Yo! MTV Rap Fest

I can't help but approach the Yo! MTV Rap Fest, a show I'm just gonna assume MTV has nothing to do with, with both fond nostalgia and pity. Sure, the show features some of the most recognizable names of late-'80s/early-'90s hip-hop: Naughty By Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Rob Base, Live Crew — I'm still trying to figure out if Luther Campbell's noninvolvement is a good thing or a bad thing — and Tone-Loc, with former Yo! MTV Raps host Ed Lover as emcee. But the show itself seems like a self-contained moment in time, when all these cats were on top of their game and riding high, completely unfazed by the possibility that their careers wouldn't have the longevity they thought they would. Don't get me wrong — I'm not dismissing these cats as flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonders. There are several artists on this bill whose careers I wish had gone the distance; any living member of my family will tell you that Tone-Loc was all I listened to when I was 12. But I'm sure people will want to hear the two or three hits each had, and that's it; it's very unlikely that these words will be uttered during Saturday night: "Here's something from my new album." That's the unfortunate reality of these retro package tours. Whether it's hip-hop or new wave or hair metal, these artists are hitting you with the past, mostly to keep their minds (and yours) off the future.

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