I originally didn’t plan a post-tour write up, but after witnessing such a great show and also since there have been what I consider to be some great misconceptions written about this show, I decided I would give my version.
In my experience, the mental processing of something like the Hip Hop Gods Classic TourFest Revue takes place in steps. I know I am not alone in that because I communicated with many people along the way sharing what seemed to be nearly the same process; Step One-Emotional Bliss, Step Two-Denial, Step Three-Who Won’t Show Theories, and Step Four-Childlike Excitement.
As for Step Four, that is what it was like when you were finally there in the moment. The energy in First Avenue was great. Despite reports of the contrary, the crowd was very diverse. It’s one of the most diverse shows I have been to in a while, anyone who didn’t see that was clearly not paying attention and I’d like to know what shows they are attending that are more diverse. I was pleased to see many young people who had to be too young to enjoy any of these groups in their prime. I also saw a wealth of people who I used to see at all the Hip Hop shows ten years ago, but never see anywhere anymore. This show definitely brought a lot of people out. It felt like a reunion of sorts. 99% of the Rhymesayers/Fifth Element staff was there, as well as a lot of the artists and many of the interns. This concert was the topic of discussion in the office/store for the next several days. There is absolutely no doubt this tour delivered what it promised. The show wasn’t perfect, most shows aren’t, but if you didn’t get what you wanted then quite possibly you had unrealistic expectations or didn’t really understand what the concert was offering.
I was impressed by the performances, which reminds me that there is sort of a Step 3.5, “Performance Doubts”. That moment when many of us thought, “Well even if everyone shows up, how are the performances going to be??” This is a fair question. In general, many Hip Hop artists often suffer in the area of giving solid performances. Take the fact that these are artists who aren’t touring as a regular thing and could be out of practice. However, it was mostly to the contrary. It seemed as if these artists appreciated the fact they were able to do this tour and were getting love from such a nice range of people that they put their all into it. There wasn’t one group that hit that stage that I didn’t feel was appreciative of their opportunity to be there.
Generally the biggest mistake artists from these generations make in these moments is trying too hard to be relevant to the sound of Hip Hop today. I wish someone would do a mass motivational seminar for every 80s/90s Rapper and show them the statistically facts that it just doesn’t work! I have seen countless attempts and no real success stories come to mind. Most likely they just alienate a large part of the original fanbase they had. Alas, an article for another day, mainly because that wasn’t the case on this tour. The artists understood the dynamics of this show and focused on giving the material that made them the icons they are and merely sprinkled in some new stuff, some of which was solid.
Obviously with this many acts they had to limit the set times to make it work in the time frame. I found this to be effective. We didn’t need long sets from every group. The short sets encouraged and/or forced them to condense and maximize the time to the best material. Truthfully, I didn’t feel like the show was too long. When it was done it didn’t feel any longer than any other regular-length show and nobody I talked to complained about it. I was actually hungry for more. However, I’m a fan of Hip Hop and those eras in particular and didn’t show up mega early at a show with ten performers with only the headliners in mind, because that doesn’t make sense. If someone only wanted to see Public Enemy they didn’t really need to show up early, so if they were getting restless or whatever, it seems like more bad planning on their part and not a fault of the tour. The tour clearly states whom is on the tour, so if you go early you are bound to see those groups. This is how reality works.
Chuck D was the host for the entire night, which I thought was a great touch. First off, you generally don’t see the headliner all night, but here Chuck D was a major part of the whole experience. He introduced each group and gave you a little background on them. It really added that “Revue” feel to it. It was like an extended version of the Hip Hop version of Soul Train (or Graffiti Rock, for those in the know). I applaud this approach.
DJ Johnny Juice hit the stage to warm things up. He worked the turntables over with the speed of a cheetah and precision of a surgeon. This makes complete sense, being he is one of the finest, yet often overlooked, scratch DJs of the late 80/early 90s. If you don’t know about his legacy PEEP OUR INTERVIEW.
Johnny Juice was the primary DJ for the night, working the turntables for many of the artist sets, as well as co-hosting and exercising other talents as well.
Awesome Dre was one of the artists I was most excited about. Mainly because I had seen most of the other artists before, in the 90s when their most classic material was brand new. Awesome Dre was one of pivotal figures of the Detroit Hip Hop scene. He dropped his first records circa ’87 and debut album in ’89. That debut album, “Can’t Hold Me Back” got lots of play from me back then. It sparked my intrigued initially with its bold cover of him in mafia style fashion with heavy artillery and a look-alike Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J knelt before him. I had really hoped to get an interview with him to learn more about his story, but timing didn’t work out, but I did get a chance to meet him and plan to connect in the future.
On stage, Awesome Dre took a cue from his debut and did not hold back. He did several tracks from his first couple albums. Off the top I recall “Frankly Speaking”, “Out Of Reach”, and “You Can’t Hold Me Back”. At one part in the show Hashim’s “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)” come on and he transitioned into some top rocking then dropped to the floor with some Old School floor rocking and a nice finishing of a backspin into a freeze. Then hopped back up and performed the fastest rhyme in his set. Talk about some calisthenics and cardio! Another great Awesome Dre moment took place off stage. Once walking towards the backstage I noticed Awesome Dre in a discussion with Esham, another key Detroit scene pioneer (who actually just moved to Minneapolis). I wanted to stop and take a picture or salute that moment, but I decided not to break their cipher, but it was great to see that.
