"Legends of Rap" featuring Rakim, Slick Rick, Whodini, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte Verizon Wireless Theater October 15, 2010
For more photos from Friday, see our slideshow here.
Friday night at Verizon Theater was a celebration of hip-hop legends, the types that would pick a fight with anyone who had the nerve to interchange "rap" with "hip-hop." Grandmaster Flash is hip-hop, they'll protest. Plies is rap.
The heavyweights on Friday night's bill - Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, MC Lyte, Rakim - are important enough to make every hip-hop head's all-time Top 10 list. In other words, they've earned the right to be cocky. This event was also a celebration of hip-hop in its purest form - MCing, DJing, and plenty of dancing. Yes, dancing has been a major part of hip-hop since its inception.
Kane kicked off the evening's proceedings with choice cuts from his catalog. Midway into his set, he invited Bun onstage to show the hometown crowd some love. Bun did "Big Pimpin'" and dipped. Kane would later bust some moves, nearly busting his incredibly tight pants in the process.
The best was yet to come. When Kane finally lunged into his smash song "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" the ol' skool heads in the building nearly touched the roof.
By now, we noticed that the bald-headed guy handling hosting duties is none other than Willie D. Shouldn't he be somewhere trying on a size 36 orange jumpsuit right now?
A certified ol' skool head, Willie D announced that he liked the dancing part of Kane's performance. He then performed his bit from Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks On Me." When Bushwick Bill's verse came on, Willie D knelt on the stage in an attempt to mimic the four-foot rapper's height. The crowd exploded in laughter.
Turns out Willie D is quite the comedian. That skill might come in handy in the big house.
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In between performances, DJ Kaos entertained the crowd with golden-era hip-hop songs by the likes of N.W.A., UGK and others. While Kaos did his best to engage the audience, the horribly muffled speakers at Verizon made it impossible to get into the songs. The place felt dull and lifeless at some point, even with Willie D yapping away.
Around 9:30 p.m., Whodini took the stage to provide a 15-minute reprieve from all the talking and dancing. They started out with "I'm A Ho." Something about fortysomethings singing "I'm a ho, I'm a ho" seemed awkward for some reason. This point wasn't lost on the revered rap crew.
They later explained: "That record got us a lot of hoes. But we're not hoes anymore. It's a different day and time - we're not hoes, we're pimps." Oh.
While Slick Rick received a majestic introduction, he also won the Least Enthusiastic Response award. Blame it on the poor sound quality, which proved to be a hindrance throughout the show. The bass numbers were too high and Slick Rick isn't one to raise his voice. At times, his vocals were flat out inaudible. Undeterred, he powered through a rendition of cult classics like "Mona Lisa," "Children's Story," and "La Di Da Di."
MC Lyte switched things up by performing with a live band. Lyte was rocking her 90s best - acid-wash jeans, white top, sleeveless jacket, and fresh Nikes to match. We were disappointed that she started out with a tepid freestyle to 50 Cent's "Just A Lil Bit." All was forgiven when she took us down memory lane with "Paper Thin" and "Keep On Keepin' On."
Rakim graced the stage at 10:50 for the grand finale. Clad in an orange hoodie, Ra assumed a b-boy stance as the crowd cheered. A few songs in, though, nearly half the crowd left the venue. Clearly, this wasn't Ra's best performance. In fact, both Rakim and Slick Rick have given better shows in Houston. But it wasn't exactly embarrassing, given the sound quality.
Seeing all those empty seats at Verizon made us wonder if this would've have happened at a rock legends concert. How come hip-hop legends fail to command the same level of respect icons in other genres seem to enjoy?
Rakim left us with this understated piece of advice: "Houston, keep representing that real hip-hop." If only this were true.
Personal Bias: '80s baby right here.
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The Crowd: Other '80s babies in Kangol hats and acid-wash jeans.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You don't know nothing about that Eazy-E, bwoy."
SET LIST (SELECTIONS)
"Warm It Up, Kane" "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" "Friends" "Freaks Come Out at Night" "Paper Thin" "I Got Soul" "Microphone Fiend" "My Melody" "Hey Young World" "La Di Da Di" "Mona Lisa" "Children's Story"