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Hip-Hop Live!: 11/16 @ Nokia Theatre

New York rap concerts have sucked for the past few years. Save a few of Hov’s MSG performances and whenever Common comes to town, NY has been dead ever since they closed down Tramp’s so many years ago. This past Friday, the God Rakim and Shaolin’s finest Ghostface Killa shut shit down in NYC’s Nokia Theatre when they took the stage as part of the Hip-Hop Live! tour.

My apologies to Brother Ali who opened the show, but this is NYC and we still arrive fashionably late. I heard you did your thing tho’!

Now, the whole concept behind the tour is to back MCs with a 10-piece live band (the Roots can’t be everywhere, so stop the hate). I don’t know if Ghostface has ever performed with a band before, but he should consider doing it more often. I mean, dude’s entire catalogue, with all of those lush soul samples, just lends itself to a live feel. The only thing missing was a DJ (shout to J-Love who was in attendance). The band (dubbed the Rhythm Roots All-Stars) murdered joints like “Cherchez La Ghost,” “Run” and “Holla.” But the too-cool-for-school crowd failed to recognize brilliance, and when GFK didn’t get the proper response, he blacked-out on his hometown. In perhaps the funniest moment of the night, Ghost screamed, “Ya’ll motherfuckers actin’ like ya’ll got shit in ya ass” and then went into a medley of Wu classics. Still dissatisfied, Ghost continued to taunt NY: “Ya’ll niggas actin’ like ya’ll from Utah.”

After breezing through “C.R.E.A.M,” “Triumph” and Ol’ Dirty’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” the once lackluster crowd began performing for Ghost, reciting each track word-for-word. Anticipation built as fans clamored for some Clan support, but there would be no Raekwon or Method Man guest appearances this night—instead NYC was forced to labor through a wack-ass Cappadonna freestyle, which then morphed into a hodgepodge of old verses. I mean, if you gonna bring out the cab driver, at least do “Winter Warz.” Is that too much to ask?

For those who had the audacity to leave before the god Rakim hit the stage, ya’ll took a Big L (and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Lamont Coleman). The R closed the night properly giving classics like “Follow the Leader,” “Microphone Fiend” and “Paid in Full” a whole new feel. “Know the Ledge” was dope, but they really needed a DJ to cut that shit up. The band’s best rendition of the night was on “Don’t Sweat the Technique.” The 3-piece horn section went in and actually out-did the original record.

Call me “out of the loop,” but apparently Power 105’s morning host and former YO! MTV Raps star Ed Lover sparked a beef on the radio when he dissed Rakim for performing with a live band and a white dude (I guess he means Brother Ali). Now, I don’t give a damn (who listens to Ed Lover anymore anyway?), but the rest of Nokia was chanting “Fuck Ed Lover” as the R stood triumphantly. Ra ended the night with the record that started it all (“Eric B. For President”) and then went into a nice freestyle session where he brought his son out to perform. Rakim Jr. kinda killed it when he spit, “Ima make it clear if he the king I’m the prince/Been sayin’ big daddy without the Kane ever since.” Hip-Hop Live! proved that hip-hop lives.

  • mbeezy

    he’s actually just an albino. not a black albino. he came clean on his last record.

  • John Black

    The show would have been better at a smaller venue with more intimacy, like BB King. Brother Ali, Styles P, and Rakim killed it over there last year. The Nokia Theater attracts adolescents who started listening to hip hop this decade. While standing on line I heard this kid ask his friend who Rakim was. As far as the weak crowd reception, most of the audience was probably not really hip hop and New Yorkers are relatively accustomed to everything. Hence Ghost telling the crowd that his performance in Indiana was crazy. Overall, the show was dope and the crowd was whack. Like Ghost said, “Ya’ll get a C”.

  • http://www.scritchandscratch.com/blog Vee

    Cappadona’s performance was Good. His vocals were clearer than Ghost. AND if you were paying attention, he did the Winter Warz verse. . . . I enjoyed it.

    As far as Ghost’s rants >> FREAKING STUPID AND ASININE! I did not pay money to hear the CROWD perform Wu Tang songs. I’ve been a Ghost fan from Supreme Cuban Links & Supreme Clientele but I think it is inexcusable to act bitter and unprofessional on stage. I was in the back of the theatre and heard everybody clearly. He came on bitching about the microphone?!? (I heard Brother Ali’s set, which was good and very clear.)

    . . . oh yeah WHEN Ghost was performing, he killed it. Although I don’t really care for awkward silent moments where Ghost had his back to the crowd and watched the band.
    —>> But I really don’t care to listen to Ghost and his weed-carriers (Theodore Unit) who were way more spirited and appreciative than him.

    Hip Hop acts screaming verses with the hype-men at different levels and out of sync is simply not cool.
    I think Ghost and many other cats can really learn something from GREAT performing acts like Busta, Public Enemy, FUGEES (back in the day), ROOTS, Big Daddy Kane (who is still better on stage than most acts), Tribe, and De La Soul. People can say what they want to say BUT hands down . . . as far as performance goes night-in, night-out . . . BUSTA, CHUCK D, Black Thought, Ice Cube and Kane are one of the best and enjoyable PERFORMERS. They come prepared and know what to do on stage and keep it energetic.

    Personally I want a show and energy, I don’t pay money to hear you bitch. BUT the Ghost as usual has very funny phrases like when he called the audience a bunch of “soggy d*cks.” That was hilarious but his immaturity his self-evident.

    RA did his thing, he really rocked it! The band ripped the horns and arrangement of “Don’t Sweat the Technique.” And I really appreciated the Rhythm Roots Allstars. Their opening set was flavor.

    Ed Lover?!? Sounds like a hater.

    Yeah, whatever . . . LONG A** Comments.

    • BK Cyph

      I was paying attention- there was no Winter Warz verse…
      Capa did a piece of Iron Maiden and a mix of a few other verses mixed in with amateur freestyles…
      how was his preformance good? he didnt even look at the crow, he was looking at Ghost for approval the whole time

  • dd

    i agree with vee on this one. rakim killed it but ghostface was annoying as hell with all his bitching (ali had no problem being heard and put together a great set). the band was great but i though they went a little long with their opening set..i didn’t know they were gonna play on their own and was ready for some hiphop.

    oh yeah, cappadonna’s freestyle was garbage. would rather have seen trife do something..he’s not bad for a weed carrier.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    I was there, it was good but not great. I been to better shows in NY.

    For one thing the song selections where kinda wack for both Ghost and Ra. Plus the band didn’t help all that much. I mean, it worked for tracks like “Crimonology” and “The Champ” but I couldn’t even tell they were doing “Datoyna 500″ till the end of the song. Plus Ghost didn’t do a lot of personal faves like “One” (A lot of ppl wanted to hear that) or “All That I Got Is You” I saw Ghost at the BK Hip Hop festival and liked his performance there a lot more.

    I liked Ra’s set more than Ghosts. Their demeanor on stage is very different, Ra is much more respectful to the crowd unlike Ghost’s angry rants. And yeah, I wish Cappa had done “Winter Warz” (Again something he did well at BK Hip Hop Festival) but at least he did do “Iron Madien”

  • Vee

    I’ll leave Cappadonna’s freestyles performances up to the individual. It can be argued either way.

    Just poor showmanship altogether. Ghost and Cappa had their backs to the audience throughout the set. Hopefully he will step it up consistently, after all die hard fans demand more. We have that right, we paid to see him perform NOT the crowd chant 2-3 songs.