It didn't measure up to 50 Cent, but the "American Idol" stage got its first-ever taste of hip-hop Tuesday, and even more surprising, the judges actually liked it.
Tackling 311's 1995 rap/rock/reggae hit "All Mixed Up," contestant Blake Lewis both sang and rapped Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez's parts, respectively, along with adding a bit of his own beat-boxing (see " 'Idol' Recap: Sundance, Phil Stacey Strike Out On Disappointing Guys' Night"). The judges praised the performance for being modern and unique, and "Idol" bloggers have followed suit.
"Blake brought something new and fresh, and showed his versatility," David Bloomberg, editor of FoxesOnIdol.com, told MTV News.
"His style is unheard of and he draws from a much more current pool than contestants in years past," added Jacob Clifton, who covers "Idol" for TelevisionWithoutPity.com.
Also approving of Lewis' performance was 311's Hexum, who has been following "Idol" closely because fellow semifinalist Brandon Rogers is a friend who has collaborated with his brother, singer Zack Hexum.
"I was really stoked that he gave it such a cool dubby arrangement," Hexum said. "I thought he did it really good and I thought it was really courageous of him to do something outside of what they do on that show. I was pretty nervous, like what if this is his nail in the coffin, choosing one of your songs? What if the judges trash him and he's voted out? But then it turned out to be really positive."
Hexum said his phone began ringing off the hook as soon as the performance started.
"It's funny, it's a guilty pleasure for so many people so people were like qualifying it, like, 'Oh, my girlfriend likes the show,' or, 'My kid likes the show.' Yeah right," Hexum said. "I'm like, 'I know, I got it on right now.' Even as many cheesy elements as there are to the show, it's got a lot of real human drama."
The 311 boards were also instantly slammed with comments, mostly encouraging other fans to vote for Lewis, who called 311 his all-time favorite band. "311 fans are open-minded and not too [snobby]," Hexum said. "I always say to just like what you like and not worry who else likes it."
Oh, and Hexum was not offended that none of the judges knew his song. "It adds to the cool factor," he joked.
Lewis' performance came just five days before 311 fans' annual holiday, 311 Day (held on March 11, of course), which the band is celebrating through several Web contests and promotions. 311 are also planning to announce a summer tour soon.
"Even though traditional logic is to work on an album and tour after that, touring has become such the core of what we do," said Hexum, who just ran the Los Angeles Marathon as a benefit for his Liberal Hexum charity. "We could tour forever without putting out an album. But when we tour in the middle it makes the album better because we see what works live and it gets our chops up to the best they can be."