I’m a hip-hop head at heart. My teenage years were filled with songs from the likes of Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel, Peedi Crakk, CNN, DMX, Big Pun, Ghostface, and tons of rappers from the Northeast that made mainstream records with thug appeal. Surely I was into underground sounds, and dug tunes from other regions. But before the explosion of the Southern rap sound, Philly and New York ran my DJ sets. But this was more than a decade ago, and isn’t much more than a fond memory.
A few of us at Do Androids Dance are fans of the songs that satisfy both the EDM and rap markets, and those tunes get immediate consideration. Waka Flocka is doing an album that features electronic music producers? We’re on it. Snoop Dogg is working with Diplo? Amazing. But I was curious if yesterday’s rap stars could truly hang in today’s dance music market, and felt the need to do some investigative research. And with my rigorous schedule of dance music events, I felt the need for a change of pace.
Foxwoods Hotel and Casino graciously extended an invitation to their beautiful facility to check out the hip-hop reunion tour that they were hosting, which was to include Lil’ Kim, Fabolous, Mobb Deep, Warren G, Ja Rule, Redman, and Method Man. It was a wonderful excuse to take a mini-vacation, and I made the three-hour trek north to tuck in for an evening of throwback classics. But the event didn’t go at all as I planned.
Method Man and Warren G didn’t show up. Redman’s DJ had technical issues that delayed his performance for 10 minutes. And Lil Kim breathed heavily into the mic after each song because her cardio game is in the gutter. We recently saw video of her struggling to get through a set, and I sadly witnessed this first hand. Mobb Deep only performed one song, then Prodigy flexed a winning ticket from a slot machine to add insult to injury.
That said, Eve was unexpectedly added to the lineup. Redman and Fabolous played extended sets in an effort to appease the crowd. And out of all of the acts, Ja Rule actually had the best performance. It was a reminder that he was an incredible songwriter with a ridiculous amount of hits. He looked truly happy (perhaps because he’s fresh out of jail and making a bit of money?), and still had an amazing stage presence. Redman was also energetic, but performed deeper cuts than the crowd was familiar with.
But I came there to evaluate whether or not these artists could hold their own in today’s market, and I left without a solid answer. Ja Rule could and Redman could. They both still have a knack for performing, and have an incredibly unique style. But the rest of the lineup fell short, and was short of breath. Some may have the hustle to survive a rigorous tour schedule and the demands of today’s artists, but it was disheartening to see some of my favorite artists of the ’90s struggling and cutting corners.
We look to Rell The Soundbender’s collab with legend Kurupt and the success of Nile Rodgers as our standards for those that are looking to make a successful run in our scene. Everyone can’t keep up with this new sound, or the new standards we uphold. But we’re a community with open ears, open hearts, and the door is open for any of these forgotten rap legends to come along for the ride. We’re curious who’s going to latch onto EDM as they catch their second wind, and will let you know when it happens.