Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hip Hop 101: Worth the Extra Credit

The Hip Hop 101 Festival yesterday at the L.A. Sports Arena was a great display of true hip-hop culture. First off, as a growing fan of the culture, I love any hip-hop show that focuses on more than just the MC (hence why I hit up Rock The Bells every year) and this was no different. The various dance crews for the pre-show entertainment were pretty dope, from popping to krumping to b-boying/girling, everything was represented. It was a trip because I saw one of my friend's krump crews up there.

There was also some graffiti in the area and you really have to stop and appreciate the work people put into their art. All from an aerosol can on a blank canvas. I'll never forgot going to New York in 2005 and seeing all the great murals on this one bball court near 106th and Park across from Spanish Harlem.

Back to the show, MixMaster Mike was supposed to come through but something was wrong with his equipment or something. But the house music was pretty tight (except for when they played "Crank That" and "Walk It Out"...I guess it really represented all facets of hip-hop). Finally after two and a half hours of pre-show and music and corny hosting from Stomp the Yard's Columbus Short, we finally got to see some action with Janelle Monae

She performed about 3 songs but somebody must have forgotten to do sound check because I could barely make out anything she said in the first joint. Outside of that, she def. showed her Outkast/Erykah Badu influence. Watching her prance around the stage reminded of Howlin Pelle from the Hives but she has serious chops. It wasn't bad to see her walk through the crowd either during her last song. Def. set the concert portion of the evening off right.

I guess Keri Hilson wasn't gonna be there after all because up next was the pride of Chi-town himself, Common. And even though Universal Mind Control was a step back in his career, he made the album came alive during his set, which jumped off with "Go"

"Sex 4 Suga" meshed well from "I Want You," "Punch-Drunk Love" sounded fly with the band behind him and he also found time to break out joints from Finding Forever (Driving Me Wild, The People). He also broke out the classics ("I Still Love H.E.R.", "The Light", "Come Close", his verse from "Get Em High) but in keeping with the theme, he paid tribute to the artform.

He did verses from classic hip-hop songs (Nuthin But A G Thang, Juicy, CREAM, Bonita Applebaum, Passin Me By), let the DJ get some shine and finally closed out with "Universal Mind Control" with some b-boys and girls. Watching that definitely let you know where he got inspiration from for that song - as he performed, the breakers did their thing and he even got in on the fun just like he did when I saw him in 2006. That was easily the highlight of the show and felt like an old-school flair.

Before that dude named Luda came out, we saw hip-hop's influence around the globe with a breakdancing crew from around the world...United Skillz with b-boys and b-girls from around the country (Cali, NY) and the world (France, Japan and Canada). During their show, me and my peeps moved down from the gen. admission seats to the floor and got all the way up to the front to see LUDACRIS do his thing. I had seen him at the San Diego Street Scene in 2004 and even though me and my friend were pretty far back, the energy was electric. This time was so much better.

It jumped off with "Everybody Hates Chris" and he ran through the classics (Southern Hospitality, What's Your Fantasy, Area Codes, Stand Up) and new joints (1 More Drink, his verse from "Dey Know"). I was surprised at what he didn't do though (Get Back, almost nothing from "Release Therapy," "What Them Girls Like") but I guess when you have an extensive catalog like his, there's a lot of cuts you can skip and still keep the party hot.

It was also a DTP affair as Lil' Fate was his hypeman and Shawnna came thru to do her remix of "Whats Your Fantasy" and of course, "Gettin Some..." He ended with a DJ set (kinda eh) and "Move" featuring I-20 coming out for his verse.

Overall, I say Hip Hop 101 is def. a class I'll take again next year (minus the corny host except for the 1st dude who asked the crowd some good hip-hop ?'s) because it's not just about having dope MC's, it's about the essence of the culture. DJ'ing, b-boying, graph writing and of course, the MC (c) Slick Rick.

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