First of all, I'd like to thank my (wireless) connect, and being able to still use the task manager to start programs. I might have to throw down some cash for this bullshit this week, so I can't stress enough: ALWAYS DO SYSTEM RESTORE.
Anyway, I'd be remiss if I waited too long to document the Hip Hop Lives show from Friday, and lose what details I still remember.
My man Christian's birthday was Sunday, and for part of my staggered gift process we went to the Ghostface/Rakim/Brother Ali show I have been waiting for ever since I missed Ghostface's Spank Rock and Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival performances. This was notable for being only the second time I felt at one with a crowd at any show, last one being the Roots/Lupe Fiascogate show last spring. I was taken aback by the number of Wu stans (again, mostly white males, who I appreciate for keeping Wu standom alive) on line, as well as this being the most number of late 20's hood cats I've ever seen at any show (since I don't go to those wack BB King's/Knitting Factory rap shows).
Seriously. The blunts were sparked about 4 mins into people being inside of Nokia. Theere was an odd sprinkle of teenage hipster, but it was an even divide between white hip-hop fans that were definitely at Rock the Bells, and 90's cats that, by some stroke of luck, kept up with Ghostface even as he became a critical darling and the fourth post of the hipster bed of rappers (with Clipse, Cam'Ron, and Lil' Wayne). After some wait and an awesome heavily-latin mini-set by the Rhythm Roots All Stars, Brother Ali came on. I hate Rhymesayers and Def Jux, and I don't listen to boring music or current NY rap, so I didn't know any of the guy's catalog. I did know he was on Rhymesayers and that he was an albino, and I predicted he'd have to be, logically, pretty good to overcome that, since fact is, having any sort of physical malady or trait that makes you not "look normal" is a hindrance in the arts.
And he was. If there was any doubt of tonight's theme, it was that it was going to be the real of the classic MC as defined by the Golden Era rubric. No Saigon/Jim Jones/Ringtone Rap bullshit. Pure crowd control and A LOT of onstage reverence for the icons of the canon, including those on the tour themselves during Ali's set. The guy definitely has presence and rhyming ability and even has some really neat (yes, neat) songs about being yourself and his son and sneaks in references to his albinism. He did lose the crowd from time to time with three songs that seemed to have the same happy-go-lucky faux-70's pop beat styles (as interpreted by the band, who were TIGHT), but he got them back whenever he freestyled his written raps (lolz) and invoked his touring partners as legends. And surprisingly, he had fans in the audience that knew every word. But still, fuck Atmosphere.
Ghost was second, which worked out because C needed to rest his back and legs from standing and we could do that during Rakim's set. I went apeshit. I went retarded. I recited every lyric except the shit from Supreme Clientele, which, except for parts of tracks and most of "Nutmeg" (which he didn't play despite me and this guy screaming for it) I couldn't memorize for the life of me ever. Which was also a problem during the set. The show was amazing and the band's renditions of shit like "Apollo Kids" and "The Champ" were incredible, but Ghost seemed to forget that despite everyone being Wu stans and loving his body of work, his lyrics aren't exactly the catchiest. Dude is complex, so I have to defend the crowd when he eventually got noticeably vexed that his first four songs didn't have the same singalong effect as when he did some Wu acapella's to test the crowd and make us prove ourselves (He did "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing Ta Fuck Wit", "CREAM", and Deck's "Triumph" verse, which I can proudly say I destroyed, yelling like an asshole in the crowd from stage left). Which worked great, except, just like I do personally, the crowd hilariously forgot the second half of Deck's verse, since it sort of loses momentum halfway through (or maybe because the beat changes). But Starks did his "Ice Cream" verse, "Criminology", "Fish", "Back Like That", "Holla", two shitty Theodore Unit tracks, one shitty Bulletproof Wallets track, "Cherchez La Ghost", "Be Easy", "Daytona 500", "Run", and maybe some other tracks I forgot.
