film
It's one of those ideas that was either madness or genius: Distribute 50 camcorders to concertgoers at Madison Square Garden and have them film a cinéma vérité documentary on the Beastie Boys' October 2004 performance. Like pretty much everything the Boys have done throughout their party-starting, head-checking, Tibet-freeing career, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! is both totally innovative and totally inevitable. The first-of-its-kind concert film is the brainchild of Adam "MCA" Yauch, AKA Nathaniel Hornblower, who spent the last year editing down the footage with producer Jon Doran. Yauch chose shooters from the Beastie Boys' online message board, hardcore fans who already had tickets at various spots throughout the Garden. Working with 50 Hi-8 cameras allowed him and Doran wide-angle stage shots, close-ups of fans dancing in the aisles, a trip to the bathroom and the beer counter, and even a quick sneak backstage. The film was screened at Sundance in January to rave reviews; James Rocchi, a critic for Netflix, blogged, "Awesome isn't just an experiment in collective creativity or an easy gimmick, it comes closer to recreating the concert experience than 99.9 percent of its peers in the field." If you've ever seen the B-Boys live, you know how fun that experience can be. When you check out this week's sneak peek (it opens across the United States on March 31), just remember: No smoking in the theater. Jonathan Zwickel
Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at Sawgrass Stadium 23, 2600 NW 136th Ave., Sunrise. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12.50 the day of the show. Go to BigScreenConcerts.com.
Dar to Be Different
New York born but New England bred, singer/songwriter Dar Williams has the face of an angel but a tongue that some, perhaps those of a more red state persuasion, would call forked. She's been compared to everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Paula Cole, but a close listen to her current album, My Better Self, begs comparisons to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, Williams' earliest influences. From the wry examination of adolescent indoctrination on Self's opening track, "Teen for God," to an inspired cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," the album is sublime, informed, politically astute, and critical. Not a bad description of Williams herself.
Outtakes: This album is far more political than your early work. What led to that?
Dar Williams: With this album, I wanted to telescope the last 200 years or so and examine the crossing of personal life and politics. The hope was to create something that was a positive response to the fears we have today. I make comparisons between our government's monolithic agenda and the doomed empires of the past: Rome, Germany, Britain. It's all very funky, but in the end, I wanted to focus on movements as opposed to politics.
You're critical of religion. How much of that criticism comes from personal experience?
There's something disturbing about a government that cowers to the churches. The juxtaposition of righteous faith and ambition is unbelievable. True belief is one thing I wouldn't touch, but using that for legislative advantage... "Teen for God" was a blend of my own experiences and that of a close friend's. You're young and you have a real passion for God, but how much of it is propaganda? The social regulation of it is questionable and creates anxiety and a sense of fear. The Christian right is all about social order but turns a blind eye when it's convenient.
You duet with some diverse artists, from Ani DiFranco to Soulive.
Originally, "Two Sides of the River" was very sparse and I wanted to make it bluesy, so I got them to amp it up and give it some cred. With "Comfortably Numb," I always thought a woman should record it, but I thought it needed another woman. Ani was my dream choice.
What's your take on the music industry?
It's difficult. When the Internet first surfaced, it was like we were taking back the music world. Some 21-year-old in Kansas with no access could have the Wells Fargo truck back up at their door. Then any attempt to expand the dial stopped. Now, you either have an audience-defined career or an industry-defined career, rarely both.
One review cited your appearance as a "real person" as key to your appeal.
There is a parallel between manicured hands and a manicured mind. For some artists, you want the polish; for others, true storytellers, you want a sense of access, the feeling that they see you out there and can be honest about their flaws. Larry Carrino
Dar Williams performs at 8 p.m. Friday, March 24, at the Harriet Himmel Theater, 700 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $31. Call 561-361-1000.
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