Over the past couple years, the Seattle hip-hop quartet Mad Rad has become known as much for its rambunctious live shows and off-stage antics as for its music. People came to its shows in droves to join in the party atmosphere, and even as Mad Rad's offstage hijinks began to attract more attention than the music, audiences couldn't get enough and the band's shows quickly sold out. There was magic in the mix.
The four members of Mad Rad — MCs Buffalo Madonna and Radjaw, beats/producer/MC P Smoov and DJ Darwin — look back at that time as fun and instructive. They were young (all around 21) when their first album, White Gold, came out, and they just wanted to make music and have a good time. Now they're all growing up. They still love electronic and dance music, but they've matured and, in their own words, "stepped up their game." I'd have to agree. They've grown tremendously with their sophomore release, The Youth Die Young, which is full of synth-laden beats, soaring grooves and clean flows to balance out the intense lyrics. It shows a young band growing up and taking its music seriously, as evidenced by this compelling and nuanced performance in the KEXP studios.
Each member of the group has a different voice, which makes it interesting when they trade off on vocals in a single song. Those different voices and personalities are magnified during live performances, and it's impossible to take your eyes off of them. A cello may not be the first instrument you think of in a hip-hop group, but Sam Anderson of Seattle's Hey Marseilles adds haunting beauty and gorgeous texture to the songs in this live set at KEXP.
In Mad Rad, there are four distinct personalities and voices at work, but you can tell it's a cohesive group. These folks clearly like each other and love what they're doing, making them compelling to watch and fun to hear. It's no wonder they pack the house every time they play.