October 29, 2001 | Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC
Mos Def | The Roots | Beastie Boys
(and other assorted music industry types...)
You had to know that the ultimate New Yawkuzz, THE BEASTIE BOYS, were gonna
throw down a show or two to benefit the victims of the unfortunate 9/11
tragedies. In their old wise age, they were personally crushed by the
horrific events, yet moved by the city’s rallying unity, and thus organized
the New Yorkers Against Violence shows at Hammerstein Ballroom on October 28-29.
The first show was on Sunday, and I chose to watch my beloved Eagles get
pummeled by the Raiders at the Vet. There was no way I was gonna miss the
second night of Bboy boombap, especially with consciousness like Mos Def
and the legendary ROOTS crew, representing Philly, on the bill.
I arrived at the show just before 8pm and heard the opening boom of Mos
Def’s (Dante Beze’) “Hip Hop” off his solo joint Black On Both Sides (Rawkus). The room was only two-thirds full and people weren’t really movin’, which was disappointing to both Mos and myself. Yet he tirelessly flipped it through pages of his catalogue backed by a DJ (whose name I didn’t catch) and a DAT. Next came “Love”, a smooth jazzy groove which borrows the sick Rakim chorus from back in the day -- “I start to think, and then I sink into the paper, like I was ink… I write and I’m trapped in between the lines, and I escape when I finish the rhyme.” He followed those two solo album bangers with a verse from his first hit with Black Star (which also features Talib Kweli, who just laced the positively slamming
“Bride to ‘Bama remix” with Soulive) “1..2..3!” where the DJ dropped an Electro beat straight into a verse from his Lyricist Lounge Q-Tip collabo
Then came Mos’ signature jam, the irresistible “Ms Fat Booty,” featuring a dancehall-ish feel and a sultry soul sista hook. The fine women in the audience began to shake it now as New York’s finest sure can. Dante fed off that going into the classic Pharcyde love song “Passin’ Me By” then into the ghetto banger “Oh No!" with Nate Dogg on the chorus (where he
trades verses with Pharaoh Monch on the actual single). Beze dropped a torrid freestyle over Monch’s Godzilla sample “Get the Fuck Up,” and then Mos
closed out this solid warm-up set with the DJ Premier produced “Mathematics.”
The mighty Mos Def was decked out in a Derek Jeter navy batting practice
jersey and crimson leather pants.
Tibetan Monks that I imagine Adam Yauch and the Milarepa Fund invited did their meditative thing, which was unfortunately somewhat ignored by the typically talkative modern rock crowd (oh yeah, Moby was on the bill!)
Some DJs dropped Electro for a while as the Roots set up, and an ill NYC break circle broke out in the middle of the floor. Apparently, this was a Beastie show, and the Bboys felt the need to establish their presence, which lent an aura of authenticity to the charity event vibe.
Before each act started, a speaker from different cultural awareness groups spoke out against racial and religious profiling, hate crimes, uniting the country and world and moderation in our retaliation.
The Roots came out blazin' with the driving groove of “Next Movement” off their last studio effort Things Fall Apart (MCA), which featured the appropriate opening message “We got the hot hot music, the Hot Mu-sick, We
get down with hip hop..” Soon drummer/producer/DJ Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and bassist Leonard “Hubb” Hubbard broke into the “Hard
to Handle” beat. That is the improvisational aspect of live hip-hop, which
some groups avoid by playing DATs and others exploit with a band or DJ. That
is what separates the Beasties and Roots from others, they mix that shit up,
on the spot. In a peek at the future sound of the Illadelph clan, a drum and
bass/dancehall roller “Over the Water” led into a Mos Def/Roots collabo
“Double Trouble” off Things Fall Apart. Dante was pumped to get back out
there and rock a live full house. Another drum and bass jam featuring new
Black Thought lyrics gave way to the hit “You Got Me” which featured
elements of reggae, jungle, garage, the groove from Outkast’s oh-so-funky “So Fresh and So Clean, clean”, and straight hardcore Bad Brains steez. The Human DJ Scratch led us out with beats like “Busta What it is right now” while Black Thought freestyled about the uncertain times to come, and the
Roots finished out their abbreviated 50 minute set.
After a blistering avante-blues set from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Moby came out with an acoustic guitar in hand and was joined by both U2’s Bono and REM’s Michael Stipe for a few numbers, including the Neil Young classic “Helpless.”
Then the original brat punks hit the stage in vintage form and fashion with
the appropriately charging and communal “Stand Together” off the 1992 album
Check Your Head. In the spirit of improv hip-hop, fourth Beastie Mix Master Mike dropped different beats underneath classic Bboy jams throughout the hour long set. First he played the Ed Lover theme song under the opener, then on “Sure Shot” he curiously dropped the eerie Ol’ Dirty Bastard “Shimmy Shimmy Y’all” underneath the anti-misogyny verse delivered by Adam Yauch. This was a curious pairing, as MCA is to ODB as Tibet is to Stapleton projects. The King Ad-Rock was particularly animated during his “I’m that kid in the corner” rhyme, as Mixmaster smoothly laced a Pete Rock beat behind him. Keeping with the communal theme, “Unite”, off the latest album Hello Nasty featured the scorching Timbaland beat for Missy’s “One Minute Man,” which segued into a vicious “Skills to Pay Da Billz” and the ever so fresh “Flute Down.” Newer joint “Alive” was inspired and well received, as it certainly shows the aging and changing perspective of the White Castle capers. They returned to such form immediately, as Mike D. denim clad and smooth as ever, announced they’d drop an old school joint, and it came in
the shape of “Let it Flow” with its punishing 808 bombast. From this
Licensed to Ill slammer on, the boys never relented. “Body Movin’” was augmented by a sick Beatnuts track, and the avante-garde, industrial soundscape of “Get Live” gave way to a raucous “Root Down.” This energetic NYC crowd bounced in unison and I felt like I did way back at 1994’s Lollapalooza, my first live taste of the brats, helpless and at the mercy of the experience.
Just when the people could not go any crazier, they dropped “Shake Your Rump” off our generations Sgt. Pepper, 1989’s Paul's Boutique. This jam, without fail, sends the masses into frenzy like no other tune I have had the privilege of bouncing to a mere few feet from the stage. Spotlighting the tireless work of Mixmaster Mike was “3 mc’s and one DJ” as Mike created the song’s beat by manually juggling throughout the whole song, making keen use of a guitar wah pedal in the process. The homecoming was not complete without the pandemonium-inducing double shot to end the show, “So Whatcha Want> Intergalactic” and like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock, it was over.
The Beasties’ future may be uncertain, with the sprawling interests of the
three charismatic trendsetters, but their place in music history is
cemented, and their causes augmented by the sheer integrity of their
Damn it feels good to be alive!
New Yorkers Against Violence was truly an event and scene worth being a part of. Positive, uniting message; and hip hop for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in the city where it all began. Again, one love to all those affected by our recent tragedies. You will never be forgotten.
JamBase Hip Hop Junkie | Da Big Apple
Def Before Dishonor
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