Lil' Keke, E.S.G., Big Pokey Warehouse Live June 27, 2012
June 27 isn't an official holiday in Houston -- yet. But the date remains the preferred occasion for formally celebrating the life, career and influence of Robert Davis, our beloved DJ Screw. On Wednesday, the remnants of the Screwed Up Click, the rap crew he helped make famous, came together to relive classic rhymes and pay tribute to the local legend.
The love for Screw hung in the air like blunt smoke all night inside Warehouse Live's cavernous ballroom, which was legitimately filled with more than a few hip-hop heads who couldn't have been more than ten years old when the DJ released his wildly influential "June 27" tape in 1996. Pretty cool to see this music passed down.
A bevy of young artists took the stage to open the show, but the crowd mostly ignored them. This was a night to revel in the city's proudest musical past, not to think about the future. The only exception to the indifference was a stellar set turned in by Propain, the last of the openers. Highlighted by his verse from Short Dawg's "H-Town," Pain garnered the night's first big cheers from the audience.
The S.U.C. affiliates arrived on stage fast and furious after that. First up was Lil' Flip (and his braids), who immediately dropped "Sunny Day" right onto the audience's heads. Snatches of other favorites like "I Can Do Dat," "Sunshine" and "This is the Way We Ball" followed, but my personal highlight was Flip's verse from Three 6 Mafia's "Ridin' Spinners," the soundtrack to one of the all-time great YTMND pages that I'd managed to somehow forget.
Before Botany Boyz' C-Note took the stage next, one of the night's cooler moments happened. The late S.U.C. rapper Big Moe's mother was brought onstage and introduced to the crowd, who treated her to a massive roar of love and respect. "Momma Moe," wearing an oversized T-shirt with her son's unforgettable visage airbrushed on the front, appeared more than a little touched by the audience's affection.
C-Note paid tribute to another of the S.U.C.'s fallen soldiers -- Fat Pat -- with "Third Coast Born." The crowd rapped along with every word, and when C-Note broke into "Hold it Down," Momma Moe jumped out of her chair on the side of the stage and danced right along with the rest of the fans.
Next up was Lil' O, who only needed one good arm to detonate "Back Back" like a dirty bomb. The rapper had the crowd in the palm of his free hand--his right was immobilized--during familiar tracks like "We Ain't Broke No Mo" and "Betcha Can't Do It." Z-Ro's killer hook from "Can't Leave Drank Alone" provided the night's first big sing-along. Fun stuff.
Mike D appeared to deliver "Heart of a Hustler" and a couple of other classic tracks before the headliners took the stage. He was also the only performer of the night to shout-out D-Mo, the S.U.C. homie whose birthday was the original inspiration behind "June 27's" near-perfect freestyle.
Although the preceding sets softened the blow a bit, it was still disappointing that Yungstar wasn't able to join his cliquemates as scheduled. Earlier in the evening, I thought I heard the DJ announce that he'd been arrested (sigh), but I wasn't able to confirm it at the show.
Would have been nice to potentially hear "Knockin' Pictures Off the Wall" and "Wanna Be a Baller," but what we did get made it hard to feel sorry for ourselves.
Weeknight be damned, Warehouse Live was still crowded and happy when E.S.G., Big Pokey and Lil' Keke took the stage after midnight. At times, the audience rapped along so loudly that they could easily be heard over the spermicidal bass pumping out of the venue's speakers. Everything went bonkers when Don Ke stepped on the opening hook to "Southside," and E.S.G. kept everything going by spitting out "Maan!" and "This is For My" back to back.
It was a little sad to see the mighty Screwed Up Click so depleted in numbers from the height of its power, but Keke and crew made sure that the group's deceased members got a deserved share of the evening's spotlight.
The DJ dropped the needle on Fat Pat's "Ghetto Dreams," Big Moe's "I'm Just a Dog," H.A.W.K.'s "You Already Know" and more essential tracks from the clique's history, and the crowd sang along as fervently as they would have in church.
Even Pimp C, never an official S.U.C. member but a beloved H-Town figure nonetheless, got a tribute of sorts when Lil' Keke performed his verse from the late Pimp's "Knockin' Doors Down." Great song.
It was painful at times to be reminded just how many of the city's hip-hop icons are no longer with us, but the songs were so good and so much fun to sing along to with several hundred other die-hard Screwheads that it was impossible to shed any tears. Besides, the concert was nothing if not a validation that the S.U.C. lives--and what's more, still packs 'em in.
Personal Bias: I only knew about three-quarters of the songs performed last night, putting me solidly in the minority.
The Crowd: Black, white and brown.
Overheard In the Crowd: "SHE LOOKED KINDA THROWED, YEAH-UH!"
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Random Notebook Dump: Things I've only seen at rap shows: 1. Interviews conducted onstage while a performance is underway. 2. Audience members filming the show on an iPad. 3. Repeated requests for people to clear the stage between performers.
See more photos on the next page.