Words By Khalid Strickland
Pics By Eric Russ
The traveling, independent Hip-Hop festival known as Paid Dues rolled into NYC’s Nokia Theater last week and it was quite an event to say the least. The concert’s line-up was rock solid: Rakim, GZA, Buckshot, Murs (accompanied by his frequent co-defendant, 9th Wonder), Kidz In The Hall and Blackalicious. Guerilla Union, the organization that also coordinates the Rock The Bells tour, gets mucho props for making this joint happen. The Nokia’s been host to some pretty hot Hip-Hop shows this past year; the EPMD jump-off in April, which I documented at TSS, was particularly off-the-chain. How did Paid Dues rate? Let’s find outâ€¦
Early on in the show, the size of the crowd was respectable, but sparse. Even the White fans were on C.P.T. But as the show progressed, the crowd began to swell. By the time Buckshot performed midway through the concert, the Nokia was packed. There were hordes of fans rocking Wu-Tang shirts in attendance; The “W” will never die, record sales be damned. The concert-goers were cool, though, no tension whatsoever. People were there to enjoy themselves, not to ice-grill each other and throw down. That can be fun too, but not once at Paid Dues did I feel the slightest need to grab my shank (Nokia security must really trust the press).
While I was at the bar copping another Guinness, I noticed Billy Danze of M.O.P. and his manager Laz-E-Laz standing about four feet away from me, ordering drinks. You’d probably think otherwise after listening to M.O.P.’s music, but Billy was amicable and *gasp* even had a smile on his face. Fans kept walking up, showing crazy love, and he didn’t hook off on anybody. It reminded me of back in the day, when you’d be hanging at clubs like The Ritz or The Grand on any given night and famous rappers were partying amongst the crowd, without fear. I got all misty eyed and shit.
Being that this was an independent Hip-Hop festival, I didn’t know how many babes would show up. I’m sure GZA and Murs have their fair share of female fans, but if this were a concert that featured Fabolous and LL Cool J, you know there’d be flocks of birds. Plus, the Nokia Theater is located in Times Square, where all the movie theaters are. So I figured all the ladies would skip the concert and peep Sex and the City instead. The aforementioned EPMD concert had a nice amount of hot women, but I went to that gig with wifey, and she’s always cock-blockin’.
At Paid Dues, I was with my cameraman/wingman, E-Boogie, so I could scoop some digits without the constant nagging and death threats. To my surprise, there were plenty of fine honeys at Paid Dues, but most of them were accompanied by their men (I have to subtract points for that). When we ventured backstage, the groupie action was pretty slow at first. By the time Rakim showed up with his entourage, however, you’d think somebody tossed out the bird seed. Unless you’re famous or rich, however, it’s hard to bag a golddigger. And on that night my game was off, like Ray Allen throughout most of this year’s playoffs. My wingman got some math, though. Chicks love that camera, boy, I tell ya’.
(If I would’ve gotten some play, it would’ve been an A+)
The Meat & Potatoes
Kidz In The Hall opened the show with a short-but-sweet set that included bangers like “The Blackout” and “Mr. All Of That Shit.” Scratch, human beat-box extraordinaire and member of The Roots, took to the stage next and used his voice to perfectly mimic the sounds of percussion and turntable manipulation, spiking his performance with well-timed sound bites from a sampler. He was joined by freestyle champion Supernatural, who spit his famous off-the-dome bars.
Buckshot, leader of Boot Camp Clik and front man of Black Moon, was next up to bat. Buckshot got busy and raised the energy level in the Nokia with classics like “I Gotcha Open” and “Who Got The Props,” but the best was yet to come. While Buck performed the song “How Many Emcees,” which employs a KRS-One vocal sample as its hook, guess who stepped onstage much to the delight of the shocked audience? The Blastmaster himself, Kris Parker.
The theater exploded and the stoked crowd sung-along as KRS commandeered the mic and rattled off his own classics like “South Bronx” and “Criminal Minded.” (Wow!) California’s indie phenomenon and host of the concert, Murs, followed up Buckshot’s incredible set with his finely-crafted lyrics and everyman charisma. After a rousing performance from Cali-based group Blackalicious, GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was next up to entertain the now-capacity crowd. Wu-Tang’s cult-like following made its presence felt as hundreds of fans formed the “W” with their raised hands and recited joints like “Liquid Swords” and “Cold World.”
Lastly, Rakim Allah followed the GZA to close out the concert. With the world-famous DJ Kid Capri manning the wheels of steel, Rakim explained to the eager crowd that he just suffered a recent death in the family; he still mustered up the resolve to come to the Nokia Theater and perform for his loyal fans. But before Rakim could complete his highly-anticipated set, which included Hip-Hop staples such as “Microphone Fiend” and “My Melody,” the sound crew of the Nokia abruptly halted the show; supposedly time was up and the theater had to close. Pissed-off fans looked around in confusion as Rakim’s mic went silent in mid-verse and the house lights came on, like 20 minutes into his shit. What the fuck? How could they interrupt The God?
But what could have turned into an ugly scene became a touching display of love between faithful fans and their humble icon. After calming the crowd, Rakim coolly stepped off of the stage and slapped hands with everyone he could. As the crowd of hundreds peacefully lurched towards him, trying to make contact with a bona-fide rap legend, Rakim patiently shook hands with each and every one as he thanked them for coming. He was rocking his jewelry and still melted into the crowd without bodyguards. That’s gangsta.
For more pics, visit the Flickr Photo Set.