I was still disappointed, just because Ghost has, bar none, the best catalog of any rapper, and one of the best catalogs ever (only one wack album. COME ON), so he could do two hours and I'd be stoked. I wanted to hear every fucking song, especially interpreted by the impeccable Rhythm Roots All Stars, but nah, he seemed pissed and ended with "Run" and left. I recall him getting vexed and saying that being his hometown, we shouldn't bullshit and play the wall and we should be more hype than Utah, and what we give him is what he gives back. This is what led to the Wu verse sing-along test, and I don't think he left satisfied with the crowd participation or reaction, despite still getting a lot more out of a NY crowd than most performers (what can I say? We suck.), and he gave a stern-ass warning to give more to Rakim, which I don't think happened.
I was more curious than interested in seeing Rakim perform. I like a lot of Rakim/Eric B. tracks, but none of their albums as a whole, although few pre-90's rap albums are that solid, anyway, save for the first three Boogie Down Productions albums. I was also, on principle, pissed to see 25-35 people at least leave after Ghost was done. Where I come from, if you pay more than $12 for a ticket, fucking stay, or you don't deserve to have the income you so flippantly throw away. Anyway, me and C rested our weary legs and backs (we're out of shape) for a while, and wished for free non-fountain water. After watching Rakim do a few tracks on the big screen downstairs, I wanted to catch the rest of the set, which was fucking awesome. Those tracks hit even harder live, and though the mic system robs all of the MC's of their personal vocal nuances and only enhanced the fact that Rakim has lost most of his measured smoothness and adopted this strong grimy accent of late, I delighted in hearing classic track after classic track. Rakim made a fatal error, though. He ended with, I think, "Microphone Fiend", and had prefaced it by saying it was the last track. Then, as everyone was rushing out, he went into more songs. I felt bad for the guy, but that was a dumb move on his part. It was maybe half an hour to one and everyone there was probably planning on going to the club or something afterwards. Still, like when I saw Slayer's boring ass three years ago, it was good to cross Rakim off the "need-to-see" list.
Strangely enough, I regret not seeing Ghost the other two times this year even more now. I would see that dude 50 times if I could. HITS FOR DAYS, B.
-Ghost did a tribute to those who died, discussing that his brother died last year on ODB's birthday and that ODB's birthday had just passed, all while playing "I Ain't Mad At Cha". He said it was Pac's best joint (I actually think "I Get Around", "Hit 'Em Up", "2 of Amerika's Most Wanted" and "Dear Mama" are better, but, meh) and paid tribute to him and Biggie. So, being me, when he big-upped Pac, I yelled as loud as I could, "FUCK THAT NIGGA!!!". C thought it was funny.
-I like Cappadonna, despite the fact that he sucks. More for his interesting stage presence and wacky moves and his affinity with Ghost. But the dude's "darts" are pretty dull. I could've done without three "freestyles".
-LOL @ Shawn Wigz getting sonned all night. First, his mic got taken away so Cappadonna could do some songs, which left him bouncing and looking dumb on stage (he's always offbeat, BTW). Then, when he got it back during "Ice Cream", he seemed to forget to not say the "nigga" part of "...watch these rap niggas get all up in your guts". So, he would intermittently slip-up and say it, make a face of realization, not move his mouth when it was time to say "nigga", then continue to fuck-up and say "nigga". Sad, considering the Wigz in Shawn Wigz probably stands for "Wigger" and he might've been named so by Ghost. Dude is really goofy, but then, so is all of Theodore Unit. Then again, Theodore Unit>Ice Water. Not saying a lot, but still.
-Ghost is intimidating when he's pissed.
-I would've loved to have seen Sun God out there with his dad or at least Ghost and Rakim do a duet, but nah, no avail.
-I agree that Rakim is legendary and changed the course of hip-hop, but maybe people would hold him higher in their rankings of the best rappers or not walk out one song too early during his set if he could get his shit together and make a good album. or any album, at all.
-The theme was really pounded through when Ghost played some Kane beats during his set and rhymed over them. Poor Big Daddy Kane. Had he had better albums, kids would care more.
-LOL @ me wanting to congratulate Shawn Wigz when I saw him in the downstairs area after Rakim's set was closing.