LL Cool J Headlines F.O.R.C.E Live and Brings Fifty Years of Hip Hop to the Toyota Center

LL Cool J looks over the crowd at the Toyota Center.
LL Cool J looks over the crowd at the Toyota Center. Photo by Marco Torres
A few weeks ago, LL Cool J made the newly released list for The Insider’s “Rappers who have sold the most albums of all time.” He later appeared on Sway’s Universe and said rappers thinking about retiring are just dealing with insecurity.

Friday night he showed Houston that his statements weren’t all talk and displayed why his catalog continues to remain at the top of the sales charts.

This year Hip Hop celebrates its fifty-year anniversary and the F.O.R.C.E Live honors the artform with a packed setlist. The show, helmed by LL Cool J, features different artists at its various stops as it crisscrosses the country, including Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Common, Mc Lyte Method Man, Redman, Slick Rick De La Soul, Jadakiss, and more.

Friday night F.O.R.C.E (Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) took over the Toyota Center, bringing out DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Z-Trip, The Roots, Big Boi, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Goodie Mob, Juvenile, Rakim, and, of course, LL Cool J. Throughout the show countless names of notable members of Hip Hop scrolled across the stage but it would take weeks to include everyone who contributed to the culture. The task is impossible but the F.O.R.C.E Live does its best to honor as many as it can. The same can be said about the concert itself.
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Big Boi and Sleepy Brown dance for the crowd.
Photo by Marco Torres
Each of these artists could put on their own show, taking up two to three hours, so the task of fitting them all into one show is daunting. The tour accomplishes this by having Black Thought and the legendary Roots Crew take the lead, introducing artists and DJs and making sure the show moves at a steady pace.

Whether its Rakim running through “Paid In Full,” Juvenile instructing the crowd to “Back That Azz Up,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony singing about “Tha Crossroads,” Goodie Mob letting the crowd know about “Soul Food,” or Big Boi letting everyone know about “Kryptonite,” Black Thought was right alongside each artist, performing and helping to guide the crowd to the next guest.

In between the sets DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Z-Trip kept the energy up displaying their skills on the ones and twos. The show is successful in giving fans just enough of each artist without overdoing it and that’s all including the full stage show from LL as a headliner.
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Rakim celebrates fifty years of Hip Hop.
Photo by Marco Torres
The MC who has been with Hip Hop since its inception navigated through his 39-year, 13 album catalog with ease, highlighting why he has the title master of ceremonies. Since releasing his debut album, Radio, the MC has become a movie star, won countless awards in music, film and television, written books, started a satellite radio channel, and more.

LL's show sandwiches the tour, with him coming out early and the returning to close out the night. His stage show reflects the experience he’s garnered over his career, dividing the show between older and newer hits, club anthems and ballads for the ladies, and guest verses. With Black Thought as his hype man and using his ability to mimic so many popular MC’s, LL went through everything from “4,3,2,1” and “Flava in Ya Ear” to “Hey Lover” and “I Need Love.”

The F.O.R.C.E Live not only shines a spotlight on LL Cool J, but also gives him a chance to shine that spotlight on those that have helped Hip Hop grow over the last 50 years.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)