Akrobatik | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ambivalence has never been a trait identified with hip-hop, and listening to Akrobatik you can sometimes see why: an artist who takes time to stake out the middle ground can frustrate a listener who's waiting for a wallop of personality. But more often than not on his debut full-length, Balance (Coup D'Etat), this Boston MC reaps the dramatic potential that comes with being of two minds. He kicks off the album conversationally ("I'm glad you bought this disc right here, my debut LP. My name is Akrobatik"), then proceeds to explain his theories of equilibrium with regard to hip-hop, race, and the big wide world. Though some of his generalizations are a bit strong ("Everywhere you look now shit is fucked up / Kids goin' to school, they blowin' the bus up"), his capacity to straddle contradictions helps him avoid the preachiness that bogs down so much socially conscious hip-hop. On "Hypocrite" he claims not to drink, smoke, or carry a gun, then qualifies in the chorus: "I don't do none of that shit but if I do / It's because I'm a hypocrite just like you." Even while waxing nostalgic for "the time we were great / before the self-hate" on "Remind My Soul," he's more interested in examining root causes of violence than pointing his finger at mega-platinum gunslingers. Backed with tracks from Ray Boy Fernandes and Da Beatminerz that leave him plenty of room without skimping on hooks, Akrobatik could go a long way toward convincing hip-hop heads that extremism in the defense of moderation is no vice. He opens for Cage and headliners High & Mighty. Friday, November 21, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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