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In 1979 when Hip Hop made its transition from block party routines to songs on vinyl I was living on an Army Base in Germany. I was there until 1984 until we made a move to the U.S. and we first settled in Fort Riley, KS for a year and a half or so. What this means, from a Hip Hop Fan perspective, is that from the years for ’80-’86 I wasn’t living in a location suited to catch hardly any live Hip Hop shows from the stars or potential stars of the day.
Truthfully, there weren’t a whole lot of tours happening in the early part of those years in general. There was an early European Tour that came from the US, but I never heard about it until many years later in the history books. I suppose the marketing for that tour didn’t hit my Stuttgart Middle School and it makes me sad I missed the chance to see Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, Rammellzee, Grandmixer D.st & The Infinity Rappers, Rock Steady Crew, The Double Dutch Girls, Phase 2, Futura, and Dondi. However, the first tour that I was aware of, which I was destined to miss, was the Fresh Fest. Missing that sort of scarred me for life. A small scar perhaps, but permanent none-the-less. Missing Fresh Fest II added a twin wound to keep the other company.
Once I moved to the Chicago area, circa ’86, that opened my door of opportunity to see some Hip Hop tours and I sought to take advantage of that as much as possible. As soon as I touched down I kept my ears open for area Hip Hop events, I was not planning on adding any more scars to my psyche… Here are a few of the first shows I saw:
-Boogie Boys and the Fat Boys (Aragon Ball Room ‘86)
-Kool Moe Dee & Ice T (Rainbo Skating Rink ‘87)
-New Edition, Force MCs, Cherelle*
Right around this time the world would start to feel the power of the Def Jam/Rush Management touring machine. After the success of the Fresh Fest, there was a wealth of stadium tours to follow that had amazing line-ups!! I went to a fair amount of those shows in the late 80s and early 90s. A lot of time it was many of the same groups and the line ups were so similar that I can’t distinguish one tour from the other in memory. Here’s a list of some artists I saw in that time period, many of these I saw several times; Run-D.M.C and Jam Master Jay, LL Cool J (once with DJ Bobcat), Whodini, Beastie Boys, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Slick Rick, Stetsasonic, Biz Markie, EPMD, Redman, K-Solo, Das Efx, A Tribe Called Quest, AMG, Public Enemy, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers and probably several more who are slipping my mind right now.
By the time the 90s started to settle in then the big stadium Hip Hop tours started to fade away a little bit and transform more into the 1000 capacity type venues. Around that same time, I was really discovering the local Chicago Hip Hop scene and found myself gravitating more towards that and my own crew’s shows and music projects, as a result I was feeling less compelled to go to other shows. By the time the 2000s hit I had severely cut the amount of shows I went to. A big part of it was because 85% or more of the time the performances weren’t on point. They lacked the charisma, theatrics, or just solid, well- planned and organized shows that I had grown accustomed to expecting. Point blank, there are far too many Rap artists that are not that interesting to watch on stage, despite the fact if they make quality music or not. Now, I mainly go to shows because I’m friends with one of the artists and haven’t seen them in a while or it’s a rare case were I actually really want to watch them live. That’s a feeling I seldom get…
…but it is exactly the feeling I got when I saw the line-up for this new Public Enemy Tour that hits First Avenue! Soon as I saw it I thought, “Oh, that must be something special they are doing just in New York…”, but then I heard it was the whole tour and I still didn’t believe it. I had to call Brother J (of X-Clan) and ask him if that full line up was coming to Minneapolis and he confirmed. This takes me back to those magic moments of the past; Public Enemy, X-Clan, Schoolly D, Leaders Of The New School (without Busta Rhymes), Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers, Son Of Bazerk & No Self Control, Awesome Dre, Davy DMX, and DJ Johnny Juice!! There is no way I can miss this and I know I can’t be alone in feeling this. For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of these groups, I’ll be leaking out stories about many of them over the next couple weeks to get you prepped and ready to go…
On a final note, since I will never have the time to do it with all my other projects, I plead for someone to write a book the chronicles the history of Hip Hop tours, particularly those early tours I mention above and how that finally became touring as we know it now. I'd be interested to hear the business side, artist memories and all those other fine details. Someone get on that, aight. peace.
Written By Kevin Beacham
*I missed the Force MDs show because I got there late…that made me sad