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Public Enemy brought the inaugural ‘Hip-Hop Gods’ tour to a climax at Club Nokia in Downtown Los Angeles, hours after accepting their nomination into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Taking the stage following old-school – now relabeled by Chuck D as “classic hip-hop” – icons such as Monie Love and X Clan, the group ploughed through a brief best-of set, including legendary favorites including “Fight The Power,” “911 Is A Joke,” “By The Time I Get To Arizona” and “Bring The Noise.” Unfortunately for the attending crowd, the openers had dragged on too long for the establishment’s liking, and PE’s set seemed to be cut short. Though Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff are all in their 50s, their set displayed all the verve and vigour of a group in their 20s, such was the energy they applied to each note. Maybe they take longer to recover from a show, they certainly don’t seem to have let mid-life take its toll on their set. The crowd assuredly left the venue satisfied at having witnessed a rousing show from one of music’s great bands.
The same could not, however, be said of the rest of the artists on the roster. Lesser-known Awesome Dre was one of the evening’s stronger artists, holding his own despite being the first artist of the whole night, deftly delivering his best known tracks and warming the stage for the rest of the crew.
Following Awesome Dre, Son Of Bazerk (and No Self Control) took to the stage, and played a brief set of old and new tracks alike. The three artists moved about the stage and held their own for the most part. Wise Intelligent of the group Poor Righteous Teachers was up next, delivering a mixture of old PRT tunes and some new material, with broken up by poetic interludes which then segued into full-blown tracks.
Leaders Of The New School were the next band, though it was a poor showing from them, as only one member was actually present. Dinco D had to manage on his own for this set, backed up by DJ Johnny Juice as a back-up MC. Charlie Brown was on tour, but ill that night, though anyone hoping for all 4 members to show up would have been sorely disappointed. With such a sparse line-up available, Dinco D was limited to enacting merely his own verses, so each track ended up horribly chopped and all too brief. He even had the audacity to include his verse from a remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”, which predictably lasted approximately 30 seconds before the farce had to be cut short through necessity.
Pioneering hip-hop legend Schoolly D took to the severely dimmed down, bathed-in-red-light stage, face covered by a handkerchief and hat pulled as low down as could be achieved aside from actually covering one’s head with a bucket. Musically, he produced a sound set, including “PSK What Does It Mean?” The downside was his heckling of the crowd for the absence of pot-smoke, and encouraging ‘bitches to show me some titties’. Really. He left the stage arm-in-arm with two young ladies who certainly had the potential to be young enough to be his daughters.
Monie Love was next out, comically cutting short most of her tracks, as if she either wasn’t allowed to, or couldn’t be bothered to, play the whole version. She segued a brief version of “Ladies First” straight into “U.N.I.T.Y.” in which she managed one verse and the chorus, twice. This was then followed by a lengthy monologue on the subject of females in hip-hop, which she then dragged immediately before Public Enemy, re-taking the stage with MC Lyte. The audience by the point was getting agitated to actually see PE.
The final act was The X Clan, who again were only represented by one original member, Brother J, the Grand Verbaliser. Aided and abetted by an unnamed member who stood on stage doing literally nothing, J jammed through songs old and new, vocally backed up by his daughter.
As mentioned, PE’s set was memorable enough, and even more so when Flavor Flav took to, on separate occasions, the drums and the bass guitar, showing he’s not just a hype-man and crazy reality TV star, but actually, surprisingly, a musician.
The busiest-man-of-the-night award went to, undoubtedly, Chuck D, who interviewed each act following their sets, as well as being a stand-in DJ for Leaders Of The New School. At the end of the night, he dedicated their Rock & Roll induction to all hip-hop artists, claiming it was their award as much as PE’s.
On the strength of the acts on display that evening, it was hard to agree with him. The award is Public Enemy’s, and Public Enemy’s alone.
Leaders Of The New School:
Son of Bezerk and No Self Control:
All Photos © Marv Watson / mrvphotography.com