Friday, January 3, 8 p.m., Majestic. Info/tix
(Photo: Lucien Parker, by Kodak Graay.)
The Majestic has a tradition of offsetting the January touring-music doldrums with a series of local-music showcases dubbed “Wisconsin [insert genre here]” fest. This year the idea expands to the High Noon, now that the same company owns both venues, with nine shows that include bills dedicated to jazz, funk, bluegrass, and metal. The hip-hop installment of the series is usually a standout, both because of the quality of the artists themselves and because the genre deserves a much bigger platform than Madison venues and promoters have ever granted it. This year’s eight-artist lineup includes longtime MC and spoken-word artist Rob Dz returning to host the show, though hopefully he’ll share some of the original tracks he’s been gradually working on over the past few years.
Headlining is Minneapolis native Lucien Parker, who spent a few years in Madison before moving to Milwaukee. A multi-instrumentalist with vocal talents that span from gritty baritone rapping to silky melodies, Parker has already covered an impressive variety of sonic and thematic territory. In just the past four years, he’s released a series of seven EPs, plus a scattering of singles and a longer release, 2018’s Mephoria. The singles Parker released in 2019, including “Wealth And Good Company” and “Hooked,” highlight the range he’s developed as a singer, and offer moments of reflection amid what’s clearly been a gauntlet of musical productivity and personal change. The lyrics and spacious but not quite gloomy production of “Wealth And Good Company” evoke those moments where a person slows down to take in the bigger picture: “Not many people can say that they self-made / I done held this pain too long, there’s gonna be hell to pay.”
Madison resident Eli Blakely, also known simply as Eli B, is another highlight in this lineup. His debut album, Pitch23, landed on Tone Madison’s top 20 Madison records of 2019 list, thanks to the sharply honed skill Blakely displays as he shifts through a variety of gruff cadences. From the upbeat “Good At Home” to the gorgeously woozy “Move” (featuring a hook from fellow Madisonian Ra’Shaun), Blakely attacks his rhymes with the kind of flexibility and hunger that make an up-and-coming rapper worth rooting for. It’s too bad that this show overlaps with the Wisconsin Fest series’ stacked punk show at the High Noon, and it does look like an incredibly male-dominated lineup. But it promises to span a slew of styles and approaches, with sets from fellow Wisconsin artists Mic Kellogg, Bravo, Genesis Renji, Outside Voices, and Supa Friends.