I went to my first ‘real’ hip hop show this past Sunday night. Well, that’s not fair…I’ve seen Shad twice, and I saw a guy open for RJD2 in 2006, though I can’t remember his name. I say this particular show was ‘real’ because it was a set of hip hop legends, a crowd who was actually there to see them, and I felt out of place.
Now, I should be clear, I’ve been listening to hip hop music all my life (well, most of it) but I’ve never been a part of the culture. Hip hop is more a culture than a music style, and that’s where I felt out of place. I’m a gay, pink-mohawked geek. ‘Nuff said!
On that note…the show was amazing! Mainly due to the EmCee power of Redman. As he said (paraphrased), “I’m not a rapper, I’m not up here with fifty other guys rapping…I’m an EmCee.” And it’s true. Though the ceremony was held in a bar, and the attendees were a collection of mostly guys in baggy clothes…Redman was the master. He controlled the room.
From the second he took to the stage he was smiling, you could see he was enjoying himself. It didn’t matter if there were 300 or 3000 people (another quote from the night), Redman brought it. He was energetic, tight, personable…I’m gonna say it…he was perfect.
And I’d be a dork if I didn’t mention Saukrates, close friend to Redman and Method Man, and Toronto-raised hip hop legend. Full disclosure: I know Saukrates, or Soxx…he knows me, Roo, or as he calls me, ‘Kanga-ROO.’ That’s how I ended up at the show…I was there to see Soxx. And Soxx did an amazing job holding his own, because he was on stage in a BIG shadow, and I mean BIG…Redman isn’t a small-man.
Soxx and Red tore it up. They aggressively reminisced about the old days, the old hip hop, the 90s hip hop. I say aggressively because I’ve never seen someone walk down memory lane with a brash “Do you remember this OLD SHIT?” They pulled out House of Pain and rapped along with it…they pulled out other classics and did the same. They tested us – turning down the volume now and again to make sure we knew the lyrics – and when we did…they praised us for being real.
Although I stood at the back, near the sound board, I felt completely drawn in, like I was a part of the crowd even though I hadn’t earned my place there.
Hip hop shows are more like theatre than, say, a rock performance. Granted, an arena act may feel like they’re doing theatre with pyro and visualizations…but that’s Broadway…Hip Hop is legitimate theatre. They drew us through a story we didn’t even know we were watching.
They played on our ADD, with high-energy, trimmed down versions of their songs…they cut out the boring lead in, the long bridges, the tail end…the song started, bashed us in the head, and ended with Redman releasing the rest of his energy in a primal scream on stage. He knew he wasn’t on a CD, he was on a stage, and he had an audience…it was a performance.
Redman kept it all connected with some cool tricks: call and answer…repetition (“You all know, I love doing the ooooolllld shit”; “Is T.Dot in the house, one time”, etc.)…teasing a song before dropping it and returning to it later in the night…
I feel so…lame analyzing the show like this…but I can’t describe it in any other way. It was an experience, not a concert. And the experience was completely in Redman’s control. Saukrates kept everything going himself playing several roles – hypeman, backup singer, and even solo act for three songs. And Redman’s love of Saukrates was not lost…he told the crowd to give the local artists their due, and none more than Soxx.
For my first ‘real’ hip hop show I got a real treat…an amazing performance, and a hand shake from the man himself. I highly recommend catching him when he comes back through town with Method Man in 2012. Even if you just hang back by the soundboard, don’t worry…Redman’ll make sure you’re included.