It's been a long time. I shouldn't of left, but shit, its summer, music is boring right now and a motherfucker got hisself a JOB. So rather than opining about Rick Ross's succulent yet deceptive man-titties or Soulja Boy v. Ice-T during what was admittedly an inspiration drought, I sat back, wondering if I'd avoid the blog death that happens to most people doing this self-important e-typing bullshit. Luckily, yesterday was the NYC date of Rock The Bells, which was pretty much the one of the best lineups of anything in the history of ever. And this counts Woodstock that, honestly, had a lot of shitty filler that didn't age well.
After seeing my tax dependent Christian for a rare opportunity to actually hang out with one of my friends and downing some choice Colombian food for breakfast/lunch in Queens, I made my virgin voyage to Long Island. I was unable to find out where the Queens-to-LI bus was since it was Sunday, and being an hour late because of the lunch (I should've left around 12:30 to catch Dead Prez at 2:30, who were the first act I gave a shit about missing) I had to call upon all of the colors of the wind to navigate myself to Jones Beach. If transit wasn't so easy to deal with in NYC, I would've been fucked, but luckily I was able to read the map and ask the right questions, though I still felt terribly lost and embarrassed that I'm pushing 21 and never had never rode the LIRR or been to Long Island.
Unsurprisingly, the trains at Jamaica were filled with people coming to Rock The Bells who also didn't give a shit about missing about 6 Paid Dues acts. There was a nice mix of genuinely hot women and only a tiny smattering of the DudeManBrah's that gave Rock The Bell's its reputation last year of the pre-eminent wigger haven.
Rage Against The Machine seems to really bring out the retards.
After getting there and a bit of uncertainty with about what bus to take, all 123 of us made it on the convoy and were at the beach from Freeport, LI in about 20 minutes.
Following the signs posted and reverberations of Dead Prez's final three songs, I got to my ridiculous nosebleed seat and avoided the overpriced food and interesting but kind of futile distractions (I'd love to spit a 16 for a Burger King king mask, but, nah.) I figured, when I bought the tickets in late May on Ticketmassa that the seats wouldn't be that bad, but I got to experience the kind of immaculate view that comes with not spending a third of my paycheck on concert tickets. But luckily, save for Immortal Technique who tends to suffer from a weak flow and the same stale, cliched undie rap beats that helped kill NY rap, the whole lineup was energetic and awesome. I missed "Hip Hop" because I opted to piss before going up the endless cascade of stairs to section 24 seat V19, but I don't really like more than four Dead Prez songs anyway. I always thought it was ridiculous that they didn't blow up in the hood with their incendiary and kind of hood-ignorant politics and embracing the sort of shit I used to run into in Bed-Stuy (wheatgrass-promoting militant natty dreads with far left agendas and light-skinnededed girlfriends), but that doesn't mean I'd care to see them work through "Mind Sex" on a hot Sunday afternoon.
After Immortal Technique got done being angry and Peruvian, De La Soul got onstage and I realized that from then on out, I would be bombarded with 7 main stage acts I really fucking enjoy and would probably thoroughly embarrass myself with my quiet yet energetic rapping to shit I know. But for the sake of clarity, here is the rest of the show by act:
De La Soul- Unsurprisingly, they opted to not do "Me Myself and I". Which is cool, because due to my newfound appreciation of their non-"Oooh" songs (Fuck it, their first two records are classics), but I sort of wanted them to just do "Jenifa Taught Me" and like all of De La Soul Is Dead. They fell into a common trap of playing shit from albums people didn't like that much (for good reason) or new shit. Which, from death metal to Cappadonna, is always a terrible idea. Unless that shit is Thriller, I'll pass on trying to engage and decipher through crappy sound your latest 2rd rate J Dilla homage (Looking at you, Q-Tip). But they definitely could rock a crowd and kept things lean, just the three of them onstage and then briefly Q-Tip when he ran on stage for his "Buddy (Remix)" verse, which I thoroughly spazzed out for. Its enough to like some shit yourself, but to have this cavernous beach side theater full of heads reciting obscure lyrics to shit no one under 25 listens to is beautiful.
The Pharcyde- Aww. See, here is the thing. De La Soul, with their the Hives-aping "Freezing during a song for effect" thing got away with playing three post Buhloone Mind State songs no one knew or cared about (Doing "Oooh" with Redman would've been awesome). But though the theater was only half full this early into the main stage acts the crowd didn't get into any of the songs until "Passing Me By", which makes me wonder if its because The Pharcyde are this Cali rap group whose talent has been overshadowed by being the go-to reference made by white people who don't like rap to prove that they "do like rap". But to be honest I only recognized 5 songs, the aforementioned classic as well as "Oh Shit", "Ya Mama", "Drop", "Runnin'", and "I'm That Type of Nigga". Despite the noticeable flatness of the crowd, the dudes were entertaining and pretty much, like those Young Scooby Doo cartoons from the 90's, did their own signature dances throughout the whole set. Kind of felt bad for them, considering they were the first reunited act to play a set and didn't get the rapturous "welcome back" they might've deserved.
