Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Night in East Flatbush: Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty By Nature, Slick Rick and Surprise Guest Busta Rhymes at Wingate Field

Tonight was Old School Night at Wingate Field with a crowd of thousands there to see Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty By Nature and Slick Rick. It was hard to go wrong with such a lineup from back in the day, as for anyone paying even the slightest attention to hip-hop (which pretty much describes us) was still fully aware of works like "Push It," "Whatta Man," "Shake Your Thang," "O.P.P.," and "Children's Story." The surprise appearance of Busta Rhymes was like the cherry on top of the sundae.

That we didn't get to hear all the performers was our only disappointment, but we have only our old old-school self to blame. Getting to the Winthrop Street stop on the 5 train by 7:20 p.m., we were lucky enough to get in after waiting on a long line for the usual pat-down.

When we got there, maverick City Councilmember Charles Barron was delivering a stemwinder of a speech decrying the all-white nature of the state Democratic ticket and calling for people to sign petitions to get a new party on the ballot in November in the hopes of his getting the necessary 50,000 votes for a permanent ballot line for his Freedom Democratic Party.

The crowd didn't seem all that excited by this, and Marty Markowitz made a weak joke and hurriedly introduced in turn an administrator at the new propietary Berkeley College branch in downtown Brooklyn, and then Jumani Williams, a steadier, less blustery young member of the City Council elected last fall.

Then, the wonderful activist/artist Geoffrey Davis, brother of slain Councilmember James Davis, who founded the Love Yourself, Stop the Violence Foundation, announced this year's 17th Annual Love Yourself Stop The Violence Peace Walk this Saturday. It starts on Nostrand and Fulton and ends at the grand opening of the James E. Davis Multi Cultural Museum of Peace at Brooklyn Avenue and Eastern Parkway.

We were in Wingate Field by then, walking along the brownish-burgundy track the best we could in the crowd, listening to the people from Macy's, Citibank, etc. and then Dr. Bob Lee of WBLS and finally, as usual, Glorious Trinity Baptist Church's Pastor Harvey Jamison Jr., who gave the same benediction he's been giving for years, though he took our advice and dropped calling for kids to get "manners instead of marijuana" while still calling for them to reach for "Christ instead of crack."

These opening rituals are somehow comforting, like the religious service that never really changes. Anyway, finally, the great DJ did his usual schtick and Slick Rick appeared, all in gold, including his famous eyepatch. He's not as lean as he was in the 1980s but none of us are, either.

Back then, we considered Slick Rick the fiction writer's favorite rap artist, as he brought, in addition to his clear British diction, a profound sense of narrative to hip-hop; it's not for nothing that one of his best albums is titled The Art of Storytelling.

In the cavernous crowds of Wingate Field, unless you're one of the select few (hundred) to be sitting up close, basically you have to see tiny figures onstage and really watch the performers on one of the three Jumbotron screens.

We would have liked to hear more of our favorite Slick Rick songs like "Hey Young World," "Behind Bars," "La Di Da Di" but we'll settle for the ones we got, although we didn't know why he spent time doing "New School" stuff as a contrast.

Before Naughty By Nature came on, Marty introduced the disappointing news that Aretha Franklin suffered a fall and had to cancel all coming appearances for a while, including next Monday here at Wingate Field and Thursday at Asser Levy/Seaside Park. He's trying to find an entertainer of similar stature, but given the week's notice, next week may be dark at both venues. Marty held out hope that Aretha Franklin can appear in late August.

Naughty by Nature began like gangbusters with "O.P.P." and we're glad they didn't tease the crowd much by waiting for what it wanted to hear.

But "Hip Hip Hooray" wasn't too far off, and few can do call and response as well as Treach. He's got a quick flow, in contrast to the more deliberate Slick Rick, and people were really animated and moving around.

Lots of people were smoking, some of them weed, but we didn't see any alcohol. One woman got arrested for something or other, but the crowd was almost all in an incredibly good mood and into the music.

After 28 years, these Wingate Field shows still always have a nice vibe and leave us feeling good.

Having woken up at 4 a.m., our old-school sixtysomething body was shutting down so we left too early to see Busta Rhymes and Salt-n-Pepa. Here's a video by ace Wilner Nau from WaterblockNYC that's pretty exciting, and he's got more:

Busta said it was smashin' and pretty much everybody else did.

We're sure. However, we were on the 2 train heading for Atlantic Avenue with our former student Nakisha and then on the G back to Williamsburg, still happy to have experienced half of Old School Night.

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