A virtual band has been outshining its flesh-and-blood counterparts for more than 15 years. It’s less an indictment on the competition than a testimony to the brilliance of the ostensibly make-believe group Gorillaz.
The brainchild of the rock star Damon Albarn and the comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz is a game-changing concept that toys with the nebulous nature of reality in the new millennium. Overseen by Albarn and Hewlett, four cartoon characters create futuristic pop as Gorillaz.
The venture was an immediate artistic and commercial success. “Clint Eastwood,” the startling single that served as Gorillaz’s introduction in 2001, is a cosmopolitan blend of rap, reggae, indie-rock and R&B. In addition to boasting that “I’ve got sunshine in a bag,” the digital vocalist 2D warns that “the future is coming on.”
Gorillaz’s new album “Humanz” doesn’t have an equivalent breakout hit, but the release is a cogent musical analysis of the current political climate. Two of the sharpest tracks feature rappers who will join Gorillaz at the Sprint Center.
Vince Staples, a headliner of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest in 2016, will recreate his rap on the apocalyptic “Ascension,” a caustic song in which he suggests that “this the land of the free… where you can live your dreams as long as you don’t look like me.” A rendition of “Submission” will feature Danny Brown, a rapper so outlandish that he may seem less real than the animated members of Gorillaz during the surreal exhibition at the Sprint Center.
Tickets to the Friday, Sept. 22 concert at Sprint Center are $44-$101 through sprintcenter.com.
Concert previews by Bill Brownlee, Special to Ink