8:20 p.m.: Somehow, without checking in as media or anything, we've found our way backstage. That was a bit too easy; like, "Make You Feel A Little Uncomfortable About The Security Level At This Event" uneasy. 8:24: Yipes. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee just walked out onto the stage between performances, and is absolutely being hammered with boos. She tries to appeal to the crowd through homerism ("Go Tigers!") but it's for naught. The boos reign down from the heavens. She tries to unite through exploitative pity (something about people in Haiti). That doesn't work either. When she walks offstage she is somehow not crying. 8:30: One of the guys from The Boxx has "Sprite" cut into his hair on one side and "Step Off" cut into the other. It looks cool. We ask why he did it. His response: "Well, I went to school here." Oh, well that settles that then. 8:32: [Note: I'm going to have to step out of the Editorial We voice here.] Already two times tonight someone has asked, "You're Larami's husband, right?" I am indeed married to a woman named Larami. One of those people was Nnete from The Boxx. When I'm at work, what the fuck kind of craziness is going on at my house that my wife knows radio DJs and fans of step shows?
8:36: The Omegas are in the house. The Omegas are easily the gnarliest of all of the black fraternities. They're typically dressed in camouflage, purple and gold, and can usually be found doing all manner of ridiculous things. They're also typically built like Mack trucks, which means we absolutely will not be making fun of them tonight. 8:42: Hey, Letoya Luckett (above) is performing. That seems a weird choice. She's not really a "Get You Hype" type of performer. Watching Luckett and her two backup dancers perform, we immediately begin trying to determine who would win in a fight between these three and Just Brittany and her two back-up dancers. Just Brittany's dancers look a bit more fighter-ish, so probably them, but the Gutta Mamis would destroy them both. 8:42: Henry Adaso from The Rap Up just made his way back into the media section. That's a cool guy right there, who looks like a slightly more ominous version of Taye Diggs. He offers his fist up so we can bump it with our own in return, but we panic and end up grabbing it like a door handle and shaking it. Dammit. 8:58: Luckett is performing Destiny's Child's "No, No, No." That song was phenomenal, and the crowd responds accordingly. But the fact that it's the best part of her show tonight probably doesn't bode well for the strength of her solo career. 9:03: The Delta Sigma Theta sorority from U of H is up now. Their performance is based around them being in the Super Mario Bros. video game. It's a cute way to start, but now they're in the unfortunate circumstance of having to remain dressed like plumbers for the duration of their show.
9:20(ish): An organization (we think) called the Black McDonald's Owner's Association is doing a drawing. They're giving away tickets to the finals of the Sprite Step Off in Atlanta, as well as airfare, hotel accommodations and $500 spending money. They call the ticket number and a white girl (or maybe Mexican) comes running to the front with her winning ticket. The irony is not lost on one of the hosts: "All these black folk in here, and a white girl wins?!" 9:25: So in addition to the Step Show, Luckett's performance and Lupe Fiasco's set later, there will apparently also be a DJ battle they're calling the McDonald's Flavor Battle. Curious to see how McDonald's plans to bastardize one of the pillars of hip-hop. 9:27: Oh, they're going to make the three DJs all represent a different McDonald's burger, that's how. And just to really hammer home the commercialization, they're going to make them battle on top of their own gigantic model of a the box that each of their respective burgers come in. KRS-One has no problem with this at all. 9:34: So the battle is underway. DJ Tantrum is repping for Big Macs, DJ Handles is repping for the Angus Burger and DJ Mankind is repping for the Double Quarter Pounder. Two things: a) A "Double Quarter Pounder"? Seriously? Wouldn't that just be a half-pounder? b) If we were going to participate in a DJ contest and the sponsors said, "Hey, you're going to represent the Angus Burger," we would immediately quit. There's no way you're winning anything if you're repping the Angus Burger. It's the worst thing on their menu. Also, there's just something emasculating about the name "angus burger." It sounds like the name of a gay porn. 9:48: DJ Mankind is running away with this thing. It's really not even close. He's pumped through songs from UGK, Screw, Moe, Trae and a few others from that cohort. Plus, he's hat-tipped DJ Scratch by sampling the "I'ma play Jason [from Friday the 13th]" line from Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't No Half Steppin'" and sliding on a hockey mask while he spins. Adaso's response: "This isn't even fair." 9:56: Battle is over. Our guess at the result: Tantrum finished strong (he shamelessly used an a cappella Drake flow to close out his set, and the crowd ate that shit up) but came up short finishing second, Mankind was a beast through out and nabbed first while Handles substantiates the Angus Burgers Are For Losers hypothesis by finishing a distant third. The hosts announce that the crowd will be responsible for picking the winners Showtime at the Apollo-style. Let's see how it plays out...
