As I find myself on the wrong side of 30, I take solace in life's simple pleasures. True Hip-Hop is one such comfort, and it could be found in abundance at last night's Fresh Fest.
The crowd was noticeably more mature than many hip-hop shows I've been to; while quite a few "whipper-snappers" came out, much of the audience looked to be in their forties (the same age as the headliners). It wasn't quite a full house, but St. Louis made a very respectable showing to honor some of Rap Music's true pioneers.
Another sign that the show was for grown folks - it started on time. Radio personalities DJ AJ and "Hypeman" D-Stone set up early to prime the crowd. DJ AJ's set was like a condensed history of rap, playing a few short seconds from classic tracks, then moving on. The duo included St. Louis classics like Black Pearl Mafia's "My Dick" and Sylk Smoov's "Trick wit a Good Rap."
Before long, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock started the show with "Joy and Pain," with America's Got Talent contestant Kyle Rifkin singing the hook. Rifkin continued to flex the pipes singing "My Girl" and "Aint' too Proud to Beg" over 50 Cents "In Da Club." They performed a short set and closed out with their best-known hit, "It Takes Two."
During the intermission that followed, I went over to the Halo Bar to smoke. I must say I was disappointed that you had to practically leave the venue to light up, but it did give me a chance to keep up with the Cardinals game. (They didn't clinch ye.t)
The floor became crowded as Slick Rick took the stage with his signature eye-patch and outrageously-sized jewelry. 'The Ruler' made reference to himself as "the Smokey Robinson of Hip-Hop" as he performed favorites from his back-catalog. He included some of his later work, like the Outkast collaboration "Street Talkin" from his 1999 album, The Art of Stroytelling, but I'd have like to have heard some of the more recent songs he's been featured on, like "Hip Hop Police" with Chamillionaire. Nevertheless, he played every hit single from his 1988 debut album The Adventures of Slick Rick, the most famous of which being "Children's Story."
"Children's Story," Slick Rick
Last to perform was "the Human Beat-Box" himself, Doug E. Fresh. As opposed to the more ostentatious style of Slick Rick, Doug came out wearing a suit and tie. In between songs, Doug would take the fans down memory lane with musing about "the wire hanger for a television antenna" and so forth, and he included a mix of TV show themes from the seventies. Of course, he showed off the beat-boxing technique that helped make him famous so many years ago. Towards the end, Slick Rick rejoined Doug E. Fresh to close with "The Show" and "La Di Da Di," followed by a brief tribute to Michael Jackson.
All in all, it was a great concert with great energy. The music and crowd participation reminded me of a time when hip-hop was just about having fun. I may have one foot in the nursing home, but I still know a good time when I see one.
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