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A Lakeview Rap Legend Returns With a Live Band

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A man in a black t-shirt smiles, looking toward the camera in sunglasses, with a bassist and backup singer behind him
Cellski performs with the Top Chefs on February 22, 2024, at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

It was a scene straight out of the Apollo Theater: A full band on stage, vamping a steady groove. Two female backup singers approaching the mic with a singing chant: “Cell-ski… Cell-ski…” And then, walking in from the wings and past the rhythm section, Cellski himself, launching into “It’s On,” the first track from his 1994 album Mr. Predicter.

It was a February night earlier this year at a packed-to-the-gills Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco, but with the band in the pocket and Cellski on his game — and the crowd in the palm of his hand — the show felt timeless.

Now, Cellski’s back for a victory lap, and he’s bringing a lineup of rap veterans along. When he performs in San Francisco on Saturday, he’ll be joined by C-Bo, Dru Down, RBL Posse, D-Lo, J Stalin, B-Legit, Ramirez 187 and other special guests.

And then there’s the band, the Top Chefs, a tight ensemble of younger musicians from the Frisco collective Family Not a Group. Part of what made the February show a success was its cross-generational aspect: today’s upcoming hip-hop artists backing up the legends and soaking up game.

With so many guests on this weekend’s bill, it’s unclear whether Cellski will perform Mr. Predicter in its entirety, as he recently did to celebrate its 30th anniversary. But expect hits from the canon of San Francisco rap, tributes to the recently departed Lakeview rapper Baldhead Rick, and Cellski, a true street legend, leading the party.

Cellski performs with the Top Chefs and a slate of guests on Saturday, June 15, at the Midway in San Francisco. Tickets and details here.


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