9:57: BOOOOO! Mankind was just robbed. (Tantrum won.) See, this is why you don't let crowds decide things. This is just as bad as Iverson getting selected by the fans to start the NBA All-Star Game this year. 10:00: Houston's GT is backstage poking around. He's cool. He looks like a tiny Rick Ross. 10:25: Lupe's show is starting. They're opening with "Look Up At The Sky," which means there is a tiny white guy in a sleeveless shirt and tight, tight black jeans standing in the middle of the stage repeating that opening riff from the song. Very cool. 10:26: Lupe just came bouncing out from the back of the stage all hyped up like a mongoose. There's no way this isn't going to be a good show. (Yeah, we just hit you with a double negative. Thug thizzle.) 10:33: "Came up from the bottom of the eye exam, ZOOM // Now I'm the biggest 'G' in the room." - Lupe, "Say Something" 10:35: Lupe is talking about how his single "Hip-Hop Saved My Life" was inspired by Houston rappers. He says it came to be because of H-Town legends like Bun (an appropriate label), Slim (easy there), Cham (nope) and Paul (WHAT!? Legend? Paul?) He's just throwing everybody in there now. Who's next? The cashier from Wal-Mart in Meyerland? The guy that roams the street by my house breaking into cars? 10:38: The bigger a media guy's camera is, the more of an asshole he is. That, sirs, is a fact. 10:39: Lupe just brought out Trae tha Truth. There's a guy near the front of the stage that's going nuts. He just keeps shouting, "TRAE!!! TRAE THA TRUTH!!! TRAE!!!" Trae acapellas the beginning of "No Help," a song we've seen him regularly lean on when he wants to get crowd participation at live shows. 10:43: Hahaha. Lupe was introducing "Kick, Push" by saying, "and now for you're listening pleasure, one of the classics" and then posing like he was standing on a skateboard when someone near the front of the stage - possibly the same guy from the last timestamp - screams, "STAR TRAK IN THIS MOTHER FUCKER!" (Star Trak has done production for Lupe.) Lupe stops, glances towards the guy, flashes a quick smile then shoots him the Star Trak hand sign. That's why you need to always be near the front of the stage at concerts.
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10:47: We love the "Where my ladies at?" call and response that always happens at concerts. Does that work anywhere else? Can you walk into Denny's and be like, "Yo, all my ladies make some noise!"? 10:48: There's a guy here that has a white baseball cap with a leather brim, a leather strap on the back and a watch on the front of the hat. That seems like something you should know. 10:51: The guitarist that started the show is jumping around and having a grand old time. He and Lupe time their jumps at one point and the whole thing is very cutesy. Awkward white guitarists should be mandatory at rap concerts. 10:55: Lupe finishes with some new stuff from his upcoming Lasers album. The whole show was a proper good time. That is, right up until he asks for everyone to give another hand to Letoya Luckett. Whoops. Our fingers immediately cross in hopes of jinxing him into thanking "Shea tha Truth" for coming out, but it doesn't work. 11:05: Okay, we were totally planning on leaving, however we hear that one of the two groups left to perform is Zeta Tau Alpha, an all white sorority. What's more, they all come out dressed like Trinity from The Matrix with their own camera crew following them around. There's no way you can walk out on that. 11:07: The U of H Alpha Phi Alpha guys are the last of the fraternities to perform. They absolutely crush their show. Everything is crisp and on point and energetic and entertaining. There's one part where a girl comes walking across the stage, one of the guys tries to hit on her (the conversation is prerecorded and being played over the PA system so everyone can hear), she tells him she has a man, her phone rings, she says it's her man, she answers it and the infamous Tiger Woods voicemail comes on. The crowd erupts in laughter. There's no way these guys don't win the Step Show. That is, unless the crowd is responsible for picking the winner. Then all bets are off. The guy that was screaming at Lupe Fiasco might walk out of here with the title. 11:20: The Zetas are on stage. As soon as they beginning stepping - which they do very effectively - the crowd explodes. There is literally a girl in the media area watching the show with her mouth hanging open. This is like the bizarro version of Bring It On. 11:24: One of the girls is stepping on a tabletop that is being held in the air by six others girls. These girls are on point. Dammit. Now we have to stay to the end to see if they win, because there is a very real chance they could. 11:44: They're announcing the winners (finally). This show (and, by extension, review) has stretched way too long. The only people left in here are those affiliated with the performers. Winners are being announced... 11:49: 1st place for the sororities goes to Bizarro Bring It On. 1st place for the fraternities goes to the U of H Alphas. There are probably videos of this whole thing on YouTube by now if you want to see it. It's also coming on on MTV.