Raekwon & Ghostface- Holy shit. Okay, here's the thing. Everyone who played tonight made at least one album that I consider to be one of my favorites ever and unadulterated classics. Except Dead Prez and Immortal Technique, but that goes without saying. But having seen Ghost before last year at Nokia, I had a good idea what to expect, which was the throwback Wu/90's rap stage set-up, with about 30 hangers-on, family members, and weed carriers on stage while Cappadonna, Ghost and Rae did a bunch of the very best songs off Only Built For Cuban Linx and Ghost did "We Celebrate" and "Be Easy", which are neither his best or worst tracks. And as usual, there was the honoring of ODB's memory, constantly doing only their verses from other people's songs, doing only one verse and a hook at a time of their own, and Cappa or Rae doing the verses of other people, including Deck's still-titanic "Triumph" verse, which I know by heart and usually dumb out on whenever the song plays, and Nas' "Verbal Intercourse" verse, which was odd because dunny was in the building but didn't pull a Q-Tip and join his mans and them. Regardless, there were like 14 songs played (or thirds of songs, really) and I couldn't have been happier as the only song played I didn't dig was "We Celebrate" which, real talk, is unpleasantly "old guy rap" and uncool despite how on point the lyrics are. Plus, they did "Glaciers of Ice" and "Incarcerated Scarfaces" with maximum vigor so everybody got their hardbody anthems for the day. At this point, I took a break to go see what the hipsters were doing at the Paid Dues stage since, despite only like 10 minutes between each act, I somehow though missing ten minutes of Red&Meth wouldn't be a big deal.
Spank Rock w/Amanda Black and some of those DJ's they're always with or some shit- Here's the thing. I checked out Spank rock based on a cosign from drew Barrymore on her iTunes celebrity playlist, which I check out a few times a year to see if any of the featured actors and musicians had somewhat decent or atypical music taste. So far, Drew was the closest to being interesting, and the track she chose was "Bump" which is an awesome track and led to the even more hipstertastic and awesome "Bump (Switch Remix)". Half of YOYOYOYOYOYOYO is good, so I got mired into that whole Plastic Little/Amanda Blank/Spank rock thing for a minute last year, until the boringness of Spank's verses and the shittyness of all the music they've released since that album became clear and it just became annoying. There's something sad about watching hipsters and scene kids taken out of dark slutty clubs where they thrive and people enable their failings and put on a small stage in front of 30 people as infinitely more talented musicians' sets are blaring about 30 feet away. They, for all of their efforts, look like pets right before you put them to sleep, in a weird environment and over-doing it for you approval. Still, lots of good-looking people. And they tried hard for what's its worth, but it probably fared better outside of New York as evidenced here.
For the record, the Paid Dues line-up:
Spank Rock with Amanda Blank 6:40
Devlin & Darko 5:55
Akrika Bambaataa 4:45
The Cool Kids 4:05
Jay Electronica 12:55
Kidz In The Hall 11:55
DJ Blaqstarr 11:15
I feel bad for everyone who played before Tyga (Really? Tyga?), since people mostly filed in for Ghost and Rae and I can't imagine more than 8 people watched Wale or Murs. Though I was tempted to say "fuck Immortal Technique" and go check out The Cool Kids. But I was timid and lazy and it was a bitch getting up to my mosquito and dragonfly-ridden seats. On the way back, I noted a commotion and stop to check out exactly what was going on, and one of the many chill people there last night told me some fuckery with someone getting carried out on a stretcher happened, and that no one had gone on yet. 15 minutes later when things got back to normal, Mos Def came on rather than Red&Meth, which was a relief when i found out that Red and Meth hadn't gone on yet.
Mos Def- Dude is probably one of the best live MC's ever considering he does a bit of everything, from geeking out to crooning and invoking 30 years of rap history and etc. Plus, he only played one song from Tru3 Magic, "Undeniable", which was one of the three good songs on there and flipped the same sample that Rza and Nas did this year. He played the original versions of the songs that are sampled on his albums to intro those same songs, but it got to be a bit much when he just played some reggae for 6 minutes straight until the melody from KRS-ONE's "Stop The Violence" and Black Star's "Definition" played and segued into Talib coming out them doing the song, to crowd eruption. Which is cool, but I always through that not only was Mos better than Talib, but Black Star's record wasn't amazing enough to backup people's fervor to see them together all the time. Mos was the only exception to the "don't play new songs" rule, since the new tracks he did sounded pretty fucking great and might be further proof that Tru3 Magic was just a dud to get out his Geffen contract, and the set was topped off by "Get By", which is the best thing Talib will ever do and is still a gorgeous, legitimately uplifting track, and then bringing Pharoahe Monche, who had been around earlier for Immortal Technique, out to do "Simon Says", which was the first full-blown ridiculous moment of the day as everyone went retarded and that fucking legendarily monstrous beat boomed loud enough to be heard by ever middle class Italian family on the isle.
