b. USA. Based in Los Angeles, California, this US hip-hop artist has laboured hard to escape critical comparisons with Gil Scott-Heron, though that artist has also been a useful advocate. Gaines shared the bill with Scott-Heron at his first concerts for several years, held at the Troubadour club in Los Angeles in 1994. The title of Gaines’ debut album of the same year for Mercury Records, Please Don’t Take My Air Jordans, gave notice of his sense of humour and cynicism at the preoccupation of modern rap with the trappings of fiscal success. The album, which sold particularly well in the UK, combined such rich humour with Gaines’ deeply held philosophical convictions, narrated in thoughtful spiels which combined lyricism with a deep-seated realism forged by his own experiences of urban ghettos. Gaines subsequently toured as part of MTV’s ‘Free Your Mind’ spoken-word tour, alongside Maggie Estep and John S. Hall of King Missile, before the release of his second album, Sweeper Don’t Clean My Street. Cited by Mojo reviewer Lloyd Bradley as ‘blues for the new millennium’, it was another critical triumph.
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