Jai Nitai Lotus Scene Bell, Montreal QC, July 2

Jai Nitai Lotus Scene Bell, Montreal QC, July 2
Montreal rapper Jai Nitai Lotus' latest album Something You Feel, has been a breakthrough of sorts. Lotus brings golden age hip-hop topics such as overt self-improvement and respect for others up to date with more contemporary production and delivery. Most importantly for this context, he's found a way to present his complex sound.

His band consisted of sax, trumpet, keys, drums, bass, backing vocals and laptop/DJ and hit hard because of attention to detail — perhaps because Lotus was not only the producer but engineer on his own album. Little details like having a tambourine mounted on the hi-hat made sure that made beats cut across the open air environs loudly and clearly. The brass front line was used for more than simple accents and riffs, too: sometimes they laid down a continuous textural element to the beats, and they also indulged in collective improvising. Guest vocalists kept the energy level up, but, as has been the case more than once during this festival, onstage dancing is what really gets the crowd into it.

Best of all were Lotus's vocals, strong and commanding like festival rap ought to be, not mush -mouthed and mumbly (which has its place, but not in a parking lot in front of thousands of people). One particular high point was when the band laid into a groove based on a Dilla sample of soul group Motherlode: the crowd picked up on the reference, while Lotus' lyrics picked up on the themes in the original song.

It was a subtle and powerful presentation of Lotus' knowledge, and also how to get over to a jazz festival audience. There should be more Dilla references at jazz festivals (BadBadNotGood lead the way in this regard) because he was the kind of virtuosic beatmaker that impresses music lovers of all ages. Though Lotus has been at it for quite a few years, maybe his well-considered live show will help him to achieve this kind of Dillappeal in due time.