Recording for more than a decade hasn’t made C-Rayz Walz the vanguard of hip-hop’s underground. Springing from a fertile network of new millennium MCs and producers, Walz has issued something like seventeen albums over the last decade—and that doesn’t even begin to distill the amount of work put in as a guest on other’s albums or the countless battles Walz has taken part in. Maintaining any sort of visibility so far deep into his career now rests on dogged persistence and adherence to the concept of freestyle one-on-ones since it doesn’t appear that this New Yorker is slated for a dance-floor hit anytime soon. A number of high-profile verbal skirmishes that found anyone from Supernatural to Immortal Technique butting heads with Walz has created a mystique around this performer; it’s just not one usually connected to his studio efforts. Instead, recording opportunities seem to have become chances for the MC to make connections, retain working relationships and get his name on another album. Appreciating the differences between studio and live performances, however, points to the limit of each. Walz, whose earliest collection of works, the decades-old “The Prelude,” references the more politicized contingent of East Coasters, includes then-current sonic understandings of the genre. Jumping ahead a few years and just as many releases, “Who the F%@k Are You?” functions as a timely update, one that takes into account newer production styles and finds the MC augmenting his presentation accordingly. Walz’ malleable recorded persona hasn’t caught on in a huge way for a reason. His skills come across better live when his mind’s firing on all cylinders, taking in his surroundings, the crowd, a potential opponent and the music as well. It’s a rare scenario, but a poignant one in a time of overblown rap extravaganzas. C-Rayz Walz thinking on stage trumps C-Rayz Walz preparing a recording. (Dave Cantor)
June 16 at Reggies Rock Club, 2109 South State, (312)949-0121. 7pm. $10-$12. 18+.