Review: Naughty by Nature and Kid Capri at the Ambassador, Friday, December 4

This was my first concert at the Ambassador. I must say, if you don't mind getting a "St. Louis Ice-breaker" (my new name for a thorough pat-down at the door), it's really not a bad venue. The floor space is generous and the sound system was adequate, with several small bars around the perimeter and an "on-top-of-it" wait staff. Thanks to the recession, I didn't try the food, but I never had to wait in line for a drink (possibly thanks in-part to the freezing cold weather, which undoubtedly kept some fans at home). Smoking is still allowed on the floor, which is a definite plus in my book.

The show was scheduled for nine o'clock, but the warm-up talent didn't start until just after ten, with DJ Tony T holding down the crowd in the meantime. While the opening acts had a sort of "talent show" vibe, with Tony J. (Traffica!!!) and Deshawn Taylor (from BET's Ultimate Hustler) hosting, it was more interesting than if it had just been a typical undercard hip-hop roster.

It started with local dance squad Ma Tiff running routines onstage, into Rhoda G. playing sax and clarinet over "Big Ego" and "Buy you a Drank," respectively. Local songstress Tambra Cross then sang a medley of R&B classics while backed by three female dancers, and last but not least was hip-hop violinist/ singer/ rapper Tebe Zalango from Decatur, Illinois. The set was nothing if not out-of-the-ordinary.

Shortly after 11, DJ Kay Gee hit the stage to get the crowd ready for Naughty, who opened with their 1991 classic "O.P.P." Treach and Vinny slipped in some new material from an upcoming project in between their better-known hits like "Feel Me Flow" and "Hip Hop Hooray." Songs like "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" and "Uptown Anthem" really reminded me just how influential the New Jersey trio was when I was a youngster in the '90s.

As a group, Naughty still has good energy, and Treach is still able to please the female fans by throwing his wife beater into the crowd. They definitely played to a more mature audience by proclaiming that the "'80s babies" in the crowd might need similac at one point, and occasionally throwing on an old school jam to see who was initiated. They also threw in a brief (and seemingly mandatory) Michael Jackson tribute.

The iconic artists seemed remarkably down-to earth, and Treach would periodically refill peoples cups with his bottle of Hennessy - urging fans to celebrate with him his December 2 birthday. When the Henny ran out, Kid Capri brought out some Vodka to help keep the good times rolling.

After Naughty's set, Kid Capri rocked the turntables until after 1 in the morning. At the crowd's request, he mixed mostly old school funk and soul at first, switching over to more current rap toward the end. Capri was able to fully engage the crowd; practically everyone stayed to watch him scratch - and for those curious he was using a laptop to mix rather than wax.

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