Another crew I was really looking forward to was Son Of Bazerk. They have always had this amazing energy on record that just seems like it would be explosive in the live show, but I never got a chance to verify that. They only hit my area once before when on tour in ’91. On New Years Eve they did a show in Chicago with Leaders Of The New School, A Tribe Called Quest, Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, and others I believe. I ran into Jahwel earlier that day and told him I was looking forward to seeing them live because I was still angry I missed them before and I mentioned this show. Jahwel paused for a second and then amazingly replied, “Yeah, that was at the Rosemount Horizon Theater…” I couldn’t believe he remembered that specific show!
Anyway, the gentlemen of the group hit the stage in white dress shirts with black ties and Half Pint joined them fashionably dressed as well. Their stage show most related to the term “revue” in the tour name. They mostly keep the mics in their stands at front of the stage and rocked the house with a series of choreographed moves and high energy. It was as entertaining as I had envisioned it. You can see my history-covering interview Son OF Bazerk interview HERE.
Most everyone I talked to seemed to agree that Wise Intelligent (of Poor Righteous Teachers) had the best overall show of the night or at least only comparable to Public Enemy themselves*. That is not at all surprising. Wise Intelligent has always continued to be active on the scene. He is regularly releasing new material, performing shows, and making effective use of social media. The only other artist on this tour that has been as successful at this is Brother J of X-Clan. Plus, Wise Intelligent’s rhyming ability has always been and remains to be par excellent. It takes a certain type of artist to do a set and the most memorable part for many are the acapellas, especially when not relying on gimmicky punchlines to win you over, the equivalent of a sugar rush… He does, however, use shock value, but by expressing the shocking conditions that we sometimes become numb to or choose to become blind to. He is still every bit as true to his and his group’s namesake as he was when he debut over 22 years ago.
One of the curious natures of this tour was who would be representing Leaders Of The New School. I saw online talk of some fantasy thoughts about Busta, but that always seemed unrealistic to me. All the tour promotions showed pictures of Dinco D and Charlie Brown, which is what I automatically assumed when I heard L.O.N.S was on this tour. Unfortunately, Charlie Brown cancelled for unknown reasons at the last moment. I imagine with him there this set would have been more dynamic. However, if you were able to remove your expectations and just watch Dinco throwdown then you would have probably recognized that he did a great job. The set list was put together very nicely with tight transitions. I’m assuming Johnny Juice is responsible for that. He also joined Dinco to do back ups and hype the crowd while Dinco ripped thru his verses on many L.O.N.S favorites, plus a few new joints. Of course, it would have been great to see more members or magically the whole group, but their absence didn’t prevent Dinco doing his thing and doing it well.
X-Clan was represented via lead vocalist, Brother J and he controlled the stage and at some points being supported by his daughter, which was beautiful. He also had, whom Dark Sun Riders fans might recognize as, Ultraman, but some 80s heads might know him as DJ Rob Hanna, who released the excellent scratch/cut-up track “Five Fingers Of Death” in ’88. Of course, the original X-Clan consisted of four primary members; two of which have passed on (R.I.P Sugar Shaft and Professor X) and Paradise, who was more involved on the production end than the performance side, so I don’t think anyone who knows the group to be expecting anything other than Brother J being the primary present there. They have four albums spanning 1990 to the present and they gave the people a sampling of that catalog, as well as what is to come.
Some sets I only saw pieces of while in discussions or shifting positions. I saw a few moments of Monie Love rhyming over some uptempo tracks and displaying she still had her fluid flow in tact. She also surprised many of us when she invited a local guest on stage and it was MaLLy, who stepped on stage rocked one joint, got his props and was back in the crowd enjoying the show with the rest of us. That was a pleasant surprise. Schoolly D was joined by DJ Code Money and once again proved he is a true entertainer. His presence and oddball sense of humor is a part of his legacy along with the music and he made sure we did not forget that.
Davy DMX is a legendary figure in Hip Hop and many people don’t even know his story and how he was involved in the early development of the Queens Hip Hop scene and his work as one of the first Hip Hop producers, working with Kurtis Blow, Run-D.M.C, Fat Boys, Orange Krush, Jimmy Spicer, and so many more. Most that do know him recognize him for his ’84 classic scratch track, “One For The Treble”. For his short live set he did an extended rendition of that song with some added treats and then returned later to play Bass on stage with Public Enemy.
Of course, Public Enemy is a touring machine. They have seen the world several times over and know how to rock a show. They had DJ Lord on the turntables and a supporting band on hand to support the backing beats for enhancements. They covered a wide range of their catalog, including many of my favorites (probably yours too); “Bring The Noise”, “Don’t Believe The Hype”, “Rebel Without A Pause”, “Shut Em Down”, and the hits go on and on. The set was definitely explosive, although the extended dialog rant by Flavor Flav seemed as if it would never end and could have been cut down by about 80%, but once they started rocking again that was quickly out of mind. One of the unexpected highlights was DJ Lord getting a mini-set to show his turntablism skills and he killed it quite nicely. When it was all said and done, Public Enemy unquestionable brought the noise once again**.
Also, want to give a shout out to Sean (tour manager) and Jolyn (tour press) for being great and hooking me up with some interviews with Dinco D and Davy DMX! They were both on point, professional, and generally concerned about me being able to get these interviews done. It’s rare to find people who actually feel that way in this business.
Written By A Satisfied Kevin Beacham
*However, it’s worth mentioning that a lot of people got there late so missed Awesome Dre and Son Of Bazerk who were also some of my favorites of the night.
**Another Twin Cities scene highlight was Chuck D bringing out Slug and Brother Ali to kick rhymes off the top of the dome while Flavor Flav worked the drum set. Nuff niceness... Shout out to Chuck D for remaining a Hip Hop Fan no matter how long he remains in this business!