“Salt N Pepa’s Legends of Hip Hop Tour” blew through STL and I was fortunate enough to have a pretty decent fourth row seat. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so my words will have to do the show justice.
The line up included Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Biz Markie, MC Lyte, Doug E Fresh, and the headliners Salt N Pepa. I should point out that almost the identical lineup appeared right about a year ago with Whodini and Big Daddy Kane subbing for MC Lyte and Kool Moe Dee. I missed that show, and having seen four of the six acts before I was somewhat excited, but not overly so.
I was, however, looking forward to the venue (Chaifetz Arena, home of the St Louis University Billikens) which was by far the largest that I had been to for an Old School show. I’d say there were at least 3500-4000 there, but that could be the low end. There were a couple very large video screens used for basketball that ended up being used during the show to some affect. There were three separate DJ booths which boded well for the turnaround time between acts.
It was a fairly diverse crowd, but obviously the ages skewed over 35 generally speaking. I was with a friend of mine who had never really been to any hip hop show outside of the Beastie Boys about 10 years back so I enjoyed taking him along for the experience.
Let’s run through the evening’s lineup.
Kool Moe Dee
Mr Treacherous Three himself was first out of the gate. Believe it or not, I had never seen him live before. He brought the hits right out the box with “I Go to Work” followed up with “Go See the Doctor”, the lyrics of which seem so tame by today’s standards, but I remember hiding the song from my parents when it first came out.
He spoke a little about his beef with LL Cool J, but showed him nothing but respect overall. Then followed it up with “How Ya Like Me Now”.
He was joined throughout the set by a few others who did some fun routines behind him during the set. Among them was LA Sunshine from The Treacherous Three who did a bit from “Feel the Heartbeat”, and an added surprise, Mighty Mike C from the Fearless Four, who did about 30 seconds of “Rockin It”.
He capped off his brief set with “Wild Wild West” which got the crowd going.
I first saw Kurtis Blow open for Run DMC in what was definitely a life changing concert for me about 20 years ago. I’d seen him at least twice more since then and he’d done basically the same sets every time. I was pleased when he went a different route this time out.
He opened with a shout out to Krush Groove and then went into a couple of verses of “If I Ruled the World”. Next came “AJ Scratch” (who was on the wheels that night) and “Rappin Blow”.
Kurtis it seems really embraces his age (early 50’s) and made a real effort to connect to the crowd. He got lots of love after announcing he’d been in the game for 38 years.
He brought a few up from the crowd up on stage and had them show their breakdancing skills after which he showed his.
He finished up with “The Breaks” (of course) and the crowd sang along.
Kurtis has fully embraced religion and he turned the night into a revival of sorts as he stuck around to act as host for the rest of the acts. He even had some in the crowd shout our their churches and he gave respect by announcing them to all in attendance. He stepped into the crowd between sets and took photos with the crowd.
I particularly enjoyed a bit between acts when he ran through various old school lyrics and had the crowd finish them up. For one when he said “If your girl starts acting up…” and the crowd answered “then you take her friend” he faked disapproval and said “I though you all were supposed to be Christians!” which got a big laugh.
Biz Markie came out and did a quick set of hits including “Biz is Going Off”, “Pickin Boogers”, “Make the Music with Your Mouth”, and “Nobody Beats the Biz”.
Cutmaster Cool V is still rocking the wheels for Biz.
He did some tributes to Rick James and Michael Jackson. Watching Biz do Rick James was certainly entertaining.
He did “Vapors” (my favorite from his catalog) in its entirety, and ended with a very short version of “Just a Friend” which was essentially the chorus a few times.
I hadn’t seen Lyte before and I must say that she did not disappoint. Her voice sounded spectacular and she appeared to be in great overall shape.
She opened with “Cha Cha Cha” and quickly knocked out 3-4 more tunes including “Poor Georgie”.
As she started into her famous verse from “Self Destruction” she stopped and grabbed a woman from the audience to come up and traded the lyrics with her to crowd’s delight.
She joked that backstage she admitted to Salt that she sometimes does some of their stuff in her sets, but decided tonight might not be the best to do that.
She went into my favorite Lyte track “Paper Thin” before closing with “Ruff Neck”, a song I had completely forgotten about.
I had always known that she represented the tough female persona of hip hop, but seeing her in the flesh and watch her do her thing really drove that vibe through. Other than Kool Moe Dee, it seemed obvious that she was the next best overall rapper of the night.
Doug E. Fresh
For anyone who’s seen Doug E Fresh do his thing live, I probably don’t need to give much detail. There’s a reason he’s on towards the end of the show and he didn’t disappoint.
First, I’ve got to give a shout out to his use of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” during his opening as Sam is one of my all time favorite singers. But from there he got into living up to his title of “World’s Greatest Entertainer” by heading right into “Let Me Clear My Throat.”
Chill Will and Barry B helped him run through a bunch of old school R&B tunes and the crowd hung with him singing along. He was doing a lot of call backs to things like Atari and black and white tvs before going into his remote control routine with different tv theme songs. Everything from “The Jeffersons” to “Sanford & Son” and even “Cheers” which he claimed was either Barry or Will’s favorite.
As the crowd was hyped just right, he went into an extended version of “The Show” that included a very lengthy (at least 2-3 minute) beat box solo routine. He then did the opening to “La Di Da Di” on the beat box, but with no Slick Rick around he took over the vocals as the DJ’s played the beat.
He finished up teaching the crowd how to do the Dougie much to the delight of many.
All this went smoothly despite the fact that he was constantly fighting with the sound man to turn his mic up at one point saying “Turn it up sound man I can handle it. I’m a professional”. That night he proved he was.
Salt N Pepa
After over 25 years together, Salt N Pepa were as polished as you’d expect. I’ll admit I was never a big fan of theirs, but I never dissed them either. I liked their early stuff before they really blew up in the early 90’s and then I just sort of lost interest. I had also seen them in their height of power touring with R Kelly around1995 or so.
They did plenty of their hits including “Do You Really Want Me” and “Shake Your Thang”. They donned gold chains and their old school jackets for “I’ll Take Your Man” and “My Mic Sounds Nice” (check one….c’mon you know that part). “Tramp” was a nice blast from the past I hadn’t thought of in a long time.
Next came “Get Up Everybody” and “Express Yourself”.
With Salt having been with the same man for over 20 years and Pepa decidedly going in the other direction, they played that aspect up quite a bit as in one exchange where Salt talked about her husband and brought him on stage while Pepa joked about having a “baby daddy”.
They next knocked out two of their biggest hits “Whatta Man” with Salt’s husband staying on stage and Doug Fresh coming out to join Pepa followed up by “Shoop”.
They gave a nice shout out to Spinderella who can be heard on Dallas Radio these days, before finishing up with “Push It”
Overall it was a very solid three hours of entertainment that gave the crowd just the right amount of Old School. It was a very laid back evening with and a relaxed feel that any Old School Hip Hop show these days should have. My friend even commented that he’d like to see more Old School shows in the future, so I guess that proves that even the Old School can win over new fans.