Tag Archives: Hip Hop

Just Another Typical New York Evening with Dave Chappelle (And Special Guests)

15 Sep

Watching the young Asian man set up his 4 track sampler gave me the feeling that it was going to be one of those nights. The young man started beat-boxing and looping his vocal riffs on top of each other to make beats, vocally sampling Eminem’s lyrics from Forgot about Dre.

For being such a raw production it kind of knocked. The aesthetic was so purely hip hop (and New York) that you had to respect it. He was just a dude with a sampler, making live beats down in the Times Square subway stop. I was only able to see one song before catching the next uptown train to 59th street, but this was a good start. I could just feel it.

I got to Radio City Music Hall early–hoping to receive a “free gift” for being one of the first 100 patrons to get into the building. My math must have  been off by about 15 people because I did not get a “Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall” trucker hat. I did however get into the building right before I shat myself, so that was a huge win (But I guess if you think about it, any day that you don’t shit on yourself should be considered a good day –unless you’re an infant or elderly–but I digress).

I’ve never been the type to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Manhattan. I yawn at the mere mention of Broadway plays (sorry Daveed) , and I initially dismissed any idea of going to Radio City Music Hall when I first heard Chappelle was working the theater (ticket prices seemed a little steep at 100 dollars but more on that later) for a two-week run.

All it took was for me to walk through the venue doors to understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it. It is a classy joint done up in Art Deco and high marble columns and ceilings. Instead of having restrooms, they have lady and gentleman lounges, and even the urinals look too nice to be pissed in. It looked like the kind of place that black people couldn’t frequent too often until about 50 years ago, and I would’ve never thought to ever come to a show there until Chappelle booked it.

Of course, no swanky party is complete without a jazz band, and we were greeted in the lobby by a Brooklyn jazz quartet covering hip hop tunes by such juggernauts as Pete Rock and Kendrick Lamar. A small crowd gathered near the stairwell leading to the first balcony. I noticed just how many people were dressed up for the affair which hinted to be less of a comedy show and more of an event. I grew excited with each tune, and spent an hour listening to the band while chopping it up with various other jazz aficionados until about 7:45 (I was mistaken for Seahawks football player Michael Bennett more than a couple of times).

Music from inside the theater bled through to the lobby whenever patrons entered and exited the theater area. I finally meandered to my seat to see none other than DJ and comedian, Cipha Sounds (the original DJ on the Chappelle Show) engaging in a beat battle with a DJ from Toronto (still unnamed as of this post). For old school fans of hip hop, they hit the intended nerve, but these weren’t the deepest of cuts. You could almost anticipate which albums they’d throw on next to entice the crowd.

I sat down in my seat and took in the ambiance. There were so many kinds of people in the crowd: white people, black people, Latin people, Asian people, fat people, skinny people, ugly people dressed up, attractive people dressed down, well endowed, buxom women, skinny women with big booties. It was a people watching extravaganza–even for New York City. The theater itself was as nice as any venue I’ve ever been in. It was the kind of place you take a significant other in anticipation of something bigger than a night of coitus.

The opening comic, Ashley Barnhill, went on at almost exactly 8:00. Surprisingly she was from Texas (she claimed San Antonio), but what was even more surprising was that she wasn’t that funny. Her jokes were kinda hacky. Her shock humor and “edginess” that seemed more at home at an open mic or small showcase. They were objectively good jokes, but they came off a bit too mechanical, and predictable.

It was disappointing to hear her trot out such material. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but wasn’t the type of humor one expected to hear for such a monumental gig. You figured that if Chappelle tabbed her to get on that she had to be funny. Unfortunately, most of her jokes fell flat on the mixed crowd, and it was a relief when she finally exited the stage.

Donnell AKA “Ashy Larry” Rawlings saved the evening’s vibe with a solid 15-20 minutes of bawdy humor. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see him do stand up, Rawlings is a lesson in the difference between writing jokes and being funny. Nothing Rawlings said on stage was overly thoughtful, but the man was hilarious.

His comic timing was perfect, as he used his whole body to tell jokes–from the arching of his eyebrows to a change in his vocal intonation. Barnhill was telling jokes, but Rawlings was being funny,and he set the tone for the rest of the night. He killed the crowd and had me in tears with jokes about people who are way more particular about “who made the potato salad” at a barbecue than who they perform cunnilingus on.

