All photos: Blinkofanaye
Those who attended the 9:30 Club Wednesday evening were treated to a revival of hip hop’s golden age: the Hip Hop Gods tour, headlined by Public Enemy with Chuck D serving as master of ceremonies. This was the first night of the12-city tour, which meant there was genuine spontaneity among reunited old friends that future dates will lack. However, the tour’s infancy also showed that Chuck D and the tour promoters were unsure how to manage eight aging hip-hop acts in one night.
Chuck boasted several times that he served as an MC on Long Island prior to becoming one hip-hop’s most influential rappers (“I retired and started making records”) and his hosting skills had not atrophied. He repeatedly expressed his past and current admiration for the tour’s artists. During the changeover between rappers, he and DJ Johnny “Juice” Rosado regaled the audience with stories of past tours and promoted their new albums. He plugged HipHopGods.com and his online radio site. He encouraged you to support local artists. And most of all, he wanted you to follow him on Twitter.
Chuck explained that this was a “no bullshit” tour and that there should be no separation between the artists and their audience. He said that he doesn’t have a Facebook account but that he reads every tweet sent to @MrChuckD. (I later found out @ChuckD is taken by a “geek” who will turn the handle over “in exchange for clock necklaces.”) He also expressed disgusted when his daughter told that him she paid $120 to attend the concert of an unnamed rapper that was just “a’ight” but “there were a lot of explosions.” Well, there were no explosions this evening. Just old rappers rapping their asses off.
The first artist I saw during the three-hour spectacle was Detroit’s Awesome Dre, a loose affiliate of Insane Clown Posse. Dre put on a energizing set featuring 1989’s “Frankly Speaking” and “Dis is Babylon.” Like Chuck, Awesome Dre and nearly every other rapper encouraged you to follow him or her on Twitter. This promotion became grating after the sixth or seventh time that Chuck held up the show so a rapper could spell his or her e-mail address, but this was by design. The tour stressed the importance of circumventing the middle man to enable financial and artistic independence. I don’t know if he reads his mentions and criticism as often as Chuck claims he does, but from one son of Detroit to another, @AwesomeDre313 was one of the evening’s high points.
The other artists were of varying quality. Son of Bazerk feat. No Self Control, a hip-hop trio consisting of @SonofBazerk, female rapper Half Pint, Almighty Jahwell and the Ving Rhames-doppelganger Daddy Raw performed next. The men were clad in suits and dispensed rhymes both old and new, such as “On The Verge of An Ass Whippin.” @WiseIntelligent next took the stage to receive an award from DC- based Wu-Tang Radio host @DJSoYo for his activism prior to his set. The New Jersey-based rapper, a literal backpacker, got props for his Poor Righteous Teachers crew and dropped a freestyle before performing “I Said It” backed with a quartet of drummers.
Of all the artists on the undercard, I was most excited to see Leaders of the New School. A few years ago, I was blown away by Busta Rhymes’ performance at Rock The Bells. Even though he was clad in a gray sweat suit and had gained a few pounds since his MTV days, @BustaRhymes remains one of the best showmen I’ve had the privilege of seeing. Unfortunately @BustaRhymes and fellow New School rapper Charlie Brown were not at the club. Chuck did say he expected them at future date. Nevertheless, @LOTNSofficial member Dinco D put on a solid, if underwhelming solo show, tearing through “Sobb Story” and a truncated version of A Tribe Called Quest classic “Scenario.” I had no problem with his set, but the tour should bill only him rather than a reunited @LOTNSofficial.
Upon conclusion of the @LOTNSofficial set, former BET Rap City VJs Chris Thomas and Prime came out on stage to shoot the shit with Chuck and joke about a mysterious “comedy tape” that was made during an early ‘90s tour. Fun fact: It turns out that Chuck D was the person responsible for naming the Leaders of the New School. So far this revival was living up to its billing: lots of good music, a little comedy and some interviews sprinkled with self-promotion. As for the crowd, it mirrored the artists: middle-aged African Americans with a few juggalos sprinkled throughout.
It was after 10 pm and we still had three more artists to go before Public Enemy. Philadelphia rapper @SchoollyD, the so-called “Godfather of Gangster Rap,” slogged his way through a brief set, proclaiming his love for Mary Jane and himself. @DaRealMonieLove explained she got her rap career started when she, as a 17-year-old living in England, became acquainted with Public Enemy through fanmail.
The 42-year-old mother of four gave shout-outs to other ladies in the game by resurrecting her hits as well as a verse from Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man.” @DaRealMonieLove wisely wore a Robert Griffin III shirt, but mock-pleaded with the audience to not post any pictures to Facebook or Instagram or else she’s catch some flack at the tour’s Philadelphia stop, where she formerly worked as a morning radio host. Considering the Eagles defense couldn’t stop Helen Keller from scoring, I can’t blame her for shifting allegiances to the rookie.
@XClanmusic were the penultimate act, taking stage shortly before 11. Brother J looked haggard, but did the best he could, wheezing out “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It” and other afrocentric jams. I was not deeply familiar with @XClanmusic prior to the evening, so I can’t accurately rate the quality of their show, but I will note that the crowd seemed lethargic throughout their set.
As the clock ticked toward midnight, I abandoned the 9:30 Club before Public Enemy performed in order to make it home. I admit this was a terrible cop-out, but so it goes. It sucks the evening ran late, but this was the first night of the tour. I’m sure the show will tighten up.
Yes, I do regret not hearing “Rebel Without A Pause,” “911 Is A Joke” and “Bring the Noise.” I’m sure those who didn’t have to work in the morning lost their mind when “Fight The Power” dropped in the encore. According to the setlist tweeted by @930Club, @FLAVORFLAV even hopped behind the drums for a song—that must have been a sight to see. While I’m bummed I missed Public Enemy, I’m did witness vintage performances from some of hip-hop’s lost acts, including a #rare appearance from a long-retired Long Island emcee: @MrChuckD.