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Friday, June 28, 2013

Is Hip Hop Still Alive?


Kings of the Mic Tour

De La Soul 2.5 out of 5 Stars **/*
Ice Cube: 3 out of 5 stars ***
Public Enemy 4.5 out of 5 Stars ****/*
LL Cool J: 3 out of 5 stars ***

Is Hip Hop Still Alive?

            This ain’t the 80’s anymore when the Hip Hop genre first burst onto the scene, nor is it the 90’s or the 2000’s either when it exploded. In a new age of music, where indie, pop and techno dominate the radio stations nowadays, the popularity of Hip Hop and even rap for that matter has made a slight decline. Last Saturday night on June 22nd, 2013, a group of Hip Hop artists that started the genre and influenced many rap artists, performed at the beloved CMAC venue in Upstate New York.
Usually hosting one hip hop/rap show a year, CMAC brought in some 80’s old school hip hop with the Kings of the Mic tour. The tour, consisting of LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and De La Soul maybe the baddest tour around this summer, according to Ice Cube anyways. As a critic I’d love to disagree with Ice Cube, especially with his bashing of critics who was against him at previous shows. Surprisingly, the concert was well done and offered decent performances by all musicians on the tour. While reminding us of the popularity of hip hop in the 90s, the groups at Kings of the Mic also shows us that Hip Hop is undoubtedly still alive today.
            The first group of the tour happened to be De La Soul. While just discovering them for the first time a few months before the concert, I was expecting a lousy performance by the band, who’s hits include ‘Me Myself & I’ and ‘Breakadawn.’ However, even I was surprised while entering the venue, and by the first few songs De La Soul performed, one could automatically feel the energy of the group and their constant connections toward the crowd that got everyone pumped up and going. De La Soul reminded us that they performed with Public Enemy, Ice Cube and LL Cool J during the late 80’s and early 90s. The three main members of De La Soul bounced around the stage, and during the hotness of the afternoon that day (temperatures were hovering around 90 degrees F and humid), many in the crowd still got to their feet and danced away. It was a pleasant first experience to the Kings of the Mic Tour.
            One thing while first entering CMAC, and having been to CMAC many times before, is how different and varied the crowd was compared to other concerts there. Everything about the concert was different from most concerts I attend, and it was interesting to see how the stage set ups, DJS and performers as well as the crowd were so different than your average rock concert. The stage set ups were completely different than rock concerts with a DJ booth set up high above the stage in the back, and the entire stage available for the singers to bounce around on with no other musicians, except Public Enemy’s show, which had guitar and base. The crowd was intensely different as well with more dancing and connecting with the lead singers.
            Following De La Soul was none other than that legendary bad ass Hip Hop movie star Ice Cube. With his fuck you attitude, Ice Cube ripped through many of his hits, getting the crowd at CMAC even more pumped up. Proving to be the ‘best one’ on the entire tour, Ice Cube hinted that some critics dismissed him as not having the stamina to be on Kings of the Mic. Proving them wrong, Ice Cube’s performance was generally favorable and enjoyable as he ran from stage end to stage end and around two giant hands that came up in his set up. (These might have been a representation of Ice Cube’s hands). Deciding to keep things old school, Ice Cube played all his old classics and songs and left the new stuff out, paving the way to Public Enemy & LL Cool J.
            By the time dusk rolled around, you could tell many people at CMAC were there for Flava Flav and Public Enemy more so than any other group. The couple in front of us for example, only got up and danced for Public Enemy. They of course were the reason why I wanted to go to this concert myself and see how good these legendary musicians really were. Having performed at nearly every music festival under the sun while still touring almost every year since their beginnings, Public Enemy has become one of the most anticipative hip hop groups to see live and are known for their live performances. During the first song in, Public Enemy did not disappoint. In fact, their performance, while the shortest at Kings of the Mic, was the best there and Flava Flav raised the bar. Having recently been inducted into the rock n roll hall of fame in 2013, Public Enemy proved in just under 30 minutes that hip hop is indeed still alive. Their energy, rap and DJing slammed CMAC that Saturday Night. It was an honor being able to see them perform anywhere near Upstate New York, especially CMAC. During their performance, Public Enemy managed to play their two most famous songs, ‘Bring the noise’ and ‘Fight the Power’. Out of everyone at Kings of the Mic Tour, Public Enemy is worth seeing again, and every hip hop fan should, if given the chance, see them perform live.
            Closing out the festival was none other than hip hop star and movie actor LL COOL J. LL Cool J entered the stage and performed an hour long set, which included many of his hits like ‘I Can’t live without my Radio’, ‘Big Ole Butt,’ ‘Mama Said Knock you out’, ‘I’m Bad’, ‘Rock the Bells’ and ‘I need Love’. Before going into the concert, I expected LL Cool J to be the worse their, thinking, how could this TV actor still perform live? However, LL Cool J performed each one of his songs extremely well, and brought up dozens of girls from the crowd on stage to dance with him during his set. His DJ, Z-Trip, was especially on key that night, mixing the turn tables into perfection. Z Trip’s was almost his own performance alone, and one could tell and sense honorably to all the DJS performing out in the world today while watching him live.
            The entire tour in fact sounded like a restart of a 1989 tour featuring each of the groups that performed at CMAC last Saturday night. Each group managed to perform well and over expectations, especially Public Enemy. Despite Hip Hop’s recent decline over the past few years, Kings of the Mic proves that the genre isn’t dead yet. While many rap concerts are hit and miss, this one is actually worth going to. There was more dancing, more communication with the crowd at Kings of the Mic than any other concert I’ve seen at CMAC (except maybe Dave & Tim), and it was generally overall a pleasant experience and worth going to. My photographer and I left the concert satisfied when we went, and I myself glad I was able to see a rock n roll hall of famer this year. Kings of the Mic is worth going to see, and if your going to any Hip Hop or rap concert this year, it should be this one.

 Overall Grade: 3 out of 5 Stars ***

                                                     Photo Credit: Justin Tarbell

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