Only downer was "Ms. Fat Booty" getting cut off halfway through and abandoned because of an error caused by miscommunication between Mos and the DJ. Fucked up my recital.
Red&Meth- From the announcement of the lineup, I thought about the weirdness of having Cuban Linx and Red&Meth both doing duo sets and the difference between the old Wu way of doing stage shows and Red&Meth's way, which is just as cocky, energetic, ridiculous and awesome as it seemed when I saw it discussed on MTV 10 years ago. Shit, besides Method Man being hyper and frequently dancing wildly and seeming to be floating 6 inches off the ground while doing it, its probably the same shit from that old Def Jam tour from Backstage.
Fuck, that's a great movie.
But moreso than anyone else so far, they knew the drill and it was all hits and singles, every song people expected and wanted they got, plus some surprises like "Def Squad Delite" with Keith Murray and fucking "Tonight's Da Night", which made me the happiest girl in Long Island not getting DP'd on her parents bed on a Stickcam show. Now, every show I've ever been to had weed, so that's nothing new, but the shit was omnipresent during their set, as was the "Really?" feeling when Redman asked if the crowd saw How High, wanted to see a sequel, and then revealed that they were making the sequel.
Oh and +1000 rap points for bringing out Slick rick to do like 8 bars of "La Di Da Di" and then leave the stage. That's fucking ballsy.
Nas- And then Nas. Nas is maybe one of the more difficult rappers ever, more than Pac because Pac never made a decent album so fuck him. But I've never seen the guy live so I didn't know whether or not to expect the same lax quality control as his post It Was Written album output or what. Tenser, to the point the guys down the row from me booed and inspired half the theater to do the same, was the nearly half an hour wait to sound check Nas' live band, which didn't really get much use anyway and his attempt to put these weird studio musicians, save for the sonic heft added by the drummer, over his tracks didn't fare well and got cut out three songs in after the awkward riffing and keyboard patch over "NY State of Mind". Speaking of which, he played, truncated Ghostface style, about half of Illmatic, which was the fulfillment of a dream I've had since hearing the record, as well as a few surprising singles, like "Hate Me Now". I was really disappointed he didn't do "Oochie Wally", but I guess its a dream deferred until I get to see dude perform as an event with a less "Yaaay rap" vibe and more of a "Pussy poppin in a handstand" feel. Oh, and he brought Jay out for those two songs they did together. "Success" is meh, but "Black Republican" is a fucking behemoth with that kind of bass-heavy volume in that kind of venue. All was forgiven, although dude has terrible breath control, though he was forced into stopping enough that it just seemed like he was being "deep". You know...in that high school 2Pac fan way. Weird to be privy to one of those "event" moments, even though every guest except Pharoahe and Biz Markie (during De La's set) was obvious.
Oh and "N.I.G.G.E.R." is achingly beautiful. All is forgiven, Nasir.
A Tribe Called Quest- this started out weird because it was basically 13 or so songs, and the first 6 was a Q-Tip solo set wherein he did his singles, the new track he's putting out, and his verse from "Excursions", all with Mos Def, geeking out next to him. Which is another thing, there's a pointed difference, I noticed, between Method Man's cocky hyperactivity, and Q-Tip geeking out. Its hard not to like the guy. There was a really cool usage of the video screen attached to the towering DJ booth on stage that wasn't really used at all until Q-Tip's set, and then become a whole experience when Ali, Phife, and that weird Morehouse professor looking guy who never does verses came out and basically performed the Tribe's Anthology album live. And of course, not going against the grain of the genre or tour, brought out Busta Rhymes and Consequence, the former who did his "Scenario" verse much better than at Fiascogate last year.
All in all it was a beautiful night oddly devoid of the transport issues or drama I've become accustomed to going to shows and I even got to force an upgrade of my seats by moving down to the middle section since, though sold out on Ticketmaster, there were about 40 empty seats scattered about the area. My progress lower to the floor and closer to the stage was a huge step for my people, and not since Lenny Kravitz nutted in Lisa Bonet and several other pale women or Barack Obama became the first blacasian presidential candidate since Andre Jackson has such a momentous moment momented to the descendents of mulatta.
Now if only the crowd had acquiesced to Redman and Pharoahe Monche's peaceable suggestions to show their titties.
Titties are always nice.