It was raining very hard at 6 p.m. last evening, and things didn't look good as we finished our Boca burger and batata coreano, intending to leave Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg for the next hour's starting time at the Prospect Park Bandshell for Celebrate Brooklyn's presentation of The Crooklyn Dodgers Reunion.
By 6:30 p.m., things had brightened up a bit and we made our way to the park to represent BK's old white people at what sounded like it was going to be a history-making night in the annals of Brooklyn hip-hop with the return of the classic super-group.
As Wikipedia notes,
They appeared in three separate incarnations since 1994. The first two incarnations recorded for the soundtracks for Spike Lee films, Crooklyn and Clockers, respectively. The theme connecting The Crooklyn Dodgers songs, aside from the Spike Lee films which they were made for, is the topic matter, which tends to comment on the state of affairs in and around urban New York, as well as other issues affecting everyday life; as Jeru spouses "Chips that power nuclear bombs power my Sega."
Probably due to the heavy rain, the crowd wasn't big at the start of the night, but it really grew. We managed to find a close seat, thanks to the tiny blonde 7-year-old girl who took it upon herself to sponge off the water from all the folding chairs in our area.
It was an incredible show, hosted by Buckhshot and Special Ed, who showed off some of their own freestyling skills. The evening was a collage-montage of Brooklyn hip-hop, with continual shout-outs to the neighborhoods: "Flatbush!" "Crown Heights!" "Canarsie!" (When the incredibly talented Chip Fu yelled out "East 56th Street between Church & Snyder!" we shouted back, since we spent our first 28 years on East 54th between Snyder & Tilden and East 56th between O & Fillmore.)
The classic original veteran Masta Ace came on with his group eMC featuring amazing talent - Wordsworth, Punchline & Stricklin - with their rollicking signature opening. It just got better from there. As the crowds grew, arms waved, fists pumped, everyone swayed, and to us, the event seemed both Dionysian and intimate, as when Wordsworth jumped off the stage and began rapping in the crowd.
It was like being at a greatest Brooklyn house party ever. O.C., after doing some amazing stuff, sat down at the edge of the stage and began to talk to the borough's young rappers just coming up about the perils of artistic compromise and hypocrisy. "The last of my kind," O.C. didn't name names, but said "some people ain't doin' what they supposed to." Around me, audience members did name the names of some stars he was referring to.
The whole evening was curated by Danny Castro and Anthony Marshall, creators of the pioneering they-said-it-couldn't-be-done open-mic night Lyricist Lounge, who deserve much credit for putting together this defining event.
And props to their majesties DJ Premier and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, whose historic work with A Tribe Called Quest brightened our days back in the day (and made early morning workouts bearable).
The night featured great freestyling and amazing rapping, some of it BK-centric. "Why do we gotta live in this environment?/Your grandpa done drank up his retirement" reminded us that we were really, really tired and maybe the second-oldest human we spotted in the by-now humongous (we're bad at estimates, everyone who took our 30,000 at the Met Opera seriously!) peaced-out crowd. Anyway, it would have taken a nation of millions to hold us vertical for very much longer.
Blaming our fatigue on not old age but severe jet lag (we were campaigning in Arizona all week), we left a bit after 9 p.m. for the return trip home (the F was running funny, taking over the G route to Queens, causing confusion but making this a one-train trip back to the Burg), so we missed most of the show after intermission: Chubb Rock, the incredible Jeru the Damaja, etc.
But we've got The F$%K it List's great coverage:
We had missed a few performances but none that I really cared about. O.C was performing when we got there and I remembered his one song and that was nice background music to set up the chairs and get the chicken and fruit out. Special Ed and Buck shot were the Masters of Ceremony.
* Next up DJ. Premiere, he did his thang on the one and twos and he made sure the music was bumping (gently reminding the folks that Hip-Hop was to be played loudly). His set went on for a few minutes and ended with a too long speech about loving ones self! A good speech just too long.
* Chubb Rock RIPPED the stage up! He played all the old reggae joints and did the song from my soundtrack "Just the Two of us" (by this time CJ was sleep in the stroller) and I danced like I was in my living room alone. Then he said something about wearing out his welcome and the crowd booed. So he asked "how could I have worn out my welcome and not have done hip-hop?" Now old school hip hop and of course the joint that made him famous "Treat me right". Chubb let it be known at the end of his set that he never said the B word once, and so in his eyes those words just seem unnecessary. PREACH CHUBB!
* Jeru the Damager was next, to which I promptly planted my butt in the chair. I only really remembered two of his songs and I was never that big of a fan. Besides the cursing he had a great show and Brooklyn responded. He also bought out Sadat X from Brand Nubians, who did his verse from "Punks jump" Would have preferred "Slow down" but I guess I can see that when I go see them next week.
* Special Ed decided that he wasn't going to let everyone else shine and did "I got it made" Mrs M. Ramirez jumped out of her seat so fast and started dancing. My little niece turned to me at one point during my break it down break it down dance and rhyme the she didn't know any of these songs but she was having fun. I told her well now she is a real hip-hop head and can brag to all her friends.
* Not to be outdone, Buckshot shorty came out and rocked the mic, before all of the Dodgers came back on the stage to sing that's right "Crooklyn Dodgers" from Crooklyn and "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" from Clockers.
This show was so worth my whitney houston frizzy head (That I promptly washed and blew out at 12am when I got home).I danced, and laughed with my sister, bond with my fellow brooklynites and true fans of hip-hop. But more importantly I was able to share with another generation of my family the goodness that hip-hop use to be and why I love it so!
And here's Kevin's report:
One highlight of this evening was going out with a post-party crew of stoners (Jon Good, Jesse, other Jesse, and Daniela) to dew-damp Prospect Park to catch the tail end of a fucking huge (and completely free) hip-hop concert, featuring the reunion of a moderately successful '90s rap group called the Crooklyn Dodgers. I usually go to small underground shows, so this enormous outdoor bandshell venue, with thousands of screaming fans, backup dancers, stage lighting, the whole shebang. And the artists, though icons of the hip-hop underground, were more professional than anyone else I've ever heard. That's the great thing about Brooklyn--a local concert, with local artists celebrating the history and culture of the neighborhood, is going to have world-class talent. Some of the lyrics were a little blingy and whut-whut for my tastes, but for the most part the rhymes were tight, the beats were solid, and the Scene was Real. And their lyrical talent was astounding. The distinction between rap and poetry is usually pretty controversial but there is no questioning that what I saw and heard tonight was poetry. These guys know their neighborhood, they know their culture, and they know life in Crown Heights, and they managed to tap that zeitgeist like a keg of ass.
Isn't life wonderful!