Things really took off from there as Yasiin Bey AKA “Mos Def” took the stage. Of Chappelle’s sixteen show run, this was the bill that intrigued me the most (the Chris Rock/Chappelle show was out of the question with lowest ticket prices at 500 dollars to start). Bey had been away some time, and it had been forever since the last time I’d seen him live.

Seeing him onstage again, flanked by two DJ’s, an old school, scraper convertible car (Chevy I think?), and an endless sea of balloons, I suddenly remembered why I unequivocally loved this man. He exudes nothing but love and compassion, while at the same time demanding social fairness and critical thought. If there were ever a human being whose success I could get behind, it was Yasiin Bey. He was the tipping point in my buying a ticket for the 8/23 show, and two songs into his set affirmed every single summer decision I’d made around this night–especially considering that he was reportedly retiring from music this year, making the matter all the more special.

I was just happy to be in the building and I’d never even considered the potential setlist that he would roll out on a night like this. It didn’t even occur to me that there could be a possible “Rick the Ruler” sighting during the evening’s rendition of “Auditorium” until the end of Bey’s verse on the song.

Bey looked to stage left  for half a second, and what do you know? Slick Rick rolls out spitting his verse. The crowd lost its fucking mind–me included. It was here that things took on the element of the surreal. Of course New York and hip hop legend Slick Rick would be available to do a cameo, he from here.

That song ended and before the crowd had even had a chance to gather themselves, Talib Kweli joined the stage for a few songs, as Black Star treated the crowd to a mini-reunion show. Suddenly I was transported to a New York of a different time. Brooklyn got a shout out between each song, and every query in regards to the location of the Brooklynites was greeted by raucous yelling and screaming.

It was like it was 1998 again, but I wasn’t watching the BET or Source Awards on television, I was seeing it in person. Cipha Sounds was just as hype anyone else, dancing along to this music near the side of that stage. I thought that was pretty cool to see. This New York only existed in oral histories and podcasts. The magic was briefly back.

It was only slightly surprising that Common didn’t come out on stage when Bey and Kweli performed  “Respiration” . The opening bars of the song put chills up my spine upon hearing “We New York the Narcotic”, again when Kweli hit the ” I take the L, transfer to the 2, head to the gates” line.

Other highlights from the set were the Biggie/Prodigy/Phife Dawg medley tribute that filled my heart with warmth, and  Yasiin closed the set with a moving rendition of “Umi Says” that almost put me in tears. By the time Yasiin Bey’s set was finished, I’d felt that I’d gotten my money’s worth, and everything else was gravy. I went into intermission thinking my night could end right then and things would be fine.

The fun was just beginning. Bill Bellamy of Def Comedy fame, came out onto the stage and hit us with ten minutes of shit talking. You could tell he was just happy to be hanging out and partying with the fellas (he was constantly interrupted with the sounds of loud popping backstage–which could’ve been champagne OR balloons), and he wasn’t trying to do too much. He threw a few jabs at the audience and warmed the crowd back up.  The highlight of his set was a series of “Head Day” jokes which though were funny, alienated about a 1/4 of the crowd. I liked it though, because I’ve been rocking with Bellamy since before “How to Be a Player” came out. I was just bugging that he was even out there.

As Bellamy walked off, Dave Chappelle’s voice came onto the PA and introduced his “very good friend” Chris Tucker out onto the stage. The audience exploded into applause and then Chris Tucker proceeded to do about 15 minutes of impressions of all of his famous friends. He wasn’t the heavyweight champion that he once was, but he was still Chris Tucker, and I couldn’t believe I was watching him doing a live set.

Just as I wrapping my head around this fact, Chappelle’s voice was back on the PA announcing the comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld. PAN-DE-MONIUM. Of all the performers you would expect to a drop in set anywhere, Jerry Seinfeld was not a name that would come to mind. Chappelle may as well have said Larry David had dropped by to do short set. No one could believe it. I just kept screaming “WHAT?!” over and over again until an usher slapped me back into my body.

Go figure that Seinfeld would end up doing the tightest set of the night. A slightly buzzed, casually slurring Seinfeld did one of the funniest 20 minutes of stand up I’d ever seen. At 63, Seinfeld’s repertoire has not only reached a Carlin-esque level of immortality, but even his examination of linguistics have taken on a professor’s red penned level critique. His observational insights are still clever, but his use of the English language sets him apart from almost 95 % of comics I’ve ever seen perform. Most importantly, he doesn’t give a fuck anymore. He threw nothing but heat at the audience as he got belly laughs, with jokes that somehow managed to offend not a single soul. That in itself is an extremely difficult accomplishment for a comedian. I’ve always been more a fan of Seinfeld the actor than the comic, but seeing this older, slightly unhinged Seinfeld was utterly remarkable.

By the time Seinfeld’s set was over, it was 10:15 and the night was rapidly approaching “best night of my life” status (and easily the most unbelievable). A$AP Ferg came out to the DJ booth and gave a quick shout out, before the opening riff to A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People” blared on the loud speakers. No fucking way? Is Q-Tip about to play this motherfucker? 

No. Just Dave Chappelle doing and hour and a half set. Dave had a good set. He told cautionary tales of celebrity, lamented the demise of originality and courage in comedy, addressed the backlash to his Netflix specials. It was a typical Dave mixture of cerebral and sophomoric, and it was awesome. I wasn’t even mad that I’d already heard about half of the jokes he told that night. His set felt like a really funny Ted Talk lecture. I felt fortunate just being there. Dave had created an event so unique and special that it was hard to imagine anything remotely as cool going on in New York. This was the place to be. Anyone who has been to New York know this is a feat hard to pull off.

After a series of curveballs and surprises, it was hard to believe that the night was over. But it was 12:45 in the morning, and Chappelle’s “dick was not going to suck itself”, so patrons were sent back into the summer night, taking selfies with the marquee as a backdrop.

Many people walked out of the theater wearing the same shell-shocked glazed look in heir pupils. For the price of a festival ticket, I had just seen Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Black Star, Bill Bellamy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Tucker. It would cost a hundred bucks (if you were lucky) to see Seinfeld by himself. I would’ve never in my life thought I’d watch him perform live. The same can be said of Chris Tucker. Not only had Chappelle thrown a hell of a party, but we’d gotten more than our money’s worth.

I tried texting my brother about it, and after a certain point he stopped believing me. He thought I was just making shit up. I didn’t blame him though. I sat on the 3 train buzzing from the improbability of the entire evening. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I saw Randy Johnson pitch a perfect game back in college. I was hesitant to even go to sleep later that night. This was a tough high to top, and I was in no hurry to interrupt it. I may have even been slightly afraid that I would wake up and realize it was just one of those long, weird ass dreams I sometimes have. But that is just New York for you. Just one of those rare places where the surreal becomes the real.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

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More Than U Know

26 Feb

Dropped this one down last night.

 

BM

Geeking Out on KRS-ONE

1 Feb

What Does Your Soul Look Like?

5 Jul

Happy May Day or “Let’s Get Free”

1 May

Saw these guys in Berkeley back in ’08 and it was pretty uplifting.

March Madness Revisited pt. 3 : Welcome to Austin, don’t forget to leave.

16 Jun

It’s official! The secret is out!

Honestly the secret has been out for decades.

The secret had been out for years by the time me and my crew moved down to Austin in ’01 . Even then old timers and locals talked about how different Austin had become since the 40 Acre days (This was before the ominous looking Frost building was erected. That was when I knew it was for real. That the the development of downtown and west campus was only beginning. So I high tailed it to California because Austin was surely on its way to becoming Houston).

I blamed Austinite Kevin Dunn and MTV. His appearance on Real World New York spelled the end of the best kept secret in the United States. He was clearly a cool dude ( and not just on television–we ran into each other a lot during UT football games), and his praises of is lovely hometown reached the masses.

Soon everyone wanted to know about the “best place in the world.”

I had a neighbor back in ’01 who said he’d met a chick in Amsterdam that was so fucking cool and was from Austin.  This encounter with her caused him to move to Austin out of curiosity. He ended up staying for over ten years (through a strange coincidence I ended up working at a Greenpeace type organization with his best friend in San Francisco– but that’s a story for a different time–you know like–never).

There has been a large influx of Californians since I’d moved out of state back in 2006. Looking around and seeing all the California license plates made me finally understand what people in Colorado and Oregon were dealing with. The damned vermin had finally ruined their lovely state and were now coming for our respective territories.

This epidemic has spawned such T-shirts as “Welcome to Austin, don’t forget to leave.” and “Welcome to Austin, please don’t move here.”

And why wouldn’t you move there if you lived out west? Land and housing is 4 times as cheap as it is on the coast. You can live the lifestyle and not pay the booty tax.

Then again I was suddenly one of those interlopers. Having grown up in Dallas I moved down to Austin as soon as I could. For weirdo Texans like myself, Austin provided a haven for us.

Too gay for east Texas, too queer for the panhandle? Well come down to the hill country.Don’t let yourself get caught up in the rat race of bullshit, big city life. Move to Austin immediately. Cease, desist and CHILL.

It was fun, it was chill, and it was definitely weird. It was like being in a Simpsons episode. I dug it. But I wasn’t the only one who was cashing in. People were moving down in droves, saturating the job market and re-living the Linklater movie, Slacker.

And then the Yuppies came. Condos sprouted up from the ground like concrete and glass herpes sores. The capital and the UT tower were mere ornament pieces in the downtown skyline.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me when I encountered a large magnitude of people for the music and film festival. Things had reached Mardi Gras proportions. Every city bus on the “drag”  heading downtown was a guaranteed 45 minute ride, when normally it took no more than fifteen.

Every bus was a party bus. Cabs sat in long lines of traffic. I soon regretted not renting a bicycle or buying a skateboard to bring down. I either walked everywhere or I waited on the bus.

By the end of the week my feet were killing me. Because of all the craziness and the way the festival had spread out, I knew I’d have to plan accordingly.

I had made a list of everyone I wanted to see. But the free shows overlapped and some of the others were way too expensive.

I did have 3 major highlights from the time I was down there:

#1 Seeing the film debut of the Bad Brains documentary,

I’d been a fan of theirs since I discovered them in college.

That was the first time I’d heard about an all black punk band from the 80’s who were also considered to be the best of all time. I’d read about their influence on some of my favorite bands like Rage Against the Machine, and the Beastie Boys.

One time I was a club in San Francisco and I saw a couple of dreaded cats in Adidas jump suits. I laughed to myself and made a joke like “Aww shit Bad Brains in the house.”

What I didn’t know was that it really was them. As I’d find out when I ran across a flier the very next day. They had played a gig that night and were playing again the next evening. I was debating whether or not I should go when someone told me not to bother. It wasn’t going to be what I expected.

The film footage in the documentary would only confirm what that person told me. The tour ended up being shitty because of some problems between HR( the lead singer) and the rest of the band and lots of that tour was documented at the screening.

The film American Hardcore touched a small bit on The Bad Brains influence in the early 80’s. I was still slightly dissatisfied with the amount of coverage on the band. Upon hearing about this new documentary being screened at South By Southwest, I knew that no matter what was going on, that I had to see it.

I met up with my friend from Colorado, L______ and we stood in line at the convention center for free tickets. I was surprised to walk in and see that nearly no one was there and that we had our pick of seats. We went towards the back row and sure enough there was HR sitting next to some fine little blonde shiksa about half his age.

During the movie I kept looking back at him to gauge his reaction to certain scenes. I imagined it must’ve been strange to see all the footage of himself as a young man, and hear people sharing all these weird facets of his life for everyone on the big screen.

The movie was highly creative, and in depth and had great interviews (Adam Yauch and Mike D were in a couple scenes as well). I walked out of the theater feeling like my trip had been made.

It was only about to get better. I went to take a piss in the urinal and it wasn’t 3o seconds after I’d whipped my dick out, that HR came in to take a piss in the urinal next to mine. “Fucking A” I thought. Taking a piss next to HR.

I bet his dick had rubbed against at least 6 times as much pussy as mine had seen. To punctuate this thought, HR ripped the loudest sloppiest fart I’d ever heard from a celebrity.

“Pardon me” he said. Then he shook himself and washed his hands and walked out the bathroom door.

I washed my hands and chuckled to myself.

#2 occured in a cramped club on Red River street. My stuffed backpack didn’t help things at all. (It just wouldn’t be a Japanther show if it weren’t in a cramped venue).

I could barely move and I was becoming irritated, agitated and claustrophobic. But once the punk duo took the stage, I hid my pack underneath a stool at the bar and went to it.

They were so punk that it was refreshing. Two dudes, a bass player and a drummer with weird telephone mics, and over sized speakers. And they were terribly loud!

Cats were moshing and fucking getting crazy as Japanther played tunes off their new album Beets, Lime, and Rice. It had the spirit of an old school punk show and they really threw down. I felt so lucky to a part of it all. I didn’t over pay to see them. I was right next to the stage the whole night, and afterwards had a great conversation about basketball with the drummer Ian (A nice bloke but I couldn’t help but remember the bike shop gig in Brooklyn when I had walked in on him and his buddies smoking weed and they all in unison gave me “piss the fuck off” looks).

Right there, so close to the band, getting wild and intimate, and trying to look up this chick’s skirt, because I suspected that she wasn’t wearing underwear. It was a loud and raunchy night. Even the dressed up girls were getting into the pit and throwing people around. It was pretty rad and possibly the best musical moment of the month.

#3 was a documentary on Hip Hop and the L.A. riots.

This was a sneak peek of a VH-1 film that was just shown in the month of May. It was real good. Hilarious interviews by NWA members and other Los Angeles artists who were around that time.

I’d forgotten so much about that time period. I was only a kid when it happened but I remember the helpless, sad, and angry feeling I had that blacks couldn’t catch any breaks in this country.

This was the point where Public Enemy and Ice Cube were really speaking my kind of language and I’d go to middle school just hoping that a white boy would say something foul to me.

The movie was real good though. I ate some over priced chicken tenders while it was being shown.  This black lady and I seemed to be the only people  laughing at some of the dark humor and ugly situations documented throughout the film (The white liberals in the audience were realizing that they weren’t quite as liberal as they believed themselves to be).

I had a great time at the festival. It was a pain in the ass getting around but it was nice seeing some old friends. Running around town got a little tiresome and I was constantly debating just how badly I wanted to move back. Any thought of me living in New York City was tempered with the realization that even Austin was almost too busy for me.

Things had certainly changed and not necessarily for the worst. The city felt a bit more swinging that when I’d last lived there. Californians brought a douchebaggery with them, but they also had brought lots of cool and innovative ideas along too.

The comedy/ open mic scene was more prevalent since my last gig in Austin. Tons more hotties and even a film studio as well. It was becoming little Hollywood.

I couldn’t make a rash decision based on this visit though. I decided it would be best to come back during a non- event week and get a true gauge of things. The summer before I was convinced that I was moving back, but now I wasn’t so sure. I’d already done this, how much better could it get?

It seemed fitting to be sharing a late night cab with a plump and proper, british gal, whom I met at the all night eatery, Kerby Lane. What better way to salvage my evening and end my trip by making out with her on my way to the bus station?

I was heading to what I thought would be a pit stop in Dallas before catching a Spurs-Thunder game and effectively ending the first spring break that I’d had in six years.

But things didn’t quite work out for me. The plump girl and I didn’t make out.  She was on some bullshit about staying in town an extra day and taking her on a proper date (Hilarious). I took her number down and threw it away as soon as I got to the bus station.

I boarded the bus thinking that maybe it’d have been a good idea to have booked my ticket for a straight shot to OKC. But the thought was quietly dismissed as we headed north on I-35, back into the weirdness i had escaped days earlier.

Sure enough Dallas would only bring about bad news. I’d find that my bus to Oklahoma City would be sold out–with the next bus getting me into town well after the Spurs game.

I’d miss the game and my ticket would be wasted (in fact it wouldn’t even be a game. The Thunder would get thoroughly dominated at home–causing many people like me to question the legitimacy of OKC’s chances to contend).

But this would only pale in comparison to the news I was about to receive that night from my little brother. His return home to Texas would be short lived as he had gotten word that his services would be needed in Afghanistan. This news sent me into a state of shock that would last for months.

My equilibrium suffered a great jolt and the ensuing shift in perspective would prove to be tremendously profound.  Things were taking on a whole new meaning. There was no way I was going to be able to look at things in quite the same way . The fun and sun down in Austin didn’t seem so fun anymore. What the fuck was I doing with my life?