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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.

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