Over the Weekend: Return of the Dream Team at the House of Blues, Anaheim

The Hype: Despite Orange County's out-dated reputation as a no-fly zone for hip-hop, this local showcase of MCs and DJs at the House of Blues, Anaheim grabbed some serious attention thanks to the eclectic, four-piece tribe Return of the Dream Team. The supergroup of sorts is Huntington Beach duo LD and Ariano paired with LA rapper/vocalist Medusa and DJ Flict. Saturday night was their highly anticipated concert debut in front of a hometown crowd. Besides pushing their new single "Cali Quake" (featuring R&B songstress Karolina), Dream Team also brought along a stacked deck of respected groups in the OC hip-hop scene including I&I, Enfamus, rapper/lothario Apoetnomadali as well as LA rap duo Soul Elevation. 

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Nadia Jakhar
Return of the Dream Team
The Show: Crisscrossing the stage with charismatic swagger, rappers Ariano and Medusa rustled up an excited flock of local hip-hop fans who came to witness Dream Team's gritty rhymes delivered at club-banging tempo. Bolstered by the beats of the group's seasoned DJ tag team, FLD (LD and DJ Flict), Dream Team fired off an ebullient set marked by Medusa's operatic vocals and Ariano's loose, baritone flows. Apart from their rhyme skills, the Dream Team did an ace job entertaining the crowd. Sporting a pair of light bulbs that operated as homemade earings, Medusa's loud, tremulous vocal hooks and gritty rhyme delivery were the yin to Ariano's witty, laid back yang as they traded vocals on an entire setlist of unheard songs that included the explosive club track "Detonate."
 
Though there was plenty going on in front of the DJ booth, LD and Flict had some choice moments in the limelight, swapping crazy cut sessions and break downs throughout the set. One of the more entertaining moments came when Ariano and Medusa dug into some crates on stage to compare their musical tastes in front of the crowd. Handing their DJs a line of records to spin, the MCs sat back as FLD bumped a train of classic hits to the crowds delight: the funky old-school flows of Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks,"  the organic '90s beats of "Everyday People" by Arrested Development" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s immortal "Hypnotize." Offering the unadulterated entertainment of hip-hop's Golden Era with furious rhyme skills and a touch of radio-friendly gloss, Return of the Dream Team had the front row begging for them to return to the stage as HOB's patchwork curtain closed for the final time.

Aside from the sheer volume of acts that performed Saturday, each one brought an entirely different vibe to a crowd that gladly (and drunkenly) went along for the ride. LA duo Soul Elevation warmed up the stage for Dream Team with their dynamic, interactive showmanship and socially-conscious brand of club rap. Fronted by Toquon da MC, bombastic tracks like "Dynamite Soul" and "Got Love" were reminiscent of the East coast classics of the '90s, cut and scratched by the capable hands of DJ Icy Ice (of OC hip-hop collective, the Beat Junkies). A bouncy, lyrically-intense set by I&I (featuring Grinch) garnered one of the most favorable crowd responses of the night with their no-frills charisma and sharply delivered set that included their anthems "Listen-Up",and "Return of the Rebel." Other acts included the obnoxious yet infectious hip-hop of Enfamus (who did an amusing cover of Lady Gag's "Poker Face," aptly titled "Stoner Face"). Apoetnomadali opened the show, performing a set of R&B-spliced hip-hop in front of a full band.

The Crowd: Though it had all the hallmarks of a typical hip-hop crowd (i.e. gold-fleeced hoodies, crooked brims and fresh sneakers) HOB carried a sizable mix of dressed-up party girls and beer-swilling bros toting $9 Bud Light tall boys. There were also some gray-haired clusters of enthusiastic fans (who must've been related to some of the artists on stage). They made their presence known on the second floor balcony by hooting, hollering and clapping painfully off beat.

Overheard: When Medusa first came out with her light bulb earrings, a fan in the back was quick to ask, "I wonder if those bulbs are LED?" 

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