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Perceptionists electrify audience in no time

On Friday night, the Paradise was the epicenter of the Boston hip-hop scene, as some of the area's most prominent acts took the stage for an energetic, if erratic, showcase.

The act most of the packed house had come to see was the Perceptionists, a super group composed of Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, and DJ Fakts One, who headlined together for the first time.

Unfortunately, they were forced to play a somewhat rushed set as the night ran late. Still, the three were electrifying as they debuted material from their upcoming record, "Black Dialogue."

Lif and Akrobatik have shared the stage over the years, and their interplay seems instinctive. Clearly, as the Perceptionists, they have altered their dynamic so they didn't just trade verses; they offered a ferocious give-and-take, often punctuating one another's thoughts and accenting distinct rhymes. The new songs in their 25-minute set were vivid reminders that Lif and Akrobatik are two of the most astute and versatile MCs working these days.

The opening "Memorial Day" was a pointed critique of President Bush's rush to war; it featured the duo's furious flow. "What Have We Got to Lose" kicked the set into high gear, calling on Americans to question the status quo and bring about change. The songs perfectly balanced Lif's potent political views with Akrobatik's heady social conscience.

Just in case hip-hop heads didn't want to get too cerebral, the Perceptionists dropped "The Razor," the new joint dedicated to the New England Patriots. (It will be used on the team's radio broadcasts this year.) Over a booming Fakts One beat, Lif and Akrobatik name-checked various Patriots and declared allegiance to the Super Bowl champions.

It sounded like a winner.

The rest of the evening was rounded out by a short, buoyant set of blue-collar hip-hop from 7L & Esoteric, who keep getting better as the years go on. D-Tension provided his smartly conceived verse while Porn Theater Ushers, Skitzofreniks, and Mic Stylz were less focused and somewhat